Friday, February 26, 2010

Happy 18th (?!), Chris

Today my nephew turns 18, which officially places him in the “young adult” category (and further pushes me out L). His older brother is already half a year away from 20 and, to my great joy, is coming to spend a few days of his Spring Break with his uncle in New York. It’s hard to believe that these two, whom I have known since their birth, now count themselves among those of us who know ourselves as “adults.” Yet, I look forward, as I long have, to seeing what kind of adults they become. And I hope they get the help that they need to become who God desires them to be.

Our Church does not always to a great job of welcoming and encouraging those just beginning adulthood. This is perhaps the most crucial time in one’s life of faith. Yet, whenever the budget gets tight, programs and ministries for those of the young adult age group always seem to be the first to be cut. And, unfortunately, many of the spiritual resources out there are written with older adults in mind.

[Beware, shameless plug ahead]

Some of us are trying to change that. My book written for a young adult Christian audience will be out this Fall (from St. Anthony Messenger Press). And there are already a few out there that I would recommend: Beth Knobbe’s Finding My Voice, Donald Miller’s Blue Like Jazz, James Martin’s In Good Company, Lauren Winner’s Girl Meets God, Matthew Lickona’s Swimming With Scapulars, Jeremy Langford’s God Moments, Mike Hayes’ Googling God and Jen Owens and Kate Dugan’s From the Pews in the Back are each worthwhile. These are titles that might offer some encouragement and guidance to you as a young adult Catholic, or to the new young adult Catholic in your life!

-- Fr. Mark

Thursday, February 25, 2010

How would I answer?

As part of my Lenten resolution, I'm using Loyola University Chicago's Sacred Space reflection booklet (click here for LUC's online reflections). The other day, the booklet challenged me with the "For the Least" reading from the Gospel of Matthew. The disciples ask Jesus, "'Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or ill or in prison, and not minister to your needs?' He will answer them, 'Amen, I say to you, what you did not do for one of these least ones, you did not do for me.'" The reflection booklet then asked me how I would respond to Christ in this situation.

I've heard this reading hundreds of times, and each time I struggle with how I would answer. This Lent, I aim to work harder on living an answer that would be more suitable than my answer has been in the past.

(Sidenote: Charis' For the Least' Social Justice retreat is coming up in May. Check it out!)

-Mary Ellen

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Where does God speak to us?

When we think of prayer, we must first realize that "God does and always speaks first". Prayer is how we enact our decision to say "yes" to God. We come to prayer because God has first talked to us.

Thomas Hart, author of The Art of Christian Listening, poses the question "Where does this speaking of God take place?"

He gives the following examples:

Nature: "Prayer arises spontaneously in the presence of arises from what I enjoy, what I marvel at, where I experience depth."

Events of my life: "The things that happen to me can be starting points for experience of work, my relationships, the things I wonder at, the restlessness of my heart, etc. These things...are the very stuff of prayer."

Scripture: "Our God is a living God and the revelation he has made of himself in scripture is a revelation of who he is always."

We as followers of Christ must discern how God speaks to us. This in itself is part of the discernment process we go through as our relationship with God deepens. We become more and more aware of how God is alive and present in our lives and how God speaks to us as we continue to say "yes" to God and speak with and listen to God in prayer.

This Lent, as we continue to make a turn towards God, let's take the time to ask ourselves: How does God speak to me?
Where do I hear, feel, sense God's voice?

Becky E.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Praying at the computer

As we are six days past Ash Wednesday, I find it easy to fall back into existing patterns and forget some of my Lenten resolutions. I find myself on the computer way more often than I find myself in prayer. Fortunately, there are resources that combine the two! This Lent, there are many parishes, dioceses and organizations that have blogs or online resources to help us in our Lenten journeys. If you find yourself struggling with prayer, check some of these out.

Reflections for Lent with Fr. Pat McGrath, SJ--weekly podcasts that you can download or listen to on your computer. Fr. Pat is a fantastic speaker and preacher and a member of Charis' Board.

Fast, Pray, Give--Bustedhalo provides a daily reflection and a suggestion for something to fast from, something to pray for, and something to give each day. They even have a "Slip Support Station" on Facebook to connect with others on the same journey.

Awaken--the blog of the Archdiocese of Chicago's Young Adult Ministry office. Read or listen to the Gospel reading of the day and read reflections from young adults and others around the country. There are also a few questions to help in your own prayer.

On a Lenten Journey--the first foray into the blogosphere for St. Andrew Church in Lakeview. It includes daily reflections, music, and even meatless recipes in case you're tired of fish and chips on Fridays.

Seven Weeks for the Soul: A Reflective Journey for Lent--an online Ignatian retreat through, a service of Loyola Press.

Believe, Celebrate, Live, Pray--the US Conference of Catholic Bishops have resources and suggestions for ways to grow in faith during Lent.

