The Gospel reading from the 4th Sunday of Easter had many messages for us. Here is the text to jog your memory:
“Jesus said: ‘My sheep hear my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish. No one can take them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one can take them out of the Father’s hand. The Father and I are one.’” (John 10: 27-30
from the USCCB website)
While there are many nuggets of wisdom we can gain from this simple passage, I was intrigued by the first line, “My sheep hear my voice.” On the surface, I understand that when we are close to God, we know and hear His voice, making it easier to know what is of God.
Then came my brother’s opening day youth baseball game on Saturday, and it popped into my head again.
Anthony Keene pitches for
the Oakland Athletics
during the James Mosher Baseball League Opening Day.
We all know that there are tons of distractions at most sports events, just like in life. And during those events, we expect the players, professional or not, to ignore the insults, coaching from the sidelines, and anything else, and still focus their best efforts on the game. But is that fair?
Let’s take my brother’s game - and other youth sports for that matter - as an example of how this really plays out.
As I said, my brother is 12 and plays baseball. In fact, he plays for the James Mosher Baseball League. The league has many teams for kids ages 4-15 in Baltimore. Anthony is a pitcher for the Oakland Athletics. Well he plays other positions as well, but mostly pitcher.
During the games, there are two coaches from the fielding team out to help; one at first base and one at third base. Only one of those coaches gives the pitching instructions. But you would never know that based on the number of parents and spectators who designate themselves as coaching and shout advice from the sidelines. That’s a ton of instruction for a kid to filter through. It’s hard for adults as well.
I asked my brother about this and he admitted that it’s tough to hear his coach’s voice among all of the other voices. In time he’ll learn to filter out the other noise, but that takes practice.
In the same way that my brother has to practice hearing only his coach’s voice, we must also practice filtering out the noise of the world and hearing only God’s voice.
How do we do that? Prayer, meditation, study, and fellowship with the faithful.
Seems easy enough to say, but not easy to do every day. So we take baby steps. We pray and ask questions. We read the Bible and meditate on the message. We find answers to our questions and recharge with mass, the Eucharist and the fellowship of the faithful.
We get to know the voice of God by spending time with God, just as my brother will get to know the voice of his coach better as the season progresses. The same way in which we instantly recognize the voice of our child, our parent, our teacher and vice versa, in the same way we learn to recognize the voice of God.
April 30, 2013 01:17
By Wendy Stewart
For those affected by the bombings and aftermath from the Boston Marathon two weeks ago, things will forever be different. Now there is a new normal. No more business as usual.
We have all experienced a tragedy that will forever color the way we view our lives, our world, and our place in it. But that doesn’t have to be a bad thing.
At some time in our lives we have all had life-changing moments and we had to trust God and figure out how to live in this new reality. Whether it’s a career-ending injury, a car crash that left you disabled, cancer, death of a parent, etc., your life was forever changed.
You’ve no doubt heard about Towson preschool teacher Erika Brannock
who was injured while waiting for her mother to cross the finish line. Erika suffered two broken legs and eventually had to have the left one amputated below the knee.
The world is now a very different place for Erika.
Other papers, such as USA Today
, told us of 38-year old Heather Abbott, a human resources manager from Rhode Island, who decided to let doctors amputate her foot when it was clear it could not be saved.
The world is a different place for Heather as well.
But there is one constant through all of this turmoil an tragedy: God. In fact, Hebrews 13:8 tells is “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” (NASB) That’s a pretty strong statement on which to hang our hats of faith! I don’t know about you, but that’s powerful! The God of the universe is always here for us.
Of all the things in the world that can change our “normal,” God remains the same and we must take solace and rejoice in that knowledge. If we don’t, what do we have to look forward to? Where do we get our help because we aren’t strong enough on our own?
Look to God. Love God. Remember He’s in your corner and has your back. That way, you’ll always be able to return to the new “normal.”
April 27, 2013 12:00
By Wendy Stewart
week, I wrote about a very special episode of “Glee,” where the subjects of gun policy and school violence were
explored. I urged you to talk to your kids and students concerning the issues
and how to stay safe.
brought Patriot Day and the 117th Annual Boston Marathon, one of the largest
marathons in the country. I’ve never run the Boston
Marathon, but it’s on my list of life goals. It’s that big of a deal among runners and non-runners alike.
