Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Open Arms...

In February of 2004, my parents, my brother, my sister, and myself headed off to the movies to see the Oscar nominated film Passion of the Christ. Knowing how the gory details and potrayal of the death Christ suffered caused many reviewers to find the movie sickening and treacherous, nervousness to see the film consumed me. Seeing the film for myself, I could feel nothing BUT the redemption Christ brought us. Thirteen at the time, I asked my father, "How is this movie any different from other passion films we've seen?" I wondered why so many people did not see the crucifixion the way I did.
Now almost 20 years old, I find my understanding of God's power over sin, pain, and suffering related to my reaction to Gibson's Passion. While some people saw Gibson's portrayal of the death of Christ horrendous, I saw love and reconciliation. The reality of the pain Christ suffered FOR ME was illustrated beautifully in the most real way. Christ loved ME and trusted in God's plan as he was crucified for MY sin...
Last night I attended a Reconciliation service at my university. My Act of Contrition included a daily personal promise to acknowledge Christ's love and trust in me in order to love and trust those I am currently struggling to do so with. Being reminded to ask Christ to walk with me, I remembered the scene from the Passion where one sees Jesus struggling as he carries his cross along the road. What are my crosses?
Since seeing the Passion, Reconciliation as become my favorite Sacrament. Knowing the pain and humiliation Jesus experienced as He journeyed to the cross and was crucified, I find the opportunity to attend Reconciliation a wonderful chance to get another chance. To be forgiven with Open Arms and given the chance to try again envigorates me.
With a daily reminder of God's love and trust in me, my love and trust for Him is slowly but surely helping me to love and trust others. The path Jesus walked, the pain he suffered, and the endless number of opportunities his death has given me to do what is love with his help makes Holy Week the most spiritually confirming weeks for me. As a friend said once to me, "It's so cool to be Catholic. We get so many chances and always welcomed back with open arms!"

Reflection from a Charis Retreat Team Member

Hi, my name is Devyn Scheuch and I am a second year at the University of Georgia in Athens, GA. As a Religion and German major my goal is to be a youth minister in the Catholic church and therefore find myself hanging out at the Catholic Center A LOT here at UGA. The fall semester of my freshman year I went on a Charis retreat and I absolutely loved it. I have been on three more Charis retreats and helped plan two of them, and every time my love for retreats and for God has deepened.

This past Saturday we ran the Transitions retreat and it was the best one yet. It worked out perfectly because we did it the day before Palm Sunday and talking about the Paschal Mystery was so relevant at this time in the liturgical year. Our speakers shared deeply about their transitions and it impacted every one of participants very personally. I remember one of the college students in my small group saying that she was going through the exact same type of transition as one of the speakers around the exact same time. She said she had only wished they knew what each other was going through so they could have been the support they needed. This brought on a wonderful discussion about how God is there for us always.

One of my favorite parts of the retreat is that a large portion of the RCIA group attended it. They will be transitioning into the Catholic faith in just a few days, andit was so nice having them all there with us! It was really cool thinking about the transition they will be making and how relevant it was to have this retreat topic. I know they all had a great time.

Everyone I talked to had such a great experience and it was wonderful seeing people working through their transitions. We had new college students, graduating students, newlyweds, two expecting mothers, and those preparing to become Catholic all in the same room discussing God’s role in their lives! It was so inspiring. I always have a wonderful experience planning retreats but this time was especially amazing. I know God was working through everyone this past Saturday and I love how Charis has showed me this.

I am so appreciative of all I have learned from the retreats I have been on and my new appreciation for Jesuit spirituality. I will continue to pray for Charis Ministries and everything that you guys do for the young Catholic population.

~Devyn Scheuch, University of Georgia, Athens, GA

Friday, March 26, 2010

I Choose...

As more information about sex abuse within the Church appear in the news, I find myself getting angry. I am angry at the priests who were capable of such horrible acts against children. I am angry at those in authority who knew about it and did nothing to stop it. I am angry that we live in a world where stories like this are the norm in the news, rather than the exception. Why do I choose to continue to be a part of a Church in which this kind of thing happens?

Mike Hayes, blogger extraordinaire at, had a great post that really got me thinking today. Read the whole thing here, but here's an excerpt that hit home for me:

I refuse to let people hijack my faith, scapegoat others, or simply stop serving the needs of the poor and the spiritual needs of parishioners.

We are the church…together. And that means that things are often messy. I know I’ve made a bunch of mistakes that I wouldn’t want the Ny times to know about too. So I do my part and hope it’s enough.

I stay because I am part of a family. And at the Thanksgiving meal that happens each week that we call Eucharist, we are sure to find disagreement, horror stories and dysfunction. It’s who we are, warts and all.