If you're looking for a community to share the Lenten journey, it's not too late to connect with a small faith sharing group.

~Lauren G

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Fasting and Feasting

Today, as many of you know, is Ash Wednesday and the start of Lent. This is a season of prayer, fasting, penance, and and almsgiving, which we do in order to center our lives on God. At the end of our Ash Wednesday Mass today at the University of Georgia, we received a poem from Fr. Tom titled Fasting and Feasting. I wanted to share it with you.

Fasting and Feasting

Lent should be more than a time of fasting.
It should also be a joyous season of feasting.
Lent is a time to fast from certain things and to feast on others.

It is a season to turn to God:

Fast from judging others; feast on the goodness in them.
Fast from emphasis on differences; feast on unity of all life.
Fast from apparent darkness; feast on the reality of light.
Fast from thoughts of illness; feast on the healing power of God.
Fast from words that pollute; feast on phrases that purify.
Fast from discontent: feast on gratitude.

Fast from anger; feast on patience.
Fast from pessimism; feast on optimism.
Fast from worry; feast on divine order.
Fast from complaining; feast on appreciation.
Fast from negatives: feast on affirmatives.
Fast from unrelenting pressures; feast on unceasing prayer.

Fast from hostility; feast on non-resistance.
Fast from bitterness; feast on forgiveness.
Fast from self-concern; feast on compassion for others.
Fast from personal anxiety; feast on eternal Truth.
Fast from discouragement; feast on hope.

Fast from facts that depress; feasts on truths that uplift.
Fast from lethargy; feast on enthusiasm.
Fast from suspicion; feast on truth.
Fast from thoughts that weaken; feast on promises that inspire.
Fast from shadows of sorrow; feast on the sunlight of serenity.
Fast from idle gossip; feast on purposeful silence.

Fast from problems that overwhelm; feast on prayer that supports.
~William Arthur Ward

What will you fast from this Lent in order to more fully turn to God?
What will you feast on this Lent in order to more fully turn to God?

~Becky E.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

What's in a vocation?

There has been much talk in recent years about a vocation crisis in the Catholic Church, particularly among young adults. Discussions of a vocation crisis usually focus on a lack of men and women entering the priesthood and religious life. Late last week, Jamie Manson, a blogger for the National Catholic Reporter, provided an interesting piece on this debate. Her article is in response to a statement made by Cardinal Franc Rode, which argues that modern secularization is to blame for a lack of young adults pursuing vocations in religious life. After detailing some ways she sees the church as losing touch with its young adults, she argues that young adults have been pursuing a wide variety of vocations outside the priesthood and religious life, including lay ministry, social work and work in social justice fields.

Just this past fall, on our Spirit @ Work Retreat, we talking about looking for our spiritual calling in the work and lives we have chosen. As you look upon your own professional and personal choices, do you feel a sense of vocation in what you have done? Where is the spirit calling you?


Friday, February 12, 2010

Constant Conversion

A student in my class made a simple, but profound observation the other day. I showed the class the first 40 minutes of “Entertaining Angels,” a movie about the life of Catholic Worker founder, Dorothy Day. The movie makes it appear as if her interest in Catholicism came upon her suddenly, making her conversion appear quite dramatic (I guess that was the point!). But then we read the first part of her autobiography, The Long Loneliness, in which it becomes clear that Dorothy had sporadic experiences of other people’s Christian faith and practice throughout her childhood and young adult life, and that she was quite taken with it. My student said that she was glad we read the book, because this more gradual experience of conversion seemed to make much more sense.

Indeed, our conversions—even our “conversions” to the faith we have grown up in—are rarely so dramatic as the movies often portray them. It is usually a more gradual process, in which a series of experiences and insights gel and suddenly “make sense” in a way they didn’t before. For me, there was kind of a dramatic moment when God challenged me to make a decision about whether or not I was going to be a priest. But, what finally led to that decision was not a conviction based on that experience, but a realization that so many of the things I had done, believed, and was excited and passionate about in the years of young adulthood leading up to that decision had been and were now, as I saw them all as of a piece, pointing me in that direction.

When you look back at the important and poignant experiences of your young adult life up until now, what direction are they pointing?

--Fr. Mark

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Increasing our awareness

We are now more than a month into the New Year and most of us have probably seen our New Year's resolutions fade away as the reality of daily life draws on. We are a little over a week away from Ash Wednesday when we will again make resolutions of a type as we decide to give up something, or to do something extra for Lent. For me, it is much easier to stick with resolutions that last for 40 days, because I know they have an end point. But perhaps that's a problem. If I am resolving to spend more time each day in prayer during Lent, why do I feel ok about dropping that after Easter?

