Be slow to judge and quick to love
It’s not easy to always feel love for our fellow humans. Even minor but annoying incidents can get in the way such as getting cut off in traffic, stuck behind an older couple taking their time, delayed by a disinterested, tattooed cashier who can’t make change, or hassled by a homeless man panhandling.
Instead of giving in to frustration, try opening your heart.
The person who you cut you off in traffic might be a single mom rushing home after working a full day to spend a few precious minutes with her children.
The tattooed, disinterested cashier may be a college student struggling with exams and worried about getting student loans for next semester.
The older, meandering couple may be savoring this moment together knowing that there will not be many more of them.
The panhandling homeless man may be a slave to addictions we can only imagine in our worst nightmares.
Instead of getting steamed over every-day annoyances, offer love. “For the measure you give will be the measure you get back” (Luke 6:37).
Plant seeds for God's harvest: share your faith
Bringing someone to God is rarely the result of just one person’s efforts on one particular day. Usually a series of people contribute over time. God uses each of us to plant seeds that eventually lead to a harvest of a soul. Here are some ways you can plant little seeds of faith each day:
Answer questions. A person seeking God may have lots of questions about him or what a relationship with him is like. A great way to evangelize is to help find the answers. Keep a Bible and a Catechism handy for quick reference.
Walk away. Not everyone feels comfortable “counseling the sinner.” When friends or colleagues tell dirty jokes or gossip, your best option may be to walk away. If someone asks you why, take the opportunity to plant a seed of your faith.
Sponsor a Catholic school. Catholic schools are one of the most effective forms of evangelization, yet they usually have more needs than funds. Include your parish school or other local Catholic school on your regular list of charities to which you donate. What a great way to sew seeds of faith in the next generation.
Unwrap the true gifts of Advent
To do Christmas right, Advent should come first in all of its stillness and anticipation. Yet, the flurry of Christmas preparations often shoves Advent right out of the way. This year, try to slow down, simplify, and savor the true gifts of Advent with ideas like these:
Give gifts from the heart. Deborah said, “One year my father lost his job and money was too tight to buy gifts. So we gave cookies instead and started an annual tradition. I still give cookies and people look forward to them every year. I like it because I get to put something of myself into the gifts I give.”
Celebrate Advent blessings. Instead of giving store-bought gifts, Carlos and his family offer prayers. Each person writes down his or her name and a prayer request on a slip of paper that goes into a jar. On Thanksgiving Day, every member pulls out one slip and agrees to pray for the person and intention on it. On Christmas Day, part of the celebration is revealing the identities of their “Secret Advent Angels” and rejoicing in God’s blessings of the season.
Retell the Story. Martin said, “When I was a boy, Dad read some of the Christmas story each Sunday night of Advent. He’d finish with the Nativity on Christmas morning. It was a great way to focus our celebration.”
Banish the darkness. “Every night during Advent Mom turned off all the lights in the kitchen and we lit the Advent wreath,” Kara remembered. “We sang ‘O Come O Come Emmanuel’ and made up prayers. As we got older, we each took turns lighting the candles and could barely contain ourselves Christmas Day when we could light the ‘Jesus Candle.’ I live alone but I still light the Wreath every night during Advent.“
How to have a Holy Week
Holy Week is the high point of Lent. Even if this year’s Lent was as fruitful as you hoped it would be, this upcoming Holy Week is a good chance to walk closely with Christ. A good Holy Week leads to a joyful Easter.
Palm Sunday: We celebrate when Jesus entered Jerusalem in triumph. Read the readings before you go to Mass, and place yourself in the scene. Save the palms and fold them into a cross, or place them in a special place at home.
Holy Monday: When Jesus purged the moneychangers from the temple, he removed what separated and distracted people from their worship of God, again making it a house of prayer. Set aside a place to pray in your home and make a prayer corner. Spend time in prayer every day this week.
Holy Tuesday: Today, abstain from television and video games, avoid unnecessary texting or phone calls, and spend that time in prayer instead. Don’t forget to keep up your Lenten promises.
Holy Wednesday: Holy Wednesday has traditionally been called “Spy Wednesday” because it is the day Judas began searching for an opportunity to hand Jesus over to the authorities. This day has also been a traditional housecleaning day in many countries. Clean from top to bottom. Speaking of cleaning, make time to go to confession if you haven’t gone already.
Holy Thursday: Jesus washed the Apostles’ feet to encourage his followers to humbly serve others. It is also the night Jesus instituted the Holy Eucharist. In memory of Jesus’ agony in the Garden of Gethsemane, make a holy hour in front of the Blessed Sacrament. The time will be well spent.
