Friday, January 29, 2010

God, Present and Active in Our Gifts

Since this is my first post, let me introduce myself. My name is Fr. Mark Mossa, and I’m a Jesuit priest. I have worked on 3 Charis retreats (and will, again, this summer). Heather, who wrote a post a few days ago, was on at least one of these. I have been involved in ministry to young adults for nearly twenty years (though I’ve only been a priest for less than two).

One of the things that I often tell others about Saint Ignatius is that Jesuit spirituality, and his idea for the Jesuit order itself, rose out of his young adult experience of God. This is why I think The Spiritual Exercises, on which the Charis retreats are based, are especially effective in helping young adults to discover what God is doing in their lives.

If The Exercises revealed nothing else, they would be important merely for the reason that they help us to see that God is present and active in our lives. God wants to invite us to the type of life which can best amplify the gifts and talents given to us for God’s glory, and the good of those whom we are privileged to encounter, and serve.

Look for the illustration of this in the readings for this Sunday’s mass. God says to us: Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I dedicated you.” And Saint Paul reminds us, If I have all faith so as to move mountains,
 but do not have love, I am nothing.”


Fr. Mark

Wednesday, January 27, 2010


One of my favorite writers on Ignatian Spirituality is Margaret Silf. For Christmas, my husband gave me her new book Compass Points: Meeting God Every Day at Every Turn. This book is composed of several short reflections from Margaret's journal. I find the short vignettes to be thought provoking and a great tool for prayer.

Here is a piece from one titled "Apostolic Sucession":

"Royal Lineages, apostolic successions....are characterized by the laying-on of hands upon heads. But God's touch on our laid upon our hearts." (p. 95).

Reading this has reminded me of the passage from Jeremiah that speaks about the new covenant God will make with his people,

"I will place my law within them, and write it upon their hearts; I will be their God, and they shall be my people." (Jer 31: 33).

Both Margaret Silf's piece and the verse from Jeremiah challenge us to look at how God takes hold of our hearts, how the conversion of our hearts leads to our heads, and finally how the conversion of our minds leads us to do God's work with our hands.

What is our heart, the place where God speaks, calling us to today?

~Becky E.

Friday, January 22, 2010

"What Next?" A Retreatant Shares Her Experience of a Charis Retreat in Atlanta

I have attended two Charis Young Adult Retreats. The retreats were titled “What’s Next” and the main focus was on transitions.

My whole life has been planning for the next step: half day kindergarten to full day 1st grade, learner’s permit to driver’s license, college to full time job.

I had now reached the definition of adulthood “college graduate with a full time job” but I didn’t feel like an adult and I didn’t feel satisfied. For the first time in my life I did not know what my next step was. I did not have children, a husband, a house, or even a job I liked- I was feeling lost and unsure about what I was supposed to do with my life.

A girl from my prayer group saw a flyer for the Charis Retreat and suggested that we go. The weekend gave me new perspective and enlightenment. I realized that I was not the only person that was questioning their newfound adulthood and did not know what direction their life was going.

The weekend was broken down into sections: Group leaders would share their personal transition stories, small group discussions, silent time, and prayer. I enjoyed the silent time that allowed me to reflect upon what was important in life and what I wanted to make a priority. The small group discussions were helpful in providing me with courage to speak to others about my uncertainties.

I did not come away with all of the answers or my “next step” but I did strengthen my trust in God and realize that many other young adults are unsure of their future.

-Heather S.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Reflections from a Charis Leader's Time in Haiti

The last week has presented us with some pretty bad news in Haiti. And its true, its pretty bad.

However, If I didn't know much about Haiti before the Earthquake and were just now learning about it on the news, I might not have the most positive view of the country and its people. If that's the case, or if you are simply looking for some positive news in the midst of this tragedy I invite you all to look at The Haitian Project. They are chronicling their experience on the website.

I once lived there and taught computer and religion at Louverture Cleary School, a Catholic secondary school for academically gifted but economically impoverished kids from the poorest regions of Port Au Prince. They are given a free education and taught to give back to their communities.

In this crisis, we are starting to see an incredible return on this investment.
  • Former students are now doctors treating the injured.
  • They are fluent in four languages, making invaluable translators for all of the aid workers.
  • They are working with Catholic Relief Services (as they did before the quake) to distribute aid.
  • They are working with the Missionaries of Charity, the religious order founded by Mother Theresa (again as they did before the quake) to set up a clinic.
  • The investments in Solar power and deep wells allow the project to distribute water to the neighborhood, despite the scarcity and expense of diesel.
As you look to where to donate money to help Haiti, there are many good big charities that are helping right now: Red Cross, Catholic Relief Services and others. But for the future of the Country, it needs more students like those from Louverture Cleary School. Students that have a first class education and are dedicated to rebuilding their country. Please consider becoming a long term donor and partner in Haiti's birth.

Donations can be made online at:

or by check, mailed to:

The Haitian Project

PO Box 6891

Providence, RI 02940


Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Everything Belongs

I am currently reading a book by Fr. Richard Rohr, O.F.M. called Everything Belongs. This passage struck me:

"I believe that we have no real access to who we really are except in God. Only when we rest in God can we find the safety, the spaciousness, and the scary freedom to be

who we are,

all that we are,

more than we are,

and less than we are.