There’s a certain prestige to
running the Boston Marathon and I’m sure the city of Boston and
the surrounding areas beam with pride at this time of year.
all, the Boston Marathon isn’t something you just sign up
and train to run. With the exception of charity teams, individual runners must
qualify during a window of opportunity. And the standards were raised even
higher for Monday’s race. In a recent article on
Competitor.com, a running website, it took a
woman named Catherine Young 15 attempts over the last 18 years to earn her
first trip to Boston. That’s how serious this is.
does that leave us with Monday’s tragedy?
I don’t watch the news much, but I get updates of breaking news
on my phone. When I checked my phone and saw updates about an explosion at the
finish line, I couldn’t believe it. What astounded
me more was that one of the headlines already claimed an 8-year old boy had
of any life is sad, and we must remember that there are other injuries than
simply the physical ones. As prayers pour in from around the world and our own Archbishop Lori urges us to remember Boston in our prayers, we are still left
with lingering questions about safety and how to talk to kids about yet another mass tragedy where there are no answers. Surely Cardinal O’Malley, OFM, Cap., has a huge task ahead of him in the
Archdiocese of Boston.
Coat of Arms for Boston's Cardinal Sean P. O'Malley
(Image from BostonCatholic.org)
I don’t know all the answers, but I have a couple of suggestions:
1. Limit the amount of news
coverage your kids see based on their age and maturity.
and teens can handle more than others, but only you know that about your
children and students. As an adult I can only handle so much news coverage, so
be aware of constant news feeds such as Twitter, Facebook, 24 hour news
networks, coverage that interrupts regular programming, and potential gruesome
photos on Instagram.
2. Ask them what they think.
It’s possible they haven’t given it much thought other
than this is a really sad thing. What you want to look for in this discussion
are signs they may be overly concerned, especially if your child is a runner or
other athlete. Check for signs they may see threats that do not exist and have
trouble sleeping or concentrating.
3. Remind them of God’s love and grace.
It’s so hard to remind people of God’s love and grace when terrible things happen. People wonder
where God is when they are scared, hurt, and dying. God has not abandoned
anyone, but we live in a broken world. Unfortunately, sometimes we get caught
in the crossfire of those who wish to do evil things and hurt people. It’s during these times we may wonder why evil seems to be
winning, though we know God always triumphs in the end. In his letter to the
Galatians, St. Paul says this:
“Do not be deceived; God is not
mocked, for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. For he who sows to his
own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption; but he who sows to the Spirit
will from the Spirit reap eternal life. And let us not grow weary in well-doing,
for in due season we shall read, if we do not lose heart. So then, as we have
opportunity, let us do good to all men, and especially to those who are of the
household of faith.” (Galatians 6: 7-10, RSV)
words, bad things are going to happen, but we are called to always do good and
not lose heart in the process. It may seem like tragedies are more frequent,
closer to home, or just that there is no end to the evil to surrounds us. We
can’t lose heart.
That’s what we take away from Monday’s Boston Marathon: don’t give up, don’t lose heart, and remember to do good to everyone.
Preparing to field a child’s questions about tragedy
April 16, 2013 06:29
By Wendy Stewart
I've lived most of my 33 years in Baltimore. I was born here and so were my parents. I don't have much memory of the Colts leaving, but my parents made sure I got to expert all that is the Baltimore Orioles. It didn't take long for them to become my favorite team and for baseball to become my favorite sport.
Now, just two months after our Ravens won the SuperBowl and months after a phenomenal post-season with the 2012 Orioles, we are poised to start again. We start again with fresh hope and renewed enthusiasm for the potential of a new season.
How often do we do this in our everyday lives?
When a door closed or an opportunity passes, do we eagerly await what God has for us next? Or do we bemoan what could have been?
I once heard someone say that when God says no to something, it's because He is going to say yes to something much better for you. After all, God has plans for us. We find it in Jeremiah like this, "'For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope.'" (Jeremiah 29:11, NASB). With a promise like this in mind, we are called to trust in The Lord even more.
So, while I am very excited for what the Orioles will do this year, I am also excited for what God has in store for me in this new season of my life.
Are you excited?
Becca and Roger, devoted Orioles fans from New Jersey
April 05, 2013 03:05
By Wendy Stewart
Since Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI announced his retirement last month, the world was full of questions. People wanted to know why he chose to do something that hasn't been done in 600 years. He said his health compromised his ability to do his job and I can sympathize with that.
Just today I had to give up my simple job of teaching a weekly Bootcamp Class due to my own injuries and compromised health.
Yes, I know it's not the same as being the Vicar of Rome, but we all have our struggles and crosses to bear.
