Stirrings of the Spirit

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Forgiveness of sins

I was reading a story the other day about a person who works in the church. Some people who knew this person in the past found out about his new employment (although at this point, its been over a year) and judging him based on past actions decided that other needed to be informed of these misdeeds and what they perceived at his inappropriateness to be employed in a church setting. Cue anonymous letters being sent to others employed in that church.

I’ve been reflecting on this concept. I don’t know the outcome of this story yet. Maybe he’s currently guilty of such sins. Maybe he did them in the past, but left them in the past. Maybe all the accusations are all false. I don’t know.

But I do know about my life. My past isn’t entirely saintly. I’ve made mistakes. I’ve made some pretty bad decisions. I’ve been coerced into things I wasn’t comfortable with at the time, but still have to live with now. I would say that I’m not alone with this. A lot of people might have something in the past that’s just best left there.

I suppose if someone was to take a disliking to me, or someone from my past decided they still had an axe to grind, they could probably send out anonymous letters to my employer and colleagues and people involved in my ministry. People could judge me in such acts.

However the most important thing from my past is the redemptive power of Jesus. Jesus forgave me. Jesus continues to forgive me. The things in my past have become distant memories and perhaps cautionary tales. I’ve been freed from the shame they once held over me. I’ve been to reconciliation and was absolved from those sins. I cried tears of joy as I was released from a sin I didn’t even know was weighing me down so much. To me, that is the most important part of my story.

I’d be pretty upset if someone anonymously spread my past actions around to others. I’d probably discuss it with anyone who wanted to know about it. Although I probably don’t want my boss or my parents to know.

Although, thinking about all this did prompt a conversation with my boss about this whole idea. “Should I just tell you all my secrets now in case someone wants to anonymously tell you in the future?” I think he’d rather skip that whole saga.

Perhaps its the keeping these things secret that gives these things all their power.

So in case anyone wanted to know, I sinned in my past. I was forgiven for those sins.

I will sin in the future, though hopefully not to any dramatic extreme, and i hope i will seek the forgiveness of Jesus and those I hurt once again. I have been ashamed of my past sins, but I don’t need to be ashamed of being a sinner. That’s in my nature. And its the nature of all those I admire greatly.

“But if a person, lay or priest or Sister, has committed a sin and then has converted, the Lord forgives, and when the Lord forgives, the Lord forgets and this is important for our life. When we go to confession and truly say: “I have sinned in this,” the Lord forgets and we don’t have the right not to forget, because we run the risk that the Lord won’t forget our [sins]. That’s a danger. This is important: a theology of sin. I think so many times of Saint Peter: he committed one of the worst sins, which is to deny Christ, and with this sin he was made Pope.”  Pope Francis, 28th July 2012 Full Transcript to be found here.

October 23, 2014 Posted by | Faith, Spirituality | , , | Leave a comment

RIP Bishop Michael

At the end of March, the equivalent of my boss passed away. However, I work for the Catholic Church, so it doesn’t work the way a normal corporation would.

At the end of March, my bishop passed away. That would be a loss in itself. but working for him adds this whole other element of loss to it.

Its hard to describe how this loss feels. I don’t know what sort of relationship other people have with their boss or their bishop. But I know that my relationship with him was special, like it was with all of us in the office that worked for him.

My friend’s daughter said that she felt like her grandfather had died when she learned the news of his passing. I tried to find a relationship that can describe what it feels like I lost and I struggle. I lost a friend. I lost a mentor. I lost a role model. I lost a source of wisdom and knowledge.

Bishop Michael Putney was diagnosed with cancer at the end of 2012. We were told he had months to live and we prayed for a miracle. It was another 15 months before died. It was a year longer than expected. And, as described by him, the happiest year of his life.

He confronted his own mortality with such grace. He took each day, one at a time. And with each day he inspired and loved us just that little bit more. He showed no fear to us because he knew at the end of it all, he would be enveloped in the love of God.

With stomach cancer, he found it difficult to eat. The last time I saw him was at the Annual Bishop’s dinner. All he could eat was a couple of spoonfuls of soup. Usually Bishop Michael loved a good meal and a few glasses of wine, and it was always so sad that he couldn’t enjoy these simple things anymore. When he passed away, I was sad, but also joyful. I imagined him being welcomed into heaven and a beautiful feast of food that he could finally eat, a good bottle of wine, some old friends and family. I imagine they’d have a great time. But then I’d feel even happier, because I know heaven is even better than that. Heaven is better than my human mind can even comprehend, and he was finally there.

