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 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

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

Love of the Poor

“When we serve the poor and the sick we serve Jesus.  We must not fail to help our neighbors, because in them we serve Jesus” – St Rose of Lima

Someone tweeted this the other day, and it seemed to be a good reminder for me, of how as Christian we are called to serve the poor.  And while I know this, I struggle with it.  It is something that has been playing on my conscience since getting married and moving into the neighbourhood that we now live.

The week I moved in was the same week that a Meth Lab was busted across the road.  I suppose that set the tone for our time there, and we seem to experience a few things that make very interesting stories in the retelling.  The tenant that lived in the house before us sounds like a lovely woman.  She was happy to have people come to her house, and they would stay in the front yard at times they couldn’t get into the drug rehabilitation centre across the road (seperate to the meth lab).  The neighbours mentioned when I moved in not to be too worried if there were people sleeping in my garden when I came out for my morning coffee, because that’s just what happened.  So prior to moving in, we informed those people there were new tenants, and they’d have to find somewhere else to sleep. 

Its difficult to find that balance between helping the poor and keeping your own safety.  We live less than a block away from the St Vincent de Paul Office, but they usually aren’t open when I encounter these people, so I can’t, at that moment, delegate it to someone else more suitable to deal with the problem. 

On the weekend, I was at a church to practice reading for the Easter services.  A man came into the church looking for help.  I did try to delegate it elsewhere, but with no luck. Everyone I rang wasn’t answering.  So I opened up my wallet and found a $50 note and gave him that in the hope he’d find somewhere to spend the night before seeking help the next day. He said he had lost his job, and as a result couldn’t pay his rent and was evicted on Friday night.  I hope that he found a room at a cheap backpacker’s hostel or something, and was able to sleep safely and comfortably that night. 

I was shocked at my willingness to give, but can only put it down to location. The people that come to my house, sometimes ask for a couple of dollars and I’m always reluctant to give it to them. I instantly shut them out, when I should be opening my heart to them. 

In a conversation with someone recently, I mentioned this struggle I feel, and said that maybe God was giving me these opportunities to improve that part of myself.  The Bishop that I work with overheard me and said that he’s looking forward to see how I go with this, especially after identifying it as being sent by God. 

I should learn to not say such things around him.

The saints are such examples of living and working with the poor.  I try to draw from that example, but every time fail to live up to it.

April 15, 2011 Posted by | Faith, Spirituality | , , , , | 1 Comment

World Youth Day Experiences

My deposit has now been paid to attend the 2011 World Youth Day in Madrid, Spain and I am suddenly feeling exuberant and alive and excited at the possibilities. Its taken be a bit by surprise, because for the last year or so, I have been tossing up whether or not I should go, and ultimately decided that I wouldn’t.  I have been to three World Youth Days in the past both as a participant and also leading a group.  I wondered if maybe I had gained all I could from the World Youth Day experience and thought I’d step aside and leave the space open for someone else to take.  Also, now that I am married, my priorities are different, and 18 days is a long time to be away from my husband, plus it would put on quite a strain on our budget. 

Those plans changed.  I will be starting a new job in January, and part of the job description will be to lead the Diocesan group to Spain.  Something that I had dismissed months ago as not being for me, is now suddenly a source of great excitement.   However, keep me in your prayers.  I don’t know if excitement is all I’m going to be feeling over the next eight months.

My first World Youth Day was Toronto 2002.  As a Due South fan, it was always my dream to go to Canada, and then combined with a World Youth Day, I couldn’t turn down the opportunity.  It was the first time my diocese had ever sent people to a World Youth Day, and I went with two other young women.  It was a wonderful experience to be surrounded by so many other young Catholics. I came from a small parish, with mostly older people.  I’m sure its not the only parish in the world like that. Where you are the young person, and the next youngest are your parents.  It came be disheartening at times, but after my first World Youth Day experience, there was no way I could go back home thinking I was the only young Catholic in the world.  That memory will always stay with me.

My next World Youth Day was Cologne 2005.   It wasn’t a good year for me.  I had lost my job in December 2004 due to the small business I worked for going bankrupt.  It was taking longer than expected to find a new one.  I also had to end a serious relationship earlier that year. It was one of the darkest times of my life.  There were moment I seriously thought that God had just abandoned me.  Yet somehow through all the sadness, and a lack of income, I found my way to Germany.  My church community had raised enough money to cover half my costs.  It was an incredible effort, and one that I will also be extremely grateful for. It was exactly what I needed.  I rediscovered the Love of God, and renewed my faith in him, and realised that no matter how dark I perceived things to be, God would never ever abandon me.  That trip also included a pilgrimage in Turkey and Greece.  Neither were places I probably would have gone on my own volition, but they are incredible countries. I cannot wake for another opportunity to visit Turkey and the Greek islands again. 

