Crowd of People facing sunset
Book, Evangelization, Life, Small Faith Sharing Groups
1

What is a Small Faith Sharing Group?

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Have you ever been on a spiritual retreat and witnessed that profound change in a person?  Maybe you were on the Team giving the retreat.  Maybe you were a participant.  Maybe that person was you.

That change–that shift–is the work of the Holy Spirit.  It’s a transformation in faith.  And it’s such a privilege to witness… it’s why I do what I do.

It’s the “AH-HA” moment that teachers live for; when we get to be a part of someone making a connection between what they are learning and what they are doing.  They get it… they really get it! In religious education and on retreats, that AH-HA moment is filled with the grace and joy because we have the privilege of participating with the divine.

For it is in giving that we receive.

So we see this transformation in faith happen on a retreat.  We see retreatants come to the end of the retreat on fire with the Holy Spirit, receptive, vulnerable, open, and joyful… and asking us how to continue that retreat experience.

That receptive, vulnerable, open, joyful person on fire with the Holy Spirit is why I wrote Continuing the Journey: Cultivating Lived Faith.  I wrote it for adults to read, reflect, and journal on their own, and then come together to discuss their answers in small faith sharing groups.  It’s not that a person can’t read it on their own–they certainly can!  It’s more that those retreatants on fire with the Holy Spirit need something–deserve something–that can help them keep that fire alive as they return to daily life.

That something is lived faith.  That fire is evangelization.  And a fantastic way to do this is through a small faith sharing group.

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Unconditional Love
Friendship, Love, Love and Relationships
0

I love you just the way you are.

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Love one another as I have loved you.  (John 13:34)

Unconditional agape love.  That’s how God loves us; that’s how we’re called to love one another.

To be honest, that’s hard.

Consider that line from that Billy Joel song: “I love you just the way you are.”  Think about the people that you love, whether it’s your romantic love interest, children, siblings, parents, friends… Consider whether you can truly say, “I love you just the way you are.”

Because that’s how God loves us.  Just the way we are.  We do not have to be perfect for God to love us.  God loves us just the way we are.  And there is tremendous freedom in that.

Spiritual teacher and mystic Anthony de Mello, S.J. (1931-1987) wrote a beautiful parable on this in The Song of the Bird.

I was neurotic for years. I was anxious and depressed and selfish. Everyone kept telling me to change.

I resented them and I agreed with them, and I wanted to change, but simply couldn’t, no matter how hard I tried.

Then one day someone said to me, Don’t change. I love you just as you are.

Those words were music to my ears: Don’t change, Don’t change. Don’t change . . . I love you as you are.

I relaxed. I came alive. And suddenly I changed!*

De Mello concludes by asking: Is this how you love me, God?

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Three Crosses and Silhoutted Person in Prayer at Sunrise
Conversion, Lent, Metanoia
3

Lent: Are You Giving Up or Taking Up?

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So it’s lent.  The question used to be: What are you giving up for lent?  Now, people are asking: What are you going to do for lent?  Instead of “giving something up,” many suggest we “take something up.”

The thing is that both of these questions can be good ones, and in both cases, our responses can miss the point.

The term “lent” comes from a word meaning “spring” or “springtime.”  In the south, the whole of spring is a beautiful season of warmth, light, and growth.  In the north, it’s often drab and dreary: muddy, cold, and barren trees well into early May.  Many a blizzard has fallen after March 20th.

Regardless of where you live, the idea of spring is the season of rebirth, promise, and hope.  Spring is when we see nature go from death-to-new-life.

Lent is about that death-to-new life transformation of springtime.  Like Jesus’ time in the desert, it is a 40 day spiritual journey.

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Playground
Article, Human Dignity, Justice
0

They’re Children, Not Chickens

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Two Moms go to a playground with their kids, ages 2 – 4.  One child asks his mom to help him use the fire pole, so she holds him the whole way down.  The second child asks the second mom for help.  She says, “I’d be happy to teach you how to do it, but I’m not going to do it for you.  Do you want to learn?”  Second-Child hesitates before agreeing.  Second-Mom explains how to reach out, hold the pole nice and high, then step out while holding on, wrap feet and legs around the pole, and gently loosen the hold to slide down.  She guides her son’s grip, holds her hands out to catch him in case he needs it, but tries not to actually do the work for him.  By the third try, he’s doing it with enough confidence that she can sit back and watch.

403

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The back of church pews
Conversion, Forgiveness, Grace, Humility
0

Modeling Humility

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Looking for a resolution you can stick to in the New Year?  How about modeling humility?

You know how most Catholics prefer to sit toward the back third of the Church?  Not my family; we sit in the front pew.  For one thing, the pew at the front is almost always available.  For another, it helps my kids (and me) pay attention when we can actually see what’s going on.  The problem, as you might imagine, is that the boys behavior is on public display.

As this post is about modeling humility–not perfectly behaved children at Mass–I’d like to make it clear: we don’t have that good-behavior thing down.  I’ve made two-steps-forward, one-step-back progress with regards to Church-behavior, but we are far from having “arrived.”

Two-Steps Forward

  1. I finally realized that growling whispered threats between pursed lips to SIT-STILL-AND-BE-QUIET was probably not helping them to develop a positive attitude toward Mass.  So I changed my language: Everything we say and do at Mass needs to show respect and reverence to God.
  2. I encourage my boys to use the Magnifikid or the Missalette to follow the Readings as well as all the rest of the Mass prayers.  Because participation shows reverence and respect.
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