Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Reflection: Matthew 16:13-19

Saints Peter and Paul, Solemnity – Matthew 16:13-19

Today the Church celebrates Saints Peter and Paul.  These two men had a profound impact on the early Church.  Both Peter and Paul were leaders in the infant Church. 

Unlike Peter, Paul did not have the privilege of knowing Jesus when Jesus walked the earth.  However, it is clear from Paul’s writings that he truly knew and loved Jesus.  Jesus was not an abstract person to Paul.  For Paul, Jesus was alive and present to him.  

Is Jesus truly alive for us?  In many ways, we are like Paul: we were not alive when Jesus was on this earth.  Yet, we have Jesus’ teachings and we have the Gospels.  We also have the opportunity to come to know Jesus just as Peter, Paul, and the apostles did, as Mary Magdalene did.  However, if we wish to know Jesus, we need to ponder His words, His love, and His actions.

On this feast of Peter and Paul, Jesus asks his followers: “Who do people say that I am?”  They gave him various replies: John the Baptist, a prophet, even Elijah.  However, Jesus then asks them: “But who do you say I am?” Today, Jesus is also asking us: “Who do you say that I am?”

Today I invite you to sit quietly with Jesus’ question for 15-30 minutes.  Relax, be still and be patient.  Allow your response come from deep within.  Don’t try to rush it.  Just sit patiently and eventually you will hear Jesus voice or sense His presence with you!  

Cherish this sacred time with Jesus!

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Reflection: Matthew 8:23-27

Tuesday of the 13th Week in Ordinary Time – Matthew 8:23-27

Today’s Gospel is a familiar story: it is the story of the storm at sea.  The disciples were out fishing on the sea.  Suddenly, a severe storm came up and the disciples became frightened.   Despite the fact that several of the disciples were experienced fishermen, they were terrified.  The storm was ferocious and waves were beginning to swamp their boat.  Unbelievably, Jesus remained sound asleep in the boat while the storm raged all around Him.

Finally, the disciples woke Jesus and they begged Him to save them.  However, Jesus rebuked them.  Then He asked: “Why are you so terrified, you of little faith?”  Jesus then stood up and rebuked the winds and the seas and immediately calm descended on the waters.   Jesus’ disciples were utterly amazed!  They looked at one another and asked:  Who is this man whom the winds and waves obey?”

Take a moment and remember a time in your life when you were extremely frightened.  What was the “storm” that created such turmoil and fear in your life?  Did you turn to Jesus and beg him to rescue you?  Or did you simply hunker down in your boat and hold on tightly?

At various times in our lives, Jesus may appear to be asleep when we desperately need his help and grace to get us through the ferocious storm that we are experiencing.  Despite His seeming absence or lack of concern, do we continue to trust that He is with us?  Do we believe that He is gracing us even if we don’t feel it?  Often, it only as time passes that we recognize and know that Jesus was with us every moment.

The next time you are in turmoil, I invite you to sit down and breathe slowly and mindfully for three to four minutes.  Breathe in peace and exhale stress and fear.  After several minutes, check yourself:  Are you as agitated as you were or are you calmer now? Is your mind clearer?

When we are upset or fearful, we automatically “batten down the hatches,” as sailors would say.  In our language we might say: “I just shut down.”  And at times, we may need to shut down momentarily.  However, we need an additional step: we need to open our minds and hearts to Jesus’ presence.  If we do this for several minutes, we may realize that we are calmer and more peaceful.  Practicing calm and peace will rebuke the winds and waves in our lives.

Love, calm, and peace are gifts that Jesus gives to us.  Today take time to consciously open your mind and heart to receive these wondrous gifts.  It not only will change your day, it will change you!

Monday, June 27, 2016

Staying with the Sisters: Summer 2016


My name is Tory Lanaghan, and I am part of Servants to the Sisterhood, a national program that is beginning anew with the Sisters of St. Benedict in Ferdinand. For a whole summer, myself and four other girls will be living, praying, and working with these wonderful women in order to learn what is so special about this order of sisters. When our program is complete, it will be our jobs to draw in women who are interested in monastic life and tell them about this truly incredible community. I decided that the best way to tackle this monstrous task is by writing to all of you, the families and friends of these sisters, so that you might get a behind-the-scenes look at this community and the things that they have done and still do to change this world.

But before I begin, I want to tell you a little about myself and the faith journey that has led me to the Sisters of St. Benedict.

I am a junior at Murray State University, majoring in Public Relations and Creative Writing. My hometown is Millstadt, IL, just thirty minutes southeast of St. Louis, where I have lived with my parents and my older sister Shea for my whole life.

My parents, Jon and Connie 
My sister, Shea, is on the left.

I grew up Catholic, attending St. James Grade School in Millstadt and Althoff Catholic High School in Belleville. I became an active member of my parish’s youth group when I turned 13, which first connected me to Ferdinand.

Though I was too young to go, my mother and sister were part of the first youth group to ever take a mission trip to Ferdinand’s sisters nine years ago. The sisters were a bit tentative when the group showed up, having teenagers live on their campus was pretty wild, but within the first day, the kids had finished the five-days-worth-of-work list and the sisters had to scramble to find more things for them to do. We were told they fell in love with us. 

