Wednesday, December 12, 2012

St. Jane Frances de Chantal

Today is the fest day of St. Jane Frances de Chantal, wife, mother, nun and founder of a religious community. St. Francis de Sales played an important role in her life after her husband died, leading her to found the Visitation nuns. 

St. Jane was born in 1572 to a very noble family, with her father being the head of Parliament at Dijon, France. However, when she was 18 months old, her mother suddenly passed away, leaving her father to be the main influence on her education. At the age of 21, she married Baron de Chantal, with whom she had 6 children, including 3 who died during infancy. At the castle, she restored the custom of daily mass, and taught her children the importance of virtue and piety, while engaging in many other charitable works. It is said that she made a vow that she would never refuse anyone who asked for alms in the name of Christ.

After 7 years of marriage, in 1601, Jane's husband was shot and died while on a hunting expedition. Amazingly, she forgave the man who shot her husband, and even acted as a sponsor for one of his children. However, even with all of her composure, she sank into a deep depression for about 4 months. She ran into additional problems, because her 75 year old father-in-law threatened to disinherit her children if she did not return to his home. 

When she was 32, she met St. Francis de Sales, who became her spiritual director. She explained to him that she wanted to become a nun, but he told her to delay her decision. However, after 3 years, Francis explained to her that he wanted to establish a place where women, whose health, age, or other considerations barred them from joining an already established community. They were primarily intended to exemplify the virtues of Mary at the Visitation (hence their name, the Visitation nuns): humility and meekness. The congregation began with three women when Jane was 45. She encouraged the local authorities to make great efforts for the victims of the plague and she put all her convent’s resources at the disposal of the sick. 

Much like St. Jane Frances de Chantal, we must prevent our zeal from becoming fanaticism. Furthermore, the love that we have must not degenerate into sentimentalism. We must be strong in faith, but, at the same time, patient, forgiving, tender, conciliatory. For example, a Christian must be firm like a father, but mild like a mother, just like St. Jane. St. Jane went through a great deal of suffering throughout her life, and even questioned her faith at times, but in the end she truly gave her life to God.


Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Christmas Shoes

One of my absolute favorite Christmas songs is “Christmas Shoes.” For those of you that haven’t heard it, I recommend listening to it. It’s kind of a sad song, but it always manages to truly touch my heart. Every time I listen to it, I at least tear up and sometimes end up full-out crying (no judgments). It always manages to catch me off-guard; its message is just so strikingly clear and it always hits when I’m wrapped up in unimportant tasks. A lot of the other Christmas songs are about Santa, and the silly aspects of Christmas. While those are all enjoyable, sometimes I think we focus too much on all the material aspects of the holiday. Like the man in the song, we worry about getting the perfect gift for everyone on our list, putting up the decorations, making all the delicious Christmas dinner nomnoms. Sometimes, we get so wrapped up in all these details, but this song always, always reminds me to take a step back. When you think about it, those things aren’t all that important. Yes, everyone wants the holidays to run smoothly and be memorable, but when I think about my favorite Christmases my memories don’t go to the presents or the food. They go to the family who came in from Colorado, or the beautiful midnight Mass I attended. I think about the aunt who came over on Christmas morning, or how at peace I feel just being with my family.

This song brings us back to the true meaning of Christmas. Ultimately, Christmas is about loving others, and spreading love everywhere we go. That’s how it all started: with God’s gift of love to the world through His Son, with Mary’s selfless “yes” to God’s plan, with the innkeeper’s compassion in giving the only space he had left. In the song, the little boy is trying to give his mom a gift of love. He wants to make her happy; to make her beautiful if she were to go to Jesus that night. He’s not thinking about the gifts he wants to see under the tree, but about his mom and how he can show that he loves here. His intentions are so pure; his love so radiant and genuine. He exemplifies everything that Christmas is all about, and I think it’s such a great reminder. 