We are part of a Church that has Christ at its head but human beings like you and me as its body. Like Mike, I choose to stay Catholic. I choose to continue to live out my faith in the best way I know how. I choose to look for and work for solutions and ways to make our Church a welcoming and loving community. I choose not to give in to the negative messages about the Church that I love and believe in, but I choose not to sweep the problems under the rug.

I find the lyrics to the song "I Will Choose Christ" running through my head:
I will choose Christ,
I will choose love,
I choose to serve.
I give my heart, I give my life,
I give my all to you.

What will happen if we all strive to choose Christ first and foremost in our lives?

~Lauren G

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

IPhone and the Other 6

Well, I finally bit the bullet and got an I-phone two weeks ago after my blackberry's syncing capabilities went nuts. I have thoroughly enjoyed it, and I wanted to share with you one of my newly discovered "apps". It is called Other 6.

This application for the i-phone is provided via Loyola Press, and it reminds me of a Jesuit version of Twitter or Facebook. Each day people answer two questions:
1. Where did you find God today?
2. Where do you need to find God today?

It is basically a short form of the Examen, and I have enjoyed reading where people find God and seek to find God in their days. It has also made me mindful of my own answers to those questions.

So, go check out the new i-phone application, Other 6, and begin the practice of the Examen today!

~Becky Eldredge

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Distracted by the screens

The most recent issue of America magazine has an article by Thomas Massaro describing a recent Kaiser Family Foundation study that shows that Americans between 8 and 18 are in front of a screen (TV, computer, smart phone, etc) for more than 7 1/2 hours a day. While this survey only focuses on kids, I would imagine that the numbers for adults are just as high, if not higher. Many of us use a computer most of the time that we are at work, check our Blackberries on the commute home, and then get home and turn on the TV to relax. I'm staring at a screen as I write this; you are staring at one as you read it. I have even started reading books on an e-reader!

I'm not making a social commentary on this phenomenon, but it did cause me to think about how I use my own time. When I have an extra half hour, what do I do? I usually turn on the TV, or surf the web. Then at the end of the day, I say that I didn't have enough time to devote to prayer, or to just quietly listening to God. Is it that I don't have the time, or that I surrounded myself with so many distractions that I didn't see the time?

As we move toward Holy Week and Easter, where are the opportunities during our day to spend a moment with God?
~Lauren G

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Teaching the Faith

Tomorrow, a group of teachers from Catholic schools in the Archdiocese of Chicago will gather for a retreat to share their experiences and renew their commitment to Catholic education. Planning for the retreat has given me an excuse to think about the importance of education and those who are passing on the faith.

For those who are interested in Catholic education, or learning more about some of the service teaching programs that are out there, here are a few sites that might be of interest. Most of these schools allow college graduates to earn a Master degree while teaching full time in a Catholic school.

LU-Choice (Loyola University Chicago Opportunities in Catholic Education)—Loyola sponsored program serving Catholic elementary schools in the Archdiocese of Chicago.

Magis Catholic Teacher Service Corps—program through Creighton University based on Ignatian spirituality.

Alliance for Catholic Education—University of Notre Dame sponsored service teaching program in under-resourced Catholic schools.

Pacific Alliance for Catholic EducationUniversity of Portland program in the Pacific Northwest.

Pray for the teachers on retreat on Friday and give thanks for those who have taught you the faith over the years.

~Lauren G.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Circles of Support

Last night, I found myself gathered around a table with ten other men and women in their 20's and 30's planning our upcoming Charis Retreat at the University of Georgia. While there were several items on our agenda that we had to take care of, we kept finding ourselves in fits of laughter or on a side-topic that somehow related to the work we were doing, which in its own way improved the retreat we were planning. The energy that was around the table last night was contagious! We were laughing, listening to two of our groups talks, sharing our lives with each other, and preparing to minister to others in two weeks.

Last night, though, was a ministry in itself. A much needed ministry- the ministry that feeds us as ministers! While all of us gathered around the table last night are involved in ministry in many forms, we, too, need to be fed. The community we have formed these past six weeks revitalizes us, energizes us, and supports us. The random outbursts of laughter and discussion reinforce the work we are doing.

No matter what we do in life, we need moments like last night--moments that feed us, renew us, and energize us. We need moments, as humans, to gather with our circles of support, which come in so many shapes and sizes, and to feed our spirits. This is what community is all about!

Where do we find our circles of support?
Do we realize the importance and value of gathering with them?
Do we need time with one of our circles of support right now?

~Becky Eldredge

Friday, March 12, 2010

Talking Me Down

One Jesuit I lived with, who is a close friend, would call me aside occasionally. “Talk me down from the ledge,” he would begin. Then he would proceed to tell me what he was thinking and ask, “Am I crazy to think that?” Sometimes I would say, “Yeah, that’s a little crazy,” but most of the time I found myself saying, “No, it’s not crazy to think that at all.” This way of “checking in” with people who know us well is a good practice, one that I try to practice myself.