In 2005, I was selling cars, wasn't Catholic and only mildly interested in the vote for the 264th successor to St. Peter. But what a difference a few years have made!
I have had such an amazing experience since being confirmed Catholic at the Easter Vigil in 2010. I've met so many wonderful lay and religious and blessed to have such a budding community of college students and young adults at my parish of SS Philip and James. But I have never regretted or questioned my decision to become Catholic.
Nothing cemented that more than the events the last couple of days. I watched to world and this country (which is trying to become more secular and caustic) fix its eyes on Rome and wonder in amazement at the ceremony, ritual, and spirituality involved in electing the next Pope.
For these two days, the world has been on pins and needles wondering how this Conclave would end; about who would be Pope and the politics involved.
Today, when I received the text message that there was white smoke, I was so full of joy. And when I tuned into EWTN for the live coverage, all of a sudden, nothing else mattered. I knew it was true for the rest of the world because the coverage was over all of the local news networks.
When Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio emerged as Pope Francis, I had tears of joy. I don't usually have tears of joy but this was special. Right up there with the day of my confirmation. He is full of firsts: the first from Latin America, the first Jesuit, the first to take the name Francis, the first to ask the people to bless him before blessing them. I'm sure he will continue to be a Pope of firsts.
Many prayers and blessings to Pope Francis and I can truly say that today is a great day to be Catholic!
March 14, 2013 09:40
By Wendy Stewart
Today is International Women’s Day. That fits right in with March being Women’s History Month. Sometimes, though, the importance of these days is overlooked as we deal with a stressed-out world and the day-to-day grind.
But in the church, women certainly have a special place. We know this from Scripture. But how many times have you heard others complain that the church oppresses women? Or that something is wrong because there are no female priests? My favorite is the accusation that we worship Mary.
Since it’s Lent and we are preparing our minds and souls to celebrate Jesus’ victory on the cross, it is only fitting to point out one very important detail of the Resurrection accounts: the first witnesses were women.
Now, if I were to sit down and write a story of some sort in a patriarchal society, having female witnesses to the Resurrection would not be on the agenda. It was on God’s agenda.
You see, though different in many respects, men and women are still called to follow and worship God and spread the Good News.
I cannot say why the first witnesses were women, but I can tell you that information gives me a warm fuzzy feeling; as if God knew gender would be an issue and took measures to say women are important as well.
I wasn’t always Catholic, as you know, but I have never felt more free to be a woman than in the Catholic Church. It is here where I have found my freedom.
So, as we take time to celebrate women throughout history and pop culture, such as Rosa Parks, Sally Ride, Margaret Thatcher, and Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotamayor, let us also take time to remember and honor the countless women in Church history who have inspired and helped keep our faith rich and alive.
March 08, 2013 05:13
By Wendy Stewart
If you're on Facebook or Twitter, you may have seen the negativity toward the Church in response to Pope Benedict XIV's retirement. Any time there is major Church news, negativity can come out like this, but, in light of our use of media, how do we respond?
Admittedly, I had declined to publicly comment on the reason for the Pope's retirement. I didn't feel it was necessary. But I do continue to share posts and photos relating to my Catholic faith. Sometimes, it's that simple act, that someone will use to talk trash or remind us of scandal (as if any society has been without it).
How do we respond? More importantly, how does our response characterize how we feel about the Church and her leaders?
Here is the response to someone who wanted to take this opportunity to tell me how he felt about the Pope and his handling of various abuse cases:
"We, as a society, have allowed certain institutions and organizations to handle affairs internally. We do that with the military, with civilian authorities forgoing prosecution in favor of military courts of law.
I'm not saying forget about anything or anyone. However, there are laws and those must be followed. If we don't like them, then they must be changed with due process. Too often we let our emotions get in the way of true justice when what we are actually seeking is revenge, which is not ours to take.
Should the Church take action? Absolutely. Is it perfect? No. Is this the only place where children get abused? Not by a long shot. But the Catholic Church bears the brunt of it all.
We know what we have heard. Now, it is our individual duty to seek out the truth. Perhaps, legally, there may be nothing that can be done as to criminal charges. But our own legal system provides for that as well in the form of civil settlements and rulings.
If you're not Catholic, then it's hard to know what is going on internally because you're not there.
The point is, we change the things we don't like to protect people and do what's right. But to hold on to negativity from the past doesn't allow anyone, especially victims who are hopefully receiving help, to move on. We get stuck mentally and spiritually. I'm sure that's not the kind of life we are meant to live."