I have moments where my eyes become spontaneously wet, despite my claims that I’m joyful. I will have some memory of him, of some moment we shared, but then I realise there are no more memories to be made with him. That makes me sad.

I remember going on pilgrimage with him in 2005 to WYD in Germany. We travelled through Turkey and Greece. I remember sitting on the floor of our cruise ship waiting for it to dock, and Bishop Michael telling us about the Greek Orthodox Church. It might not sound fascinating, but it was. I remember thinking that this was a man I could listen to for the rest of my life and I have tried to take every opportunity since then to do just that.

I remember one night after Mass, a young man telling us that he’d never seen the Sound of Music, and Bishop and I did a medley of the songs for him, leaving him with no more idea of the plot but us all laughing. I remember a couple of weeks before he died, and we were in the office kitchen. I had done something rather silly, and another colleague started singing “Its a jolly holiday with Mary” from Mary Poppins, and the bishop dancing along to her song.

I remember the times we laughed together. We laughed a lot.

I remember embarrassing him on those various time we encountered celebrities. He would usually ignore them, and I would turn into a bumbling idiot. He would joke he’d never let me back into the Qantas lounge.

I have too many memories to ever remember them all to share at one time.

I know that I was blessed to know him and even more blessed to work for him.

 

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RIP Bishop Michael. We will always love you.

 

April 23, 2014 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

A work of art

When I was younger, I had this great longer to be somebody’s muse, to inspire someone so much that they’d have to paint me, or write a story based on me, or write a song dedicated to me. There seemed to be a lack of artists, writers and musicians in my life, so as far as I know, i never inspired anyone to do any of those things.

The other day I was talking to someone who was an artist and she was telling me about an idea she had and how she made it come to reality and how it really was an act of love to bring this idea in her mind into something more tangible.

It made me think about God’s love for me, for each of us. The mere idea of us resulted in him creating us and this life we live. I don’t need to be an inspiration for some other piece of art, because in God’s eyes, I am a work of art. All the things that make me who I am, are something unique, and according to some, even beautiful.

Last year I watched a documentary called Waste Land. It shows artist Viz Muniz visiting a landfill on the outskirts of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. He meets the locals, takes photos of them, and transforms their images into magnificent art that ends up being sold for quite a bit of money. The looks on their faces when they see the finished product is amazing. After years of seeing themselves as nobodies in just work in the dump, they see themselves through a new set of eyes. The people whose stories we followed throughout the documentary make changes in their lives. With this new perspective, they have discovered a sense of empowerment, and are able to make changes in their life that they never dreamed possible previously.

My wish is that everyone can see themselves as art. Even if our essence is never captured by an artist or a musician or a writer in this lifetime, you are valued as one of God’s greatest works of art. He loved the idea of you, and created you. You are worth so much to him and he values you so much.

January 25, 2013 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , | 2 Comments

Anxiety Free Faithfulness

I recently had to undergo some surgery. it had the potential to become complicated, but it seemed to go well. Although the doctors’ bills seem to repeat the word complicated several times. I’m not feeling good and hopeful about what the future will hold without this health issue that could have been holding me back without my knowledge.

I asked for a lot of prayers prior to the surgery. I was feeling comfortable about the whole thing, but I know it doesn’t hurt to have people praying in the background. So I told more people than I probably usually would, just to get some extra prayers. 

I have bounced back pretty well, so I’ll give credit to all those prayers for helping with my speedy recovery and for blessing me with skilled surgeons.

A priest gave me Anointing of the Sick the evening before the surgery.  It was my first time receiving the sacrament and it felt very special.  I was grateful that it was offered to me as I don’t think I would have ever thought to have asked for it. It was comforting and hopefuly.  The priest said to me that the opposite of faith is anxiety.  I can’t say I felt anxious at all. I felt calm. I don’t know if my husband and the rest of my family felt that, but I was calm, so hopefully it was an indication of my faithfulness.

I wish that I could carry over that anxiety free faithfulness to other areas of my life. At work, i can whip myself into a fair panic of what I may have done wrong or forgotten to do, when really maybe all i need to do is take some time to pray and rediscover that faithfulness that I know is inside me.

October 4, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

RIP Fr Vic

I have just returned from the funeral of Fr Vic.