The last WYD I attended was Sydney 2008.  I led a group from my parish of 20 people.  I probably went into the challenge a little idealise and naive, expecting everyone to get along and behave themselves and not get into any mischief.  Its possible that some people in my group had different ideas.  Once again, the church community played a big role in getting the group there.  As it was in Australia, less money was needed to get people there, so we were able to fundraise enough money to cover all the costs of registration and travel for everyone attending WYD from our parish.  I think that most of the people had a great time. They got to experience that wonder of being part of a global community, and that faith in Jesus conquers barriers such as language and culture.  I had plenty of stressed out moments, but it warms my heart to hear one of them tell me it was the best experience of their life.  I think the lesson I learned from that WYD was that I have something to offer the church.  No matter how small and insignigicant it may seem at times, I have something to give.  Whether it be typing minutes from a parish meeting, leading a youth group, driving someone to Mass, becoming a reader, or praying for someone who is sick, we all have something to give. 

And now Madrid is just around the corner. I’m a little bit wiser this time around, so hopefully won’t make the same mistakes as last time.  I am hoping for another wonderful experience, and wonder what will be revealed to me this time.   I hope and pray that I will be able to facilitate an experience for the young people attending World Youth Day with me, that they will be open to learn their own gifts and the messages that God has for them. I hope that WYD will be as rewarding an experience for them as it has been for me.

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December 7, 2010 Posted by | Faith, Spirituality | , , , | 1 Comment

I feel this calling inside me.  Sometimes it feels so strong, that it just can’t be wrong.  Other times, I encounter obstacles and I use them to convince myself that I was mistaken, and it was never meant to be.  I have a real struggle trying to work out what God is calling me to do. 

Another opportunity recently showed itself to me to follow this calling that feels so strong inside me, but I was hesitant to follow through with it.  I’ve tried so many times to make this happen, and nothing ever comes from it.  Why put myself through it all again? 

Last Sunday was the canonisation of St Mary of The Cross, Australia’s first saint, along with another 5 saints from various parts of the world.  Mary MacKillop was the founder of the Josephite sisters and encountered plenty of obstacles in the process from many people, prists, bishops and even sisters from her own order.  I’m sure there must have been times she doubted her calling, but she never gave up. 

I think that is such a good example for us all. I need to remember to stay true to myself and my vocation, and not give up, even when things get a little bit hard. 

I’m going to take that opportunity.  I don’t know where it will lead me, and maybe it will go nowhere once again, but no one can say I didn’t try my best.

October 21, 2010 Posted by | Faith | , , , | 2 Comments

Being a part of the Body of Christ

Recently Anne Rice declared on her Facebook and twitter that she had decided to ‘quit being a Christian’.  She went on to say It’s simply impossible for me to ‘belong’ to this quarrelsome, hostile, disputatious, and deservedly infamous group

I find it very sad  that is has come to this. My experience with Christianity and Christians in general has been a rather positive one, but I know that is not the same for all people. 

At the same time as announcing leaving Christianity, she has also said that she remains committed to Christ.  But is it really possible to be committed to Christ while not being  a part of Christianity.  Christianity isn’t just another group or a club or an organization.  You can’t withdraw from its membership while still believing in its ideals.  Being a Christian, and being committed to Jesus, means being a part of his mystical body.  This is shown in scripture when he addresses Saul on his way to Damascus to persecute Christians.  “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?”  Jesus does not separate himself from his people.   Its also highlighted in Matthew 25:40 with ‘Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.”

Jesus connects himself with all of us, and as a result, we are all connected to Jesus.  Its more than a club, it’s a living organism that continues to grow and evolve.  This is the body of Christ.  Is giving up on the Body of Christ really showing commitment to Jesus? 

In the name of God, many people have committed many harmful actions, or made harmful statements.  But God became flesh and lived with similar people who continue to cause us frustration.  Each of us, in our imperfection, contributes something to the Body of Christ and through each other Jesus reveals a little more of his own perfection. 

I will be praying that Anne Rice, and other people who feel the same, find the healing they need and can be welcomed back home to Christ

August 10, 2010 Posted by | Faith, Scripture, Spirituality | , , | 2 Comments