Scraping walls free of glue on
Mission Trip 2015
Two years later, I was able to join my youth group for my first trip and the experience blew me away. The grounds were beautiful, almost as beautiful as the women they are a home to. It was truly an experience and serving the sisters set me off on a love for others and a passion for service that has continued throughout my life. Every single summer, I came, making my way up the ranks from youth to adult leader and reconnecting with God each time I went to morning prayer.

Honduras Senior Service
Trip 2014

Even after all of this, when the sisters asked both my sister and I to join in this first project, I was nervous. My connection with the Church and God had to be tenuous at best since I had been to college, and though the mission trips always revitalized and affirmed my love for Jesus(and his love for me), I was not sure how I would be able to handle an entire summer of prayer. I was worried that I would be different than the other three girls who were coming, that they would be more like my sister, who is going to receive her masters in Theological Studies, and I would be a bit of an outcast with my non-traditional and rocky faith journey.

But I knew that I loved service, and if I wanted to stick with my life mission of making a difference in the world, this would be a perfect opportunity to find myself in the depths of service and prayer, and so, here I am, in this beautiful little house in Ferdinand Indiana, beginning my first week of waking up at 6 a.m. to go to prayer, learning the layout of this huge campus, and scratching the surface of the loving community these sisters have welcomed me into.

Though it has only been three days since I arrived, I have learned more about what it means to be a servant of the Lord than I could have done in years on my own and I certainly look forward to discovering exactly the life these wonderful women lead. I hope that many of you will follow me on this faith journey. I will enjoy sharing it with you.

Isaiah 6:8 – And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” Then I said, “Here I am! Send me.”

Reflection: Matthew 8:18-22

Monday of the 13th Week in Ordinary Time – Matthew 8:18-22

Today’s gospel passage from Matthew is very similar to the gospel reading that we heard yesterday from Luke.  Once again, people seem very enthusiastic about following Jesus “wherever he goes,” but they place conditions on their discipleship.  The second person, in particular, places limits on when he will follow Jesus.  He tells Jesus, “Lord, let me go first and bury my father.”  Jesus responds, “Follow me, and let the dead bury their dead.”

Jesus’ response to the man’s desire to bury his father may seem rather harsh.  Was Jesus so coldhearted that he would not let a son bury his father?  I think not.  In all likelihood, the man’s father had not died yet.  It seems that the man wanted to attend to his own business and had reservations about following Jesus.  Instead of telling Jesus that he wanted to follow him but that he felt a little nervous about it, he said that he had other matters to which he needed to attend.

How many times do we put our own agendas before God’s?  What holds us back from following Jesus wholeheartedly?  It is easy to make a list of all of the things that we need to do.  Do we put prayer on the top of the list? 

Today, I invite you to spend 15-30 minutes in prayer.  You may find a place to sit quietly, or you may walk and pray, or pray as you do artwork.  Whatever you do and however you pray, take some time to listen to God’s call.  To what is God calling you?  As you spend some time in prayer, ask for the grace to respond to God’s call wholeheartedly and unreservedly.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Reflection: Luke 9:51-62

The 13th Sunday in Ordinary Time – Luke 9:51-62 

The opening words of this Gospel are: “Not long before it was time for Jesus was to be taken up into heaven, He decided to go to Jerusalem.”  Jesus sent His messengers on ahead of Him to Jerusalem so that they could prepare for his arrival.

As Jesus traveled up to Jerusalem, there were people who refused to welcome Him.  When James and John saw this happening, they were extremely angry.  They turned to Jesus and asked: “Lord, do you want us to call down fire from heaven and annihilate these people?”  Jesus turned and sternly looked at them.  Then He corrected them for what they had said.  

As they approached Jerusalem, a man came Jesus and said to Him: “I will go with you wherever you go.”  Jesus replied to him, “Foxes have dens and birds have nests.  However, the Son of Man has no place to call His own.” Jesus then invited the man to follow Him.  However, the man looked at Jesus in dismay and said: “Let me wait until I have buried my father.”  Jesus bluntly responded: “Let the dead bury the dead.”

Then another person came to Jesus and said: “I want to follow you, Lord; however I need to return home and take care of some affairs and then I will follow you.” Jesus looked at the man and said: “Anyone who begins to plow and keeps looking back is not worthy of the Kingdom of Heaven.” 

While this collection of stories may just seem to be strung together as a sequence of events that occurred as Jesus made his way toward Jerusalem, there is a common theme.  In these stories, Luke instructs us about how to receive Jesus and his call, even if we find the call inconvenient or untimely.

We are not to be like those who ridicule Jesus for behaving a certain way, and we are to follow Jesus’ call without reservation.  It is easy for us to say, “Sure, Jesus, I will do this for you after I do what I want to do.”  Jesus does not want a halfhearted response from us when he calls.  He wants all of us, our entire selves, and he wants us to respond to his call with a wholehearted “yes.”

To what is Jesus calling you today?  Spend some quiet time reflecting on this question.  What is stirring within your heart?  How will you respond to Jesus’ call for you?