How to Make a Difference in the Life of a Fallen-away Catholic You Know

*This article originally appeared in the National Catholic Register.

I’ve worked for Catholics Come Home, the international media apostolate working to invite computerfallen-away Catholics and others home to the Church, since its founding in 1997. This has afforded me, personally, the opportunity to dialogue with hundreds of fallen-away Catholics who contact the organization after seeing a Catholics Come Home TV commercial or stumbling upon the CatholicsComeHome.org website. Those who reach out to the apostolate via email, phone or mail make up a small but strong sample of the millions of people that Catholics Come Home has reached out to in less than a decade, and they have taught me a lot about those who leave the Church.

The messages I receive from these inactive Catholics range from cordial to scathing, and it didn’t take me long in this ministry to see that there are common threads in their conversations. Many of these people are hurting; many are angry; many are lost. All have stories; all have reasons for leaving — reasons ranging from “I just drifted away” to “I don’t believe in these teachings” to “Someone in the Church wronged me” (with the first and the last reasons being most common).

But perhaps the most-shared feeling or expression in the many correspondences I have fielded over the years is this: Almost all of these fallen-away Catholics want to know that someone cares.

handsThey want to know that someone cares that they left. They want to know that someone not only notices their absence, but also is actually saddened, or at least affected by it. Sadly, many, if not most, of these inactive Catholics have never found anyone to express this concern to them.

So I make an effort to tell fallen-away Catholics who reach out to Catholics Come Home that they are missed, and their brothers and sisters in Christ — including me — want them home and that their Heavenly Father in particular wants them to again be a part of the Catholic Church that Jesus Christ founded.

As a unity in the Body of Christ, a living organism, we aren’t the same without them, and we care that they are away.

It never ceases to amaze me how even the seemingly hardest of hearts in an initial correspondence can be turned around after hearing that someone, anyone, cares about them and about their leaving the barque of St. Peter.

I’ve been moved to tears more times than I can count by people who seemed bent on spewing their rage toward the Church and have then responded to my reply with words like, “Thank you for answering. You are the first person to respond to me … and to care.” Some of these people have admitted attempting to reach out to other people or organizations, seeking a listening ear or an extended hand of welcome, only to be further disappointed by the fact that not only did they exit the Church without a single person knowing that they had gone, but they also couldn’t find anyone to help them explore the possibility of returning.

So many of our fallen-away family, friends, co-workers, relatives, neighbors and even strangers whom God puts in our path are desperately wanting to know that they are missed. Many just need to hear it from one person — and that one person can be you.

When you come in contact with people away from the Church, I encourage you to do two rather simple, yet important, things.

First, tell them they are missed and that you care that they are away. I used to think it sounded cheesy to say that out loud or in writing, but I discovered that it really was what so many of these people wanted to hear. I add the caveat that you must mean it. Your words, tone and demeanor must be genuine. They need real empathy.

churchSecond, invite them home. Often, when we ask people who return to the Church, after coming across a Catholics Come Home commercial or the website, why it is that they came back, they respond, “Because you invited me.” Don’t miss the opportunity to extend the invitation that may be the catalyst in that fallen-away Catholic’s journey back to Christ and his Church.

Pope Francis has warned of the danger of Catholics being “backseat Christians.” Don’t take a backseat when it comes to welcoming fallen-away Catholics home. Ask the Holy Spirit to guide you to people whom you can encourage on their faith journeys. That is certainly a prayer that God loves to answer. And when God puts that beloved, wandering child of his in your path, remember the words of the King in Matthew’s Gospel: “Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me.”

How to Amaze Jesus

*This article originally appeared on the IntegratedCatholicLife.org.

We know well the words that the centurion speaks to Jesus in Matthew’s Gospel: “I am not worthy to have you enter under my roof…” (Matt 8:8). We say them at each and every Mass. But have you ever taken time to reflect on the words following the Roman officer’s remarks to Jesus? Can you remember the words that the Gospel uses to describe Jesus’ reaction to the centurion?

eucharistJesus is amazed (Matt 8:10).

Can you imagine what it would be like to amaze Jesus? Astonishingly, we know that the word “amazed” is used only once in Matthew’s Gospel—this is it. So amazement isn’t a regularly mentioned habit of Jesus in the Gospels. Secondly, God is, well…God. I imagine it has to be pretty difficult to amaze him. But somehow, the centurion did.

From reading this passage we learn that the thing mentioned here that amazes Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is the faith of this centurion—a Gentile—an officer in the enemy army! So it is great faith (no matter who exhibits it) that amazes Jesus.

Back to the Mass. Just before our reception of Holy Communion, before we receive Jesus under our own ‘roof’, we repeat the beautiful words of the centurion here in Matthew’s Gospel. Why? I think the Roman centurion is a model for us of how to approach Jesus. He humbly petitions Him, and then has full faith and confidence that Christ will respond to His need in the way that Jesus knows is best. How many times in prayer do you approach Jesus with both a problem and a solution? Admittedly, I’m a master at this. But what a truly faithful, humble servant does is to present a situation to Jesus and then remain open to His will, His solution. That’s exactly what the centurion does; that kind of faith amazes Jesus.