In fact, I find this most helpful when someone accuses me of doing something wrong. Of course, my initial response is to be defensive (I didn’t do that! How could you think that!). But it helps me to put aside that initial defensiveness and go to someone I trust, asking them to tell me honestly whether I’m guilty of the thing of which I have been accused. For example, I might ask, “Have you seen me mistreat that person in the way he or she is saying that I did. “ If I have, and I just lack the objectivity to see it, I trust someone else to help me see the need for reconciliation, so that I can help bring that about.

When I tell people this, sometimes they think it’s kind of crazy. If what the other person is saying doesn’t ring true, why should you presume it’s your fault? But, I counter, what if it is? I know I’m not perfect or always in the right, even when I think I am. Another perspective can often help me see things more clearly. This is why having a spiritual director can be really important. This is someone to whom you reveal most intimate things about yourself and your relationship with God and others. And, hopefully, this is someone you can trust to be brutally honest with you, when necessary.

We are passionate people, and we all have times when it helps to have someone we can quickly call or go see, to talk us down from the ledge.

--Fr. Mark

Have you seen this scene from "Yes Man"?

Thursday, March 11, 2010

I'm so hip...Sort of.

So I recently decided that it's about time for me to fully enter into the 21st century and embrace the use of...wait for it...podcasts! in my daily life. I started with the usual NPR podcasts, and am excited to begin using as a guide for my daily spiritual life. I've heard everyone rave about it before, and I'm glad to finally be joining the ranks of hip people who use it regularly. Check it out if you want to be counted among the cool...

-Mary Ellen

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Wanna hang out with the Pope?

Want to go to Madrid? Want to meet up with young adults from around the world who share your faith? Want to go to Mass with Pope Benedict XVI?

Well, two of those three things can be yours if you go on the Young Adult Papal Pilgrimage in conjunction with World Youth Day. All young adults from college-age to thirty-somethings are invited to join your peers from around the globe. The trip leaves O'Hare on Saturday, August 13, 2011 and spends 10 days in a four-star hotel in Madrid, Spain to attend all the activities for World Youth Day. You'll return to Chicago on Monday, August 22, 2011. Most meals and registration for all activities is include.

If you are interested in joining, contact Paul Jarzembowski in the Young Adult Ministry Office for the Diocese of Joliet. A limited number of spots are still available.

A group from Charis went to the last World Youth Day in Sydney. Check out some of the reflections from this blog.

~Lauren G.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Jim Martin is at it again!

Fr. Jim Martin, SJ is a wonderful author, speaker, blogger and former Charis presenter who has appeared on the Colbert Report and other mainstream media. He has a new book out, The Jesuit Guide to (Almost) Everything: A Spirituality for Real Life. The book uses Jesuit principles to help us lead simpler lives.

In this 6 minute interview on NPR Weekend Edition, he talks about poverty, chastity and suffering and introduces some of the ideas in his book. Check it out! If it's anything like his other books, it'll be a great read.

FYI: He is also getting some press through USA Today.

~Lauren G.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

"Do as I have done"

While Holy Thursday is a few weeks away, there is much that we can learn and implement during Lent from John's description of the Passover Meal where Jesus washed his disciples feet.

The story is one we have heard so many times. Jesus gathers his disciples at table. Jesus removes his outer garments and kneels to wash his disciples feet. After washing and drying their feet he says:
"You call me 'teacher' and 'master,' and rightly so, for indeed I am. If I, therefore, the master and teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash one another's feet. I have given you a model to follow, so that as I have done for you, you should also do."
Jesus gathered others. Jesus nourished others. Jesus served others.

Lent is a time to make a complete turn to God so that we can fully embrace God's love, presence, and call in our lives. God is hoping for our "yes" to God's invitation to love God, to be loved by God, and to serve as Jesus served.

Are we modeling what Jesus did for his disciples? Are we inviting people to our table to be nourished and fed? Are we engaging in service to others in a way that models what Jesus did?

~Becky E.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Hearing painful voices

In my one of my classes this week, we’ve been reading the book of Lamentations, a few chapters of poetry in the Old Testament that gives a series of voices and perspectives to suffering. The book was written about the Babylonian Exile, but I felt like I could hear an expression of what life must be like in parts of Haiti and Chile. It is a difficult and heartbreaking work and got me thinking about how little time we spend just listening to these tragic voices amidst the clutter of blame and our efforts to assist. It is something that seems appropriate to reflect on during this season.

Last week, I also started checking out an interesting way to go approach the Lenten season. It is called “Fast, Pray, Give” and it offers a new suggestion for something to fast, something to pray for, and something to give for each day. I am finding it to be helpful in keeping myself from withdrawing from the season by having a fresh look at things each day.

-Jesse K.