Well, apparently that sounded like I was approving the abuse, so I took some time to think about the next response:
"I'm not saying that behavior is okay or that all is said and done (or I should have been saying that if I didn't).
I do truly appreciate your passion on this particular issue. It's horrible to think about and I cannot imagine what the victims or the victimizers are going through.
I can only hope and pray that we are all more vigilant in protecting our kids and our faith. It is clear that we must be more vigilant in all areas of safety when it comes to kids, but there are no easy answers to what has already happened.
I don't think that there's anything I can tell you that will make you feel better. But I don't think that's the point. I think the point is getting it out in the open and not allowing the secrets to stay secret.
Again, I thank you for your passion and thank you for having me put down in words how I am dealing with this in terms of my own faith and how this is affecting others, Catholic or not."
What was the point in arguing? None. But what is clear is that this person believed the Church is too forgiving. I wondered if that was even possible. Then I remembered the words of Jesus: "Then Peter came to Him and said, 'Lord how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to seven times?' Jesus said to him, 'I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.'" (Matthew 18:21-22)
It is clear to me, even though we have earthly forms of justice, in the end, we are called to forgive because God has done no less for us. Can we be angry? Sure! We're human and we have emotions. But after the anger, hurt, and disappointment, then what? You do the of hardest thing of all: forgive.
Benedict XVI greets the crowd as he arrives to lead his final Angelus from the
window of his apartment overlooking St. Peter's Square at the Vatican Feb. 24.
He told the crowd he is not abandoning the church. His papacy will officially
end Feb. 28 at 8 p.m. Rome time. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)
February 25, 2013 01:21
By Wendy Stewart
Last Friday was the last day of my retail job. I didn’t get fired or anything like that. But rather it was a perfect storm of things and changes that required me to reevaluate why I was there and whether or not to stay.
Prevailing wisdom says to ensure you have a new job before you leave the old one. And for the most part, I agree. The reason is most people do not have another means of income or enough saved to weather a period of unemployment. We have become trapped in jobs we hate with long hours that keep us from our families because we need the money. I don’t believe anyone should have to live this way.
If you’ve been following the news, then you may have heard about the Anne Arundel County Executive found guilty of misconduct in misusing taxpayer-funded executive protection officers and county employees for personal purposes. While I won’t recount what I heard he had some of these employees doing, in discussing this with my mother she said they complied because they needed the money.
Let me say that again, “because they needed the money.”
They went down that road and look what has happened. People afraid of what will happen if they lose their jobs by speaking up has allowed this to go on for so long.
(If you’re wondering, my mother would have definitely quit when weird stuff started to happen.)
You see, my mother (and my late father) taught my sisters and I to answer to a higher calling. No one is better than us and right is right and wrong is wrong, no matter how much money is involved.
I didn’t leave my job because illegal or immoral things were going on; I left because staying would be in direct conflict with my highest priority. (See last week’s post on “Priorities” for more insight.)
Was I nervous? A little, but that’s because I knew not everyone would understand. That’s okay. My mom does, and so does God. And it doesn’t mean I don’t work, just not in the traditional sense. I am ready to do what I’ve been preparing to do for so long: help kids, gifted introverts, and women veterans live their best lives through faith, food, fitness, and financial well-being. For me, those are the forgotten people God has uniquely qualified me to help. And, let’s face it, if I stayed at a regular job, I would never take this leap of faith to finally do what I love!
So I called this post, “Know When to Fold ‘Em.” I did that because I want you to be aware that you always have a choice. And if you find yourself in a position in direct conflict with your top priorities, know that it’s okay to say “no” and move on to something new!
February 01, 2013 10:08
By Wendy Stewart
I’ve been reading a ton of books and listening to audio programs on goal setting, personal development and priorities. It’s great stuff and I’m usually drawn to experts like Brian Tracy and Chalene Johnson.
One of the audio programs I wanted to go back to was Chalene Johnson’s Car Smart series; specifically the one dealing with priorities. I’ve never thought of myself as a person who didn’t have their priorities in check. Certainly the major ones where top priority right?
Apparently not as I allowed myself to get stuck working on Sunday afternoons at a job that takes me an hour to get to by bus. It wasn’t the job. It was being so tired at mass, then religious ed, then work, that I wasn’t even sure how I could function. So, my attendance at Sunday mass started to suffer.