The Transubstantiation is the supreme way that Jesus amazes us at each and every Mass. But what if the next time you’re at Mass, you think of reciting these words of the centurion and receiving the Holy Eucharist as an opportunity for you to amaze Jesus?

Every moment before Communion we stand face to face with God, as the centurion did. We, too, have an opportunity to place our petitions before Him, coming to His Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity and awaiting His answer to our needs. We also have the opportunity to pray: just say the word, Jesus. To possess an unshakeable faith in Christ’s ability to be our solution to all of our needs—perhaps all of us, in this way, can amaze Him, too.

How to Get Out of a Spiritual Slump

If only our spiritual lives were always as animated and forward moving as we’d like them to be. But most of us find ourselves repetitively moving in and out of spiritual slumps, riding tcht_series_medthe highs and lows of following Christ amidst the trials of the present world.

So how do we get out of those trying spiritual ruts? Here’s a quick list of hacks to get your spiritual life moving again:

  1. Pray. Prayer is, of course, the first and best answer to just about every problem we have – first and foremost the spiritual ones. Pray to God to help you out of your spiritual slump, to increase fervor and persistence in your spiritual life, His grace working along with your cooperation. Start your day or prayer times with simple, pleading words such as “Lord, change me” or to mimic St. Peter, “Lord, save me.” Jesus loves to shake people out of their spiritual ruts and normal grooves. He does this all throughout the Scriptures; remember the woman caught in adultery? I’m thinking she had a pretty different spiritual life after allowing Christ to turn her in another direction. Jesus has no less desire to come into our spiritual lives and do some tune-up work, too.
  1. Seek guidance. Don’t feel like you have to tackle a phase of spiritual dryness alone. Seek counsel from a spiritual director, a priest at your parish, a trusted and wise friend, or even from a good spiritual book (for example, Dan Burke’s Navigating the Interior Life). Fr. Jacques Philippe’s beautiful book, Thirsting for Prayer, has lifted me out of many a prayer slump.
  1. Act. This is such an important step in climbing out of a spiritual rut and, sadly, a step that is so often forgotten or not given priority. If you want to move forward in your spiritual life, praying about it, talking about it, and planning to grow all have their proper roles in the process, but you must actually do something! Choose a devotional and commit to it. Don’t start next week or at the beginning of the month; start now. If you are going to read Scripture more, set a reminder to pick up your Bible first thing when you wake up in the morning. Want to take advantage of the Hour of Mercy? Pray the Divine Mercy chaplet today in the 3 p.m. hour. If you are going to practice charity so you can see Christ more easily in others, do a work of mercy right now. Instruct the ignorant, counsel the doubtful, admonish a sinner, bear a wrong patiently, forgive willingly, comfort the afflicted, or pray for the living and the dead today. Then repeat. But, whatever you do, don’t overdo it. If you make too many spiritual commitments at the onset of your journey toward improvement, you’ll likely follow through with very few (if any) of them. Start small and focus on moving forward in baby steps, rather than giant leaps.
  1. Change things up. When it comes to physical fitness, doing the same form of man on mountainexercise every day can eventually put you at a physical standstill. The same thing happens in our spiritual lives. So mix things up a bit. For example, go outside to pray in nature or go out of your way to pray in the adoration chapel if those aren’t traditional prayer spots for you. Count your blessings at the beginning of your prayer time, as opposed to skipping straight to petitioning God for your needs.
  1. Have patience and trust. Look for lessons in the “dark night” or spiritual dryness that you are experiencing. How is God trying to work through this difficulty rather than solely in spite of it? Many were surprised to learn after her death that Mother Teresa experienced years of spiritual dryness…and yet look at the great devotion she had in the midst her own “dark night”! Have patience that God is working in your life, and trust Him. Do not lose faith, even amidst confusion, trusting that faith in Jesus is even more important than understanding His methods.

St. Ignatius of Loyola wrote, “In times of dryness and desolation we must be patient . . . putting our trust in the goodness of God. We must animate ourselves by the thought that God is always with us, that He only allows this trial for our greater good, and that we have not necessarily lost His grace because we have lost the taste and feeling of it.” So pray, ask for help, do something (even something different than you’re used to), and never lose hope that God is always with you, in times of spiritual fruitfulness and in those slumps, too.

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How to Celebrate a Feast Day

In their book, The Feasts: How the Church Year Forms Us As Catholics, Cardinal Donald Wuerl and Mike Aquilina write, “Christian life revolves around the calendar that Christians share. The calendar and its feasts remind us who we are. If we want to know ourselves, it tcht_series_medis important for us to imagine how this works – how feasts form us, what they teach us, how they guide and direct our emotions, our thoughts, and our spiritual growth.”

Sadly, most Catholics today don’t even celebrate solemnities and feast days at home throughout the liturgical year (Christmas and Easter usually excepted). But why not? Celebrating the feast days of the Church not only “directs our spiritual growth,” but it’s just plain FUN. Being Catholic offers us opportunities for penance and reflection, for certain, but it also gives us lots of reasons to party…and that’s where solemnity and feast day celebrations come in.

So, if you aren’t already celebrating feast days on your own or at home with your family, here are some quick hacks and tips to get you started:

  1