It was the first funeral of a priest that I have attended. It was a beautiful Mass with the Bishop and many priests from around the Diocese. The service filled me with hope, rather than making me sad. I remembered the quiet light that Fr Vic was, and prayed for his sister during her loss.

It is a rainy hot day. It was difficult to get a park, and I ended up having to walk a block through the pouring rain to make it just in time as the funeral started, where I stood in the doorway, dripping wet, as his coffin was taken down the aisle.  It may have crossed my mind that it might be easier to not go to the funeral when I couldn’t find a park and it was so wet, but I’m glad i decided to stay for it.

Fr Vic ran the first young adults group that I ever joined. It was at the encouragement of some of the people in the parish. I remember him telling me once he wouldn’t have done it on his own volition, because he was never sure what to do with young people, but it was him they asked, and he did a wonderful job. Every sunday for years we would meet, and we would pray the rosary together.  We would then go over to the hall, and have some sort of discussion, where I learnt so much.  We did some bible study, and with him I found my favourite book of the bible.

I didn’t realise it until I reflected on it with the news of his death, but Fr Vic is a very influential person in my journey of faith. I will always be extremely thankful to him for all he shared with me.

That young adults group fell apart after he had a heart attack a few years after it started, and the people in the group went their seperate ways. Some people I still know of, but I wonder what happened to the others. Facebook stalking hasn’t revealed them yet.

Please remember Fr Vic in your prayers – may he rest in peace.

January 31, 2012 Posted by | Faith, Life | Leave a comment

Thoughts on the New Translation

I was at dinner with some friends last weekend, and somehow we got talking about what we learnt in school.  Those I was talking to had been to Catholic schools. I believe one was a lapsed Catholic, and the other wasn’t Catholic at all, but just went to the school because it was the best in the area she was living in.  The lapsed Catholic says “I can still probably say the Nicene Creed.”  I tell her she probably can’t anymore, because its been changed.  “It now has the word ‘consubstantial’ in it!”

I just happened to have a copy of the new translation in my handbag (doesn’t everyone carry that around with them?) and was able to give it to her to read. She kept exclaiming that it was all wrong.  I tried to tell her that maybe it was more right, but she didn’t believe me.

There are a few people around who don’t like the new translation of the missal.  I love it.  I love being part of this moment of history for the Catholic church, as it continues to evolve.

My parish has been using the new translation for months, and it seems “And also with you” is a hard habit to break.  Last sunday, I prayed for all the parishes that might be doing it for the first time. I hope the understand that just because its not flowing right now, that its not good.

On Sunday, I listened to the first Eucharistic Prayer and was enthralled. I don’t know if I ever paid that much attention to a Eucharistic Prayer in my life. I don’t even know how many changes have been made to it.  I suppose growing up going to Mass regularly, there was so much I took for granted, so much that was just a part of the process that I never really gave it much thought. I think that is my favourite part about the introduction of the new translation.  That we are looking at it through new eyes.  Its something new, so we can hear it better than ever before, and I’m extremely grateful for that blessing.

I look forward to discovering and rediscovering the Mass in this new translation and hope that other people who may feel hesitant will open their hearts to this.

 

 

November 30, 2011 Posted by | Faith, Prayer | , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Heart Mender

It took me a while to get around to finishing this book.  It’s a lovely story, but I kept finding myself distracted from it. It wasn’t until I was on pilgrimage in spain that I could really focus on finishing it.  Although, that’s kind of strange, as it was a very hectic trip, that was at times very busy, but it was nice, at the end of the day, to be able to unwind with this story of forgiveness and love.

The Author, Andy Andrews, tells the story based on some objects he finds buried in his back yard. He digs around further, asking some of the older locals in the community, and uncovers a treasure you wouldn’t expect. Instead of gold, he learns of the story of people during the war, the hurt they had endured, and the love they use to overcome that pain.

This is a story of real love.  Two damaged people find each other, and as time goes by, discover they are open to love after being closed to it for so long. You can feel the anger of the young woman towards those around her, as she holds on to what she has lost, and the sadness of a young man who can’t even imagine where his future may lead him, as he is so tied to the people he lost in his past. 

The ultimate theme is forgiveness.  I think that is my favourite thing about his book.  Perhaps it’s a theme that rings true in my own life and relationships.  There was one night on the pilgrimage during prayer, that the young people felt this, unconnected to the book.  Our bishop had preached on forgiveness earlier that day, and that night in prayer, they shared about the things the needed to forgive.  It was beautiful.  In my own prayer, I thanked God for allowing me to be able to forgive certain people in my own past, as it allowed me to open myself up to some amazing experiences, including the man I married. 

