Thursday, June 28, 2018

Thoughts on grace

Grace turned outward is more a statement regarding the true nature of grace than anything we do or put on - as if you could receive grace and not give it out. Grace turned outward is part of the definition of grace. It's a sign that one understands the work of grace in their own life. Grace given is grace received. You can't have one without the other.   

You don't go out and try to muster up enough grace to share with someone. You merely extend what you have received. If you can't give it, you probably didn't get it, at least you didn't recognize it as grace. Again, turning grace outward is not something that is hard to do. It is the natural outflow of truly understanding and receiving the grace being extended to us by God.

God's grace humbles us; it levels the playing field. We are all equally undeserving. We are all equally needy. So that when we get it, grace changes us.
John Fischer

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Thoughts on courage

Courage is connected with taking risks. Jumping the Grand Canyon on a motorbike, coming over Niagara Falls in a barrel, or crossing the ocean in a rowboat are called courageous acts because people risk their lives by doing these things. But none of these daredevil acts comes from the centre of our being. They all come from the desire to test our physical limits and to become famous and popular.
 Spiritual courage is something completely different. It is following the deepest desires of our hearts at the risk of losing fame and popularity. It asks of us the willingness to lose our temporal lives in order to gain eternal life.

Henri Nouwen
Henri Nouwen

Friday, June 22, 2018

Thoughts on words

Words are important. Without them our actions lose meaning. And without meaning we cannot live. Words can offer perspective, insight, understanding, and vision. Words can bring consolation, comfort, encouragement and hope. Words can take away fear, isolation, shame, and guilt. Words can reconcile, unite, forgive, and heal. Words can bring peace and joy, inner freedom and deep gratitude. Words, in short, can carry love on their wings. A word of love can be the greatest act of love. That is because when our words become flesh in our own lives and the lives of others, we can change the world. Jesus is the word made flesh. In him speaking and acting were one.
Henri Nouwen
Henri Nouwen

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Thoughts on Fathers Day

5 ways to find your inner dad 

Being a father is difficult. You’re supposed to do everything: earn a good living, fix everything that breaks around the house, help with homework, have a close relationship with your kids… and still see mothers get most of the props for parenting!

by Jeannette de Beauvoir

It’s difficult to find the time to be the kind of father you’d like to be, but there are things you can do to make it clearer, if not easier! Here are five ways you can increase your interactions with your kids and enrich both your lives:

  1. Schedule dad-time. The things we make priorities in our lives are the things that actually happen. We schedule meetings, appointments, and visits with friends; so pull out that calendar now and schedule dad-time… and make it a regular feature. The occasional baseball game doesn’t cut it. Kids are most comfortable with predictable events, so find a schedule and stick to it. You can change up how you spend the time—just make sure that it’s as important as everything else on your calendar.
  2. Read all about it. Mothers seem to spend a lot of time reading articles and books about being a good mother; fathers seem often to believe they’ll get the knowledge they need by osmosis. Wrong! There are some great online sites for fathers. Make a commitment to enrich your parenting skills by reading something every week.
  3. Make every day Father’s Day. Yes, Father’s Day is about celebrating you, and usually entails cards and gifts and maybe a special meal together. But what it really celebrates is a relationship. When you get up in the morning, every morning, remind yourself that this is another precious day you can be a father to somebody. That’s a tremendous gift in itself!
  4.  Don’t give advice, be advice. Your children watch you, every day. They observe how you handle challenges and crises. They look at your decision-making, your work ethic, and your relationships. You are their first and primary role-model, and so be sure you rise to the privilege. Live the kind of life you want your kids to see. Make the sacraments a major part of your life: go to Mass and reconciliation weekly, and there’s a better chance that your kids will, too.
  5. Listen, listen, listen. As parents, we “know” what’s best for our kids, and we often don’t consider their point of view. Even if ultimately you’re still going to say no to that party or piercing, listen to your kids’ requests, desires, dreams. Don’t begin interactions with a lecture. The more you listen to them, the more they’ll listen to you.

Perhaps the most important thing to do as a father is to pray. You’re not in this alone, and you can’t do it alone. You have monumental pressures on you, and you need to share your burdens. Consider using Father’s Day as a time to start a novena to St. Joseph… who knew all about the ins and outs of parenting!
You have the most important job in the world: preparing your children to become adults that they—and you—can be proud of. Celebrate the mysteries of fatherhood, embrace its joys, and ask for help when you need it. Happy Father’s Day!