I didn’t want to quit over having to work on Sundays, but I was praying for a way to resolve this. The first thing I did was to create a plan to work on bringing in enough money from my coaching business that I could work from home. If I work from home, the problem is solved. But that’s not an immediate solution.
When I arrived at work on Wednesday, I found out my kiosk was going to be taken over by another company in a few months. I realized that this was my out. You see, I could go back to teaching fitness classes while I looked for another job and then make sure I would no longer work on Sunday. That was fine for Wednesday.
Thursday was when the real work hit me. I listened to the audio on priorities again and realized that my faith must be my number one priority. When I make it my number one priority, I will have an easier time making other decisions, including which jobs to take. Chalene’s advice was to put action verbs to your top priority and write a statement about it. So, here’s what I wrote:
“My top priority is to be active and engaged in the practice of my faith. This includes attending Sunday Mass, monthly confession, mass on Holy Days, daily reading, daily recitation of the Rosary, praying the Divine Office Morning an Evening Prayers and service to the Church community. I commit to my brother's religious education, the advancement of my religious vocation and promotion of all religious vocations. I commit to turn down any employment which regularly keeps me from fulfilling these obligations, including not working on Sundays.”
Once I wrote that, I felt relieved and ready to take on whatever comes next. I know everyone won’t understand my reasons because faith isn’t their top priority. But, you see, when I was at my lowest in life, and I needed help and love, I got it from the Church. It pains me not to be in communion with my fellow Catholics and really do love going to church. Unfortunately, finances sometimes take away from that as we work jobs that are much needed to support our families.
Am I saying that you should quit your job if you work on Sundays? Nope. Am I saying that you have to figure out your top priority in life and commit to that? Absolutely.
Think about what you won’t compromise on. What is it that, if you couldn’t do it, would give you great sorrow? What is your life purpose?
These are just a few of the questions you can use to get yourself started in figuring out your top priority. I would love to hear from you in the comment section as to what your top priorities are and feel free to share a statement like the one I wrote above! If you need more guidance on this, Chalene has a free 30-day program (which I’ve done repeatedly) that will guide you through all of this online. You can find it here:http://30daypush.com. I can’t wait to hear from you!
January 19, 2013 10:05
By Wendy Stewart
Eleven years ago, the concern heard around the world was Y2K. If you’re not old enough to remember that, Y2K was a theory that computers and other electronics would not be able to handle the date change to the year 2000. This, in turn, would cause a worldwide collapse of economies and infrastructures. It would be the end of the world.
Today we have come to the end of the Mayan Long Form Calendar: December 21, 2012. Is it time for the end of the world again? I don’t think so.
I’m sure that many Doomsday Preppers thought they would wake up this morning to a world full of chaos and on the brink of collapse. At least it would be more chaotic than normal. Some preppers, with underground bunkers, probably went to sleep in their bunkers last night.
But what did you expect today?
Did you think it would be the beginning of the end? Did a part of you wonder if the Mayans really meant the end of the world when their calendar ended?
I’m sure any fear of the unknown surrounding today would be normal. As humans we have this desire to know what will happen in the future. We fear the unknown instead of trying to understand it.
And when a civilization or person comes along, claiming to know when the world will end, some will latch on to that information with all they have.
A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about the show “Doomsday Preppers
” and asked if you were a prepper. The point of that post was to highlight that it is prudent to be prepared for emergencies, but not to the exclusion of remembering that God will supply all of our needs according to his riches in glory. I also wanted you to remember that God wants us to trust in him, not other people, when it comes to the future.
Over the past week we have experienced unspeakable tragedy in the school shooting in Newtown, CT and many people are still rebuilding from Super Storm Sandy back in October. When bad things like this happen, many people start to wonder if this is the beginning of the end. I can’t say that it is, but I can say that, going forward, what is most important is our reaction to events in a manner that reflects our faith in God and his providence.
We cannot change the past. We can decide how we will behave in the future; opting to be more proactive, rather than reactive; opting to put more trust in God each and every day. After all, for many of us, prayer is the only thing that keeps us going each day!
So what’s the lesson here, for today? Simply that today has come, it was coming anyway, and no one knows what will happen in the future. Love each other and be prudent in your planning, but not to the exclusion of knowing for sure that God will provide.
Thank you for allowing me to see another day. Though the world seems to be falling apart, I know that I can look to you for stability and protection. Help me to be more proactive in my life and turn over all my fears and concerns to you. Give me the peace that surpasses all understanding and help me radiate that peace and love to those I encounter.
December 21, 2012 11:15
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