This Christmas season, I encourage you to think about ways you can spread love to others. It doesn’t have to be big; as Mother Teresa said, “It is not the magnitude of our actions but the amount of love that is put into them that matters.” God doesn’t ask for magnificent acts every day; just smiling at someone or donating food to a food bank is a wonderful, loving act. How will you share the real meaning of Christmas? 

I hope everyone's finals are going well-I'm praying for everyone! 

God bless, 

Friday, December 7, 2012

That time of year....

Is the annual finals panic starting to set in for anyone else? I know it sure has for me.  There is always so much to do at the end of the term. Final group projects and studying seem to own every bit of our schedules.  Sometimes I pray to myself, “Lord, grant me the motivation to study, the time to sleep, and the wisdom to know which one is most pertinent at that moment in time.”

So as we are approaching exam week, remember that it will all be okay.  When things get stressful, I try to take a couple of deep breaths and let God be near my thoughts. 

Good luck to all as we enter into this week.  And remember, once we are through this week, we have break =)


Thursday, December 6, 2012

Take Some Time

"Everyone who listens to these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise man who built his house on rock. The rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew and buffeted the house.  But it did not collapse; it had been set solidly on rock.  And everyone who listens to these words of mine but does not act on them will be like a fool who built his house on sand.  The rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew and buffeted the house.  And it collapsed and was completely ruined."
- Mt 7:24-27

It is the last week of classes and like many of you, I have a lot more stress than usual.  Final assignments, projects, and exams seem to fill my mind throughout the day.  With this high level of stress we may forget to make time, or just feel like there is no time to spare, for God.  Even though we may feel this way, it is important to be sure and set aside that time for Him.  Even though your brain says, “If I stop studying and working my stress will only increase,” trust me that spending some time with God will definitely help ease any worries you may have.


Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Feeding the Multitudes

There are many famous, well-known Gospel readings, and today's Gospel reading is  one of the Gospel readings that most people know or have heard of. Many of the actions that Jesus takes in the Gospels show how much He cares for and wants to help us. Many of us enjoy it when others help us with a tough task at hand, but do we help others as much as they help us? Take some time to think of an instance when you have truly helped someone who was suffering.

As I mentioned above, today's Gospel reading is very famous, it is the feeding of the multitudes. However, interestingly, there are two instances of this miracle in the Gospel of Mark and Matthew. The first instance in both of these books involves Jesus using 5 loaves of bread and 2 fish to feed 5000 people, but the second instance involves Jesus using 7 loaves of bread and a few fish to feed 4000 people. Luke and John do not mention this second miracle. It is almost like we get a double helping of hearing about the love and compassion that Jesus shows for us.

The Gospel starts with Jesus returning from talking with the Disciples to meet the needs of a crowd that was forming. The crowd had brought all the sick people from the town so that Jesus could heal them. This shows the great faith that the people in the crowd had, for they cared about the less fortunate. However, they were still amazed when Jesus healed the lame, the blind, the deformed, the mute, and many others.

Then the Gospel mentions that Jesus recognized the needs of the people, for they had not eaten in three days time. However, the people did not complain about the lack of nourishment, Jesus, like his father, knew the needs of his people before they even said anything. Nevertheless, the Disciples showed another example of a lack of faith, for they did not trust that Jesus would take care of the people. They asked Him how they would be able to obtain enough bread to feed all of the people, assuming that they would have to get the bread through natural means. They assumed this even while the whole crowd showed faith in Jesus by bringing their sick to Him, trusting that He wwould help them with their suffering. The Discples were even with Jesus when He had fed 5000 people, and yet they still did not believe. This can happen in our lives as well. Sometimes we are too distracted by the consequences of certain obstacles that we do not trust that God will protect his children. Jesus realizes that, like the Discples, we are also still learning to let go of our fears. Jesus does not reprimand the Apostles, but he does expected more out of them than younger Christians because they have witnessed his works.