Friday, June 15, 2018

Thoughts on compassion

<em>Portrait of Mère Marguerite d'Youville (1701-1771)</em> | James Duncan
Image: Portrait of Mère Marguerite d’Youville (1701-1771) | James Duncan

Saint Marguerite d’Youville

Saint of the Day for June 15

(October 15, 1701 – December 23, 1771)

Saint Marguerite d’Youville’s Story

We learn compassion from allowing our lives to be influenced by compassionate people, by seeing life from their perspectives, and reconsidering our own values.
Born in Varennes, Canada, Marie Marguerite Dufrost de Lajemmerais had to interrupt her schooling at the age of 12 to help her widowed mother. Eight years later she married François d’Youville; they had six children, four of whom died young. Despite the fact that her husband gambled, sold liquor illegally to Native Americans, and treated her indifferently, she cared for him compassionately until his death in 1730.
Even though she was caring for two small children and running a store to help pay off her husband’s debts, Marguerite still helped the poor. Once her children were grown, she and several companions rescued a Quebec hospital that was in danger of failing. She called her community the Institute of the Sisters of Charity of Montreal; the people called them the “Grey Nuns” because of the color of their habits. In time, a proverb arose among the poor people of Montreal, “Go to the Grey Nuns; they never refuse to serve.” In time, five other religious communities traced their roots to the Grey Nuns.
The General Hospital in Montreal became known as the Hôtel Dieu (House of God) and set a standard for medical care and Christian compassion. When the hospital was destroyed by fire in 1766, Mère Marguerite knelt in the ashes, led the Te Deum—a hymn to God’s providence in all circumstancesand began the rebuilding process. She fought the attempts of government officials to restrain her charity, and established the first foundling home in North America.
Pope Saint John XXIII, who beatified Mère Marguerite in 1959, called her the “Mother of Universal Charity.” She was canonized in 1990. Her Liturgical Feast Day is October 16.


Saints deal with plenty of discouragement, plenty of reasons to say, “Life isn’t fair” and wonder where God is in the rubble of their lives. We honor saints like Marguerite because they show us that with God’s grace and our cooperation, suffering can lead to compassion rather than bitterness.

Franciscan Media | 28 West Liberty Street | Cincinnati, OH 45202. USA.

Saturday, June 9, 2018

Thoughts on beliefs

“When the foundations of life are undermined, what can a righteous person do?” (Psalm 11:3 GW)

What we believe about the world around us shapes everything about our lives. I’ve shared this with you many times in these devotionals. What you believe determines your behavior. Your behavior then determines what you become, and that has a direct effect on the direction of your life. The same is true of a country or the world. They are largely shaped by the values we believe. The problem is, we’ve bought into three very destructive philosophies that have replaced truth in our lives. 1) Individualism: We buy into the lie that we’re the only standard for our lives. A few years back I read a Wall Street Journal article that said 44 percent of executives consult first with themselves in an ethical crisis. That’s really nothing new. The Israelites went through this in the book of Judges when the Bible says, “In those days Israel had no king; all the people did whatever seemed right in their own eyes” (Judges 21:25 NLT). It didn’t work well then, and it doesn’t work well today. 2) Secularism: You can summarize this in three words: God is unnecessary. In the past half-century, we’ve been systematically removing God from all areas of our lives — from schools to the government to the media. We’ve basically relegated God to Sunday mornings, if we even consider him then. 3) Relativism: That’s when we’re told that there are no absolutes — what’s true for you may not be true for me. It’s a great way to live if you don’t want any guilt. If you don’t measure up to God’s standard, you just change the standard. It’s both illogical and irrational, but it’s highly prevalent in our world today. Don’t be conned by individualism (love for yourself), secularism (God is unnecessary), or relativism (there are no absolutes). The consequences as a society and for us as individuals for falling for these cons is staggering. Without a commitment to truth and a commitment to the authority of God, our culture is crumbling.

Rick Warren

Friday, June 8, 2018

Thoughts on speaking

The Spirit that Jesus gives us empowers us to speak. Often when we are expected to speak in front of people who intimidate us, we are nervous and self-conscious. But if we live in the Spirit, we don't have to worry about what to say. We will find ourselves ready to speak when the need is there. "When they take you before ... authorities, do not worry about how to defend yourselves or what to say, because when the time comes, the Holy Spirit will teach you what you should say" (Luke 12:11-12).