Only when we live and see through God can 'everything belong.'"

As I read this, I am reminded of the gospel reading a couple of weeks ago about Jesus' baptism. The passage from Matthew ended with, "And a voice came from the heavens, saying, "This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased."

Fr. Richard Rohr challenges us to put our identity in Christ. He challenges us each to accept that we are God's beloved children.

What does this say to us as individuals? If we accept that all are God's beloved children and everything belongs, how does this call us to live our life? What must we change in order to truly live a life where "everything and everyone belongs"?

~Becky E.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Let this be their Good Friday

A good friend of mine went on a mission trip to Haiti a few years ago and is gradually hearing news from the people and places that she visited. Some of it is good—most of the seminarians they met are alive, even though their seminary was destroyed. Some of it is bad—a group of nuns who ran a school were killed when the building collapsed on them. As we talked more about it, she summed it all up by saying: “I hope that the next generation there tells the stories of the earthquake that was like their Good Friday, which was followed by a lengthy Holy Saturday and the new life of Easter.” I pray that too.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

The First Community of Believers

Becky's reflection yesterday got me thinking. The first community of disciples knew so intimately what Christ was calling them to, and that was reflected so deeply in their actions. In Acts, we read, "The group of believers was one in mind and heart. None of them said that any of their belongings were their own, but they all shared with one another everything they had...There was no one in the group who was in need."

Haiti is the poorest and most exploited country in the Western Hemisphere. Per usual, we 'developed' countries often forget the abject poverty of those so geographically removed from us. That is, until, such a disaster hits. Yes, this serves as a wake up call, and, as Becky points out, reminds us of what we are eternally called to, not just in times of catastrophe. We are perpetually called to share everything we have so people everywhere are never in need. The good folks at Catholic Relief Services and Jesuit Refugee Services need our help as they strive to fulfill that which each of us are called to.

-Mary Ellen

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Contemplatives in Action

It is on days like today, when our news is full of a natural disaster like the earthquake in Haiti, that I find myself pondering what it truly means to be a contemplative in action. A contemplative in action requires two things: First, we are called to be mindful and aware of God's presence and work in our lives. Second, as we become rooted in God, we are called to ask the question: "How can we respond to God's call?"

As we continue to pray for all the people in Haiti, let us pause for a minute and ask ourselves: "How are we called to respond to this present situation that our brothers and sisters in Haiti are dealing with?"

Becky E.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Give yourself a space to step back

On Thursday, young adults who work in ministry in the Archdiocese of Chicago and the Diocese of Joliet are coming together for a day of prayer, reflection and community building that they don’t have to plan or set-up. Charis is working with the Paul Jarzembowski from the Diocese of Joliet and Keara Coughlin at Old St. Pat’s to provide a space for these ministers to rejuvenate and remind themselves of the blessings that their ministries are to them and to others. Sometimes, one of the hardest things for any of us to do is to take a bit of time away to refocus our energies so that we can return to our daily lives with a renewed sense of purpose. This is as true for people working at churches as it is for people working in corporate boardrooms. Each of us needs to find our own way to step back and spend time focusing on our relationship with God. As these young adults who work in ministry are gathering in prayer, ask yourself what you can do this week to step back and reflect on your priorities and the place God has in your life.

~Lauren G

Thursday, January 7, 2010

The Power of Questions

The tumultuous economy is forcing many to make tough decisions and to re-evaluate their priorities as they face unemployment, eviction, and other devastating situations. But are all of us, even if we are not as directly affected, taking the opportunity to ask what these times mean for our values as individuals and society? Brian McLaren reflects about these important questions today on the Sojourners' blog "God's Politics". Brian highlights some of the questions and reflections that Jim Wallis offers in his new book, "Rediscovering Values: On Wall Street, Main Street, and Your Street—A Moral Compass for the New Economy". Brian's reflections remind us of the often-challenging Gospel ideal that our values must inform each choice we make as individuals and society. You should definitely check it out.

Sojourners is a Christian magazine (online and print) that focuses on the relationships among faith, politics, and culture.

-Mary Ellen M.

Monday, January 4, 2010

The 12 Days of Christmas

As the holidays wind down, and most of us return to work and our routines after some time off, it is easy for Christmas to fade into the background. It hasn't even been two weeks since Christmas Day, and already most of the signs of Christmas are gone--people have taken their trees and lights down, WLIT stopped its 24 hour a day Christmas music. But for our Church, the Christmas season lasts until the Baptism of Jesus (on January 10th this year). What a wonderful way to extend our celebration of Christ's birth!

This article in U.S. Catholic talks about different ways to celebrate the whole liturgical season of Christmas and giving us reminders of ways to live out that joy for a bit longer. At the end of A Christmas Carol, Scrooge says: "I will honor Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year." How will you continue to honor Christmas and the coming of our Savior throughout the year?

~Lauren G