Good Friday: Like Ash Wednesday, Good Friday is a day of fasting and abstinence from meat. “When fasting, a person [between the ages of 21 and59] is permitted to eat one full meal, as well as two smaller meals that together are not equal to a full meal” (United States Conference of Catholic Bishops). Attend Stations of the Cross devotions at your parish, if offered, or pray them on your own. Imagine you are walking with Christ.
Holy Saturday: Holy Saturday is a day of anticipation before Easter, albeit a solemn one. Remember, all of Holy Saturday, Jesus was still in the tomb. Go on an electronics fast until sundown. Easter begins with the Easter Vigil Mass that night.
What you should know about chastity
The Church isn’t naive. Chastity is hard. It’s hard for single people. It’s hard for people who are dating. It’s hard for same-sex attracted people. It’s hard for priests and religious. It’s hard for engaged couples. It’s hard for married couples. Virtue is difficult. It takes hard work. Practice might not make perfect every time. But practice does make permanent. Read more:
Catholic parishes around the country are welcoming home formerly inactive Catholics
Subscriber parishes in various states are developing programs to welcome home Catholics who have been disaffected or inactive. While some parishes are able to have full ministries, most are incorporating "Welcome Home" programs into ministries already in place.
Corpus Christi parish in Lansdale, PA, found that one of the reasons respondents to a survey they conducted of inactive Catholics no longer attend Mass is their lack of accurate information about what we believe. They were poorly catechized or not at all. They also felt that the parish was too large (almost 20,000 families) and unwelcoming. In response, the parish has devised a program to attract inactive Catholics back to the church, including a six-week program answering questions on a series of topics addressing what we believe as Catholics.
Father Ted Dudzinski, pastor of St. Patrick and St. Joan of Arc parishes in Kokomo, IN, started a Catholic Home Coming program in 2012. Three times a year, inactive Catholics are invited to five evening sessions designed just for them. They are welcomed, mingle with parishioners, listen to informal talks on such subjects as sin, confession, the Creed, the Mass and Second Vatican Council reforms.
One subscriber parish in New York found that parents faithfully bring children to weekly religious education classes but not to Mass. The parish started offering coffee and donuts for parents during the time children were in class and made catechists available to meet with parents and answer questions about doctrine and faith. Catechetical materials - including support materials that are companions to the children's religion textbooks - are made available. Catechists found that many of the parents had poor catechesis or had no background in the faith at all. Most did not understand their obligation to Sunday Mass. Parents report appreciating the informal catechesis and having a friendly source for answers to basic questions about their faith. The DRE reports that family participation in parish programs as a whole has increased.
Instead of sugar-coated words and flattery, when Christians speak they should offer the truth with love, without seeking to serve their own interests, Pope Francis said during his June 4 homily in Saint Martha's House. Rather than speak politely and say nice things we don't feel, we should ask ourselves, "Do we speak in truth, with love?"
Those who are corrupt, he added, “are trying to weaken us with this language” by playing off a “certain inner weakness,” stimulated by “vanity” that enjoys hearing people say good things about us.
The Holy Father’s remarks were spurred by today’s reading from Mark 12, in which a group of Pharisees and Herodians tried to trap Jesus by asking him if Jews should pay taxes to Caesar. These men approached Jesus “with soft words, with beautiful words, with overly sweet words. They try to show themselves his friends,” the Pope said.
However, all of their posturing is false because “they do not love the truth” but only themselves, Pope Francis stated. This results in the Pharisees trying to deceive Jesus about the reason for their questions. And when Jesus speaks to his disciples, he says: ‘let your language be, Yes, yes! No, no.’”
The Pope then stressed that truth is always accompanied by love.
Keep Children Catholic
Keep your children Catholic
Among the biggest challenges faced by Catholic parents today is keeping children from being tempted away from the faith. Parents who nurture their own faith, model it for their children, and pray for them constantly stand a good chance of keeping them Catholic. Try these other suggestions to help:
Make regular use of the sacraments. The Sacraments open the flood gates of God’s graces that make a holy life possible. Attend Mass as a family on Sundays and Holy Days. Choose one Saturday each month to attend Confession. Refresh your Baptismal promises at least once a year.
Teach children to understand what they believe. It is not enough to memorize prayers and articles of faith. Parents need to explain the meaning behind them. Use the Catechism of the Catholic Church as a reference. Priests and other religious are good resources, too.
Help children find their own devotions. Be careful of making your own personal acts of piety mandatory for your children. Instead expose them to many different kinds – daily Mass, Eucharistic Adoration, First Friday observations, praying to the saints – to find what is most meaningful to them.
Be patient. Don’t panic if your children veer from the spiritual path you have set on occasion. Gently guide them back and remember many saints strayed, too.