An article by Thomas Massaro in the latest edition of America invites us to take a different strategy on resolutions. Instead of choosing some sort of "direct behavior modification," as he calls it, he opts for a heightened awareness and appreciation for different groups. I like this a lot! For example, instead of saying that I would like to spend an extra 5 minutes in prayer each day and stopping at that, I can consciously look for opportunities for prayer throughout my day and become more aware of God's presence with me always. This is a practice that I can stick with long after Lent has passed, and that helps me to see God with me throughout the day.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Cheers to the Saints

Congratulations to the New Orleans Saints, who captured their first national title with their Super Bowl win yesterday. The formerly known ‘Aints, whose fans once regularly wore paper bags over their heads, are now at the top of the football world.

Much has been made of this accomplishment, both before and after the Super Bowl, as a huge morale boost for a city that has still never fully recovered from Hurricane Katrina. Certainly, while it does not do anything to change the lasting effects of the hurricane, it’s nice to see the images of New Orleans celebrating (and just in time for Mardi Gras). This is sure to become a “Where were you when…” moment for many people in that region.

A sports team is never more than a symbol in the real world, yet for so many places, that symbol can mean something real to the people that live there. Five years ago, New Orleans became a reminder of this nation’s many failures in protecting our most vulnerable people. That reminder is still there throughout the difficult rebuilding process and the city has a long way to go before we could truly say New Orleans is “back.” For now, cheers to a team and a city that gets to hold its head a little higher today.

-Jesse K.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Are we willing to profess our beliefs in front of millions?

If you don't follow a lot of football, you may not have noticed the controversy around a planned ad during Sunday's Super Bowl. The ad is titled "Celebrate Family, Celebrate Life" and is about Heisman trophy, National Championship winning quarterback Tim Tebow and his mother's decision not to choose an abortion while contracting a tropical ailment while pregnant with him.

While the ad apparently never mentions abortion, it has drawn criticism from pro-abortion groups. I certainly expect to hear a show of support from the pro-life folks that I know, but the ad and its message have gotten a show of support from an unlikely place--Sally Jenkins, a pro-choice sports columnist for the Washington Post. Check out her article. She has some great things to say, not only about this issue, but about sports figures as role models and what we should be celebrating in Tebow's life and choices. Tim Tebow is obviously not afraid to speak out for his beliefs, even if they are counter-cultural. How willing are we to speak out for our faith and what we believe?

~Lauren G

"Up in the Air" and the Value of Community

While readying the posts that Lauren and Becky offered this week, I reflected on how life-giving my own relationships are, and how abundantly I am sustained by gathering together. My understanding of faith is fortified by the time I spend in community with others. This week I stumbled upon a review of "Up in the Air" in America magazine. I wholeheartedly loved this film, so I read on to gain some insight into the meaning that Catholic Digest correspondent John McCarthy drew from the flick. No spoilers, I assure you.

Once I got past the distraction of one Mr. Clooney's dashing good looks, I came to appreciate the truths that this dramedy points out about our lives. How easy it can be to be lured in by independence and not being tied down to the point where we find ourselves isolated and out of touch with that which breathes life into us: our relationships. McCarthy articulates nicely how Ryan Bingham's growth moves him to value relationships and community. Check it out.

-Mary Ellen M.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010


Gathering together is a key part of our Catholic Faith. It is one of the unique identifying characteristics of our faith- our sense of community. Jesus gathered people. He gathered his friends, the apostles and disciples. People also gathered around him as we see time and time again in the scriptures. We gather together every Sunday as the Body of Christ to receive the Body of Christ. These Eucharistic gatherings in our lives are so important to us. They feed us and nourish us on our faith journey.

Last night, I was reminded of the importance of gathering as our Charis Retreat team in Athens, GA gathered to plan our next Charis Retreat. Nine young adults gathered together last night. As I find often in these Eucharistic gatherings, we were fed and nourished by our time together as we shared our lives and planned the retreat. We left energized and hopeful. We gathered last night to plan an opportunity for others to gather with us--so that they may be nourished and fed and energized and hopeful.

So is the rhythm of our faith. We gather to be fed so we can help feed others.

What moments in your life are Eucharistic gatherings?

~Becky E.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Looking past the "Stuff"

At a board meeting of the National Catholic Young Adult Ministry Association (NCYAMA) last week, our opening prayer invited us to reflect on the people in our lives who inspire us to be better Christians. For me, there have been, and continue to be, friends and family whose lives I want to emulate with my own. My parents model Christian patience and love. My husband embodies Jesus' generosity toward others. Recently, though, it is my 7 month old son who inspires me to live a more Christian life.

When he's ready to play, I get out some of his toys and set them up around him so he can decide what he wants to play with. I assume that he will go for the toys that light up or play music or do some other "cool" trick. A lot of times, though, I am surprised when he turns around and grabs my hand to chew on, or climbs over my legs. He has all sorts of "things" to play with, but he just wants to hang out with me. This made me stop and think about how often I get distracted by the stuff around me instead of what truly matters--my relationships with others and my relationship with God.

What are the things that are distracting us from seeing and deepening our relationship with God?

~Lauren G