I would recommend this book to those who have an interest in WWII history and enjoy a good heart felt story. 

 

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September 22, 2011 Posted by | Spirituality | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Pilgrimage insights

Just over a month ago, I left for Spain to attend WYD with 52 people from the Diocese.  The previous seven months of work had culminated to this moment.

World Youth Day has always been a rewarding experience for me. I remember my first one, our leaders kept telling us that it wasn’t a life changing moment, but a life confirming moment.  Its really hard to know. I don’t know what direction my life would take without these experiences.  I feel incredibly blessed that I have now just experienced my forth WYD.

My prayer in the months leading up to our departure was that I would be able to help create the life confirming experience that I had for these young people.  I really wasn’t sure how they would take it, or if they were prepared enough, but I had done all that I was capable of, and handed the rest over to God.  The group was blessed with an inspiring bishop, engaging priests, committed teachers and open-hearted young people.

Our pilgrimage travelled around Spain before arriving in Madrid for WYD.  Things really kicked off in Loyola where we visited the home of St Ignatius, where he was born and grew up, and more importantly, where he had his personal conversion.  The bishop told us of that Ignatian concept of being able to find God in everything.  God isn’t just with us in the moments where we are at church or when we are praying. He is there through it all.  The students really took hold of this idea, and it was continually referred to again and again in the days to come. They found God in all sorts of moments, and were keen to share them with each other. Evening prayer with them was always a beautiful experience.

We also visited Avila, home of saints like Teresa of Avila and John of the Cross and John of Avila. In fact, the monastry we stayed in, apparently used to be where Teresa used to go for confession.

We visited many churches and cathedrals throughout Spain, including the cathedral in Seville, apparently the biggest in the world, and the cathedral in Cordoba, which used to be a mosque, that was converted into a Catholic church, after the muslims had to leave Spain.  The buildings were amazing, and filled with equally amazing stories. The history of each building just blew us away.  Especially being from Australia, where permanent buildings have only been around for 200 and so years, the concept of how old these buildings are just seems so foreign.

I am inspired by the people who created these buildings, these churches and cathedrals, and the works of art they contain.  I think about how they must have been filled with so much awe and love for God, to be able to be so inspired to create these for us to enjoy for centuries afterwards.

I think that is the concept that has touched me most during the pilgrimage.  I say I learn something new from each WYD experience, and this year I’ve learn about creation.  I have to question what I am creating from my own inspiration from God.  I don’t have talents in painting or sculpture or architecture or building, but I must be able to create something.  What am I creating? It doesn’t have to be something that lasts for centuries, but there must be something that I can create in this moment for the love of God.  Its something I prayed about on pilgrimage and the weeks afterwards, and the major thing that comes to mind is community.  I can help create a community for God. I can help people find other people to share their faith with and walk the journey together.  It is kind of my job, but I am inspired in just how important it is to have other faith filled people on the journey with you, and I want to be able to help those people find each other, so that they can be empowered and continue on this journey. Maybe one day, I will be called to create a family.  I’m not sure.  But for now, it is creating that sense of community that I am striving for.

Hopefully I will have a chance to write about the actual WYD events. They were an adventure in themself.

September 8, 2011 Posted by | Faith, Saints, Spirituality | , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The beauty of NFP

It is currently Natural Family Planning Awareness Week.  There are blog entries all over the place dedicated to this, so I’m just going to throw in my two cents worth. 

Natural Family Planning is a term that refers to a variety of family planning methods that don’t use artificial contraception.  They are methods that have been approved by the Catholic Church in keeping with the philosophy of the dignity of the human person.

Growing up as a Catholic, I knew of the existance of Natural Family Planning.  My dad, in his pro-life involvement, often left brochures lying around about the dangers of the Birth Control Pill, which I would have seen and noted in my subconscious, but no real information was ever given to me about Natural Family Planning.  It was on my list of things that I would learn about later in life.

I was diagnosed with Poly Cystic Ovary Syndrome at seventeen.  The treatment the doctor put me on was the birth control pill.  Even with the dangers of the pill in my subconscious, I went along with it, because I didn’t know any better.  And I stayed on it for the next 10 years, until I became engaged.