We waste much of our time in anxious preparation. Let's claim the truth that the Spirit that Jesus gave us will speak in us and speak convincingly.
Henri Nouwen 
 Henri Nouwen

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Thoughts on churches

'The door's always open. That's sort of the point of a church, isn't it?'
By Brian Doyle

I was in a tiny wooden town in Alaska recently when I walked past a tiny wooden church. I find small wooden sacred places irresistible, whether they are chapels or groves or shrines or copses, so I did not resist, but wandered in respectfully to poke around. The church was very old, I discovered; it had preceded the incorporation of the town, and had changed denominations once, and had never been noticeably renovated, though it was clean and kempt, with songbooks in every pew and robes hanging neatly on muscular wooden pegs.

In my explorations I admired the unassuming wooden altar, carved with motifs of the local landscape--spruce and birch, raven and bear, lupine and deerberry. I admired the general humility of the space, with its mismatched chairs on the altar and its uneven floorboards, probably the original cedar planks loaned from the glaciered mountains outside. I even admired the two lonely piano benches against one wall, like cubs without their mother the piano.

Eventually I wandered through a creaky hallway to a back room, which seemed instantly familiar to me, with its gaggle of tables and lingering scents of old coffee and stale doughnuts and hissing steam heat; it was, I realized with a smile, the church basement, though not actually below the church, perhaps because of permafrost. I felt immediately at home, having spent many hours in many church basements, and I laughed aloud-at which, to my astonishment, a young man stood up suddenly from beneath one of the tables, where he had been sleeping.

He was in his young twenties, perhaps, and very polite, though he looked a bit worn and weary. We shook hands and I said something friendly, at which point he indicated that he did not have the language I was speaking. He said something friendly in his language, though, and then he bent to pack up his gear, and I realized that he lived here in the church basement. Suddenly I felt intrusive and rude, and I said goodbye and made to leave. On my way out I opened the wrong door and found myself in the kitchen, where an elderly man with a tremendous mustache was baking bread. He too was friendly and he explained that the bread, and the soup he had on the stove, and the two cakes in the freezer, were for people hereabouts who didn't have much money, and scuffled for food, as he said. And the young man packing his gear? He is on the road, said the elderly man. He's in transit. We don't ask any more than that. Our feeling is that a real church is a place of rest and restoration. That boy's on the road, just like Jesus was, and who are we to turn him away? A church ought to be a sanctuary. Otherwise it's just a corporation like any other. We do what we can. You'd be surprised how many people bring food over and leave it on the table there. The door's always open. That's sort of the point of a church, isn't it? That the door's always open? If you lock the doors then you are just like every other corporation, hoarding your stuff. Stuff's to be shared, right? The people here for thousands of years did that, and we try to do it, and that's about all there is to say about that. I have to get back to my loaves. You need something to eat, come on by in about an hour. Fish soup today. A fella brought in a mess of fish he caught yesterday. It'll be good soup, despite the fool of a cook. Come see for yourself.

This article also appears in the  August 2017 issue of U.S. Catholic.

Monday, June 4, 2018

Thoughts on mental health

We are a society of individuals that struggle to discuss mental health. Although every family is undoubtedly impacted by mental health, very few of us have the courage to discuss it. And if we, as adults, can’t have candid conversations around mental health, how can we possibly expect our young people to come forward, raise their hands and voice, sharing their internal struggles with this near-universal, but seldom discussed, reality.

Because what we focus on grows, we need a movement among media to not only showcase the problems and "breaking news" of the day,  but also the innumerable examples of the individuals, organizations, and communities responding with courageous solutions. We need politicians to reach across party lines to listen, collaborate, and find solutions together. We need to talk about mental health and normalize it so that we can support each other in better managing and overcoming it. We need schools to be safe spaces for our children to grow. (Check out Live Inspired Podcast Ep 43 with Dennis Gillan to talk about how we can better support the mental health of ourselves and our loved ones.)

These are just a few examples of how real change can happen when we stop the blame shifting and instead ask the question: Whose fault is it? Honestly replying, “It’s my fault. And today I choose to do something about it.”

As long as we deny the story and our role in it, it defines us. But when we own the story, we own the ability to not only refuse to be a victim to it, but to begin writing a brave new ending.

Today is our day to write a brave new ending. [Tweet this.] | [Share on Facebook.]
This is your day. Live Inspired.

John O'Leary