Out of the seven loaves of bread and the few fish that the Apostles had, Jesus blessed, broke, and gave it to the Apostles so the they could hand it out to the crowd. Much like the loaves, we are also blessed, broken, and given by God. We blessed with many great talents and skills, so that we may spread the Good News of the Lord. We are broken by God, so that are made innocent and sincere like children. Finally, we are given to others so that we may help them see the truth and and love that God has to offer. The food satisfied the entire crowd and there was a surplus, so that some was left over.

Sometimes you might not realize it, but God cares about us and wants to see us succeed. This is seen perfectly in this Gospel reading. This Gospel reading is definitely a 'feel-good' classic.

-Luke Knudson

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

God's Beautiful Authority

Don't you just love personal revelations?  I had one yesterday.  I was reading my daily reflection in my little advent book (I love how God is already using this book to teach me new things!) and it reminded me of something I don't often think about: God is in authority.

Do you know why this is so great?  Because this means that what God says, goes!  We have proof from personal accounts and accounts of people past and present.  We have proof from the life of Jesus.  He healed so many people, both spiritually and physically, simply by saying so.  He has power.  And the cool thing is that God loves us.  God loves us so much that he died for us.  He died even for those who rejected him.  He died for those who were completely sinful.  He died because he loved us.  That's an unimaginable amount of love!  God loves us, so he wants the best for us.  The one disclaimer is that we have to want it too.  God will never force anything on us.  So we have to ask.  We have to pray.

Lately I've been feeling frustrated because I have been unmotivated to pray.  And when I do pray, it's usually halfheartedly and out of convenience.  But after I spent time on yesterdays reflection, I think that maybe my problem is that I have lacked faith in the power of prayer.  If God never forces himself on us, then prayer is our way of telling God that we love and trust him and that we want him to direct our lives.  Our prayers tell our powerful God that we want him too.  Hearing our prayers and hearing our desire for him, God will respond.  Maybe not today, maybe not in the way we want.  But God's timing is perfect and he always works for our good.  He is not looking to screw us over!

God has authority and power.  And he wants to use it to better your world.

Until next time,

Monday, December 3, 2012

Happy Advent!

                Wow, it’s already December, and yesterday marked the start of the Advent season. When I was little, Advent was just a way of counting down until Christmas. As I’ve grown, though, I’ve come to appreciate it much more.
I see Advent as a beautiful time of the year. The word “advent” is derived from the Latin word meaning “coming,” and its literal definition is the coming or arrival, especially of something extremely important. How fitting is that definition? We are waiting the coming of Jesus, who of course is very important! We as Catholics are taking this time to prepare for the coming of Christ, our Savior. We are getting ready to celebrate His birth, and also prepare for His Second Coming. Many of the readings during this time tell us to stay awake and to be ready for our Lord’s arrival. I personally love this annual reminder. It highlights one of the crucial elements of our faith: that we should exemplify Christ’s love and spread His message all the time, in every aspect of our lives. If we are to be truly ready, we need to be alert and live every single moment for Christ. We cannot be fair-weather Catholics; we need to live out our faith constantly.
                Advent also happens to be the start of the liturgical year, and I think it’s the perfect beginning. It gives us a chance to reflect on how prepared we are for the coming of Christ, and to discern ways to become even more prepared throughout the coming liturgical year. Our faith is constantly changing and we are always growing, and Advent is a great time to reflect on where we are in our spiritual journey. Do you remember those paper Advent chains you would make in school when you were little? I think I’m going to make myself one this year, and set some Advent goals for each day. These might not be huge acts; it may be simply smiling at a stranger or participating in a food or toy drive. Living a life for Christ, though, doesn’t mean big acts all the time; it means doing things with love and compassion, no matter how big or small the act is.
I encourage you, as this Advent season begins, to spend some time reflecting on your relationship with Christ and the way you live out your faith. Are there aspects you’d like to change? Is there something you would like to do this Advent season to strengthen your faith? Perhaps you would also benefit from a paper Advent chain, or maybe you’ll strive to read the Bible daily. St. Monica-St. George is giving away a small book with daily Advent reflections that has some great thoughts; maybe you’ll pick one up. Really use this season, though, to prepare for Christ and live out your faith.
God bless,