My husband and I signed up for a class to learn the Billings Method. It was probably quite confronting for the both of us.  It was very detailed and my husband learnt the names of parts of the female reproductive system that he didn’t know existed.  When we got over the shock of discussing cervical mucus with a stranger, the whole thing was fascinating. 

I learnt how my body worked. I learnt how to know what my body was telling me. For the first time in my life, I finally got it. That even with all the irregularities that my body had, it made sense.  This is the great gift that NFP gave me; that it taught me about my body and how it worked.  Things that had been hidden and disguised for years by being on the pill were now embraced. 

learning NFP has been such an empowering experience for me.  Women around me seem stuck in this trap where their fertility is treated like a disease that needs to be stopped, and turned back on again when it suits them.  Our fertility isn’t a disease. It is a gift to be embraced.  My only regret is that I never bothered to learn about it earlier.  I think this knowledge would have been extremely helpful in the years after my diagnosis in learning about my fertility and the condition I have.

I love that NFP is also completely natural.  With a recent trend with being more environmentally friendly, I’m surprised that more people aren’t making the switch to NFP.  I don’t know much about the production of artificial birth control like the pill or condoms, but I imagine that it probably pumps a fair amount of carbon into the atmosphere, all for a matter of ‘convenience’.   I have several friends who are making the switch to organic vegetables and meat, as its better for the environment, and I’m always surprised to discover they are still taking the pill.  They usually just refuse to try any method of NFP. 

Artificial Birth control has become such an ingrained part of our society, that its the people who aren’t using it that are dismissed as being the strange ones.  On the times that I reveal that I use NFP, I am dismissed as being an ultra-committed Catholic.  I’d love to share my experiences with more people, but I’m usually shut down soon after its brought up in conversation. 

For some other blogs that better describe the awesomeness of NFP try: 

LIberator of Women; a guest post by My Feminine Mind in No Wealth But Life

NFP’s Many Benefits at Plot Line and Sinker

Five Good Reasons You Haven’t Tried It Yet at Engaged Marriage

And there are many more out there

July 27, 2011 Posted by | Faith, Life | , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Isidore and Maria – Saintly Marriage

As we prepare for World Youth Day in Madrid this year, I have been encouraging the pilgrims to get to know some of the WYD11 Patron Saints.  Every WYD has a different series of patron saints that usually have some sort of connection to the country, or young people.  Spain is a country of great saints, like St Teresa of Avila and St John of the Cross. But its the lesser known saints that I am enjoying getting to know better. 

Two of this year’s saints are St Isidore the Worker and  Maria of the Head.  The reason I feel so drawn to these two is because they were married. A colleague made a joke when reading the biography of one of them and it stated that he was married to a saint, and this person groaned and said “Can you imagine being married to a saint?” but I pointed out that he was also a saint, so it was probably ok.  They lived their life with simplicity and hard work.

These two are great reminders of the importance of the vocation of marriage.  So often, the most popular saints are priests and religious, living their life in complete devotion to God. It can sometimes be a struggle to relate to that sort of life when you are struggling to balance the demands of your job while still spending quality time with your spouse.  Those moments when you finish work at 7pm and you feel that you should go to Adoration, but you know that your husband is at home waiting for you after not seeing you because you were away for the weekend. 

Isidore and Maria were able to remind me that I was called to marriage, and that it is through my husband, that I am able to find the strength and love to be able to serve God in the way that I do.  Just because it looks different to the way a priest or a nun might do it, doesn’t make that any less worthy. 

The legend behind St Isidore the Worker is the way he united his worklife with his prayer life.  He would always attend Mass before starting work.  The other coworkers reported him to the boss for not doing as much work as the others.  The boss checked up on him and found that although he was late for work, an angel had been doing his work for him. 

These stories have a way of developing over time into something that feels unbelievable.  The other WYD leader working with me often laments with me that angels have shown up to do our job for us, but we usually don’t make it to daily Mass either.  It reminds me of a time in high school where I declared I didn’t have enough time to join the family in prayer that evening because I had way too much homework.  My old aunty was staying at the time, and told me that I would find the time, if I gave some time for God first. So I joined the family in prayer and went off to do my homework, to discover that it wasn’t as difficult as I thought it would be, and I finished in half the time that I had scheduled.  I always try to remember that story whenever I feel that my time management is failing and that I don’t have the time for Mass or prayer.

I’ve really enjoyed learning about these two saints and can’t wait to maybe experience more of their story while in Spain this August. 

 

June 22, 2011 Posted by | Faith, Saints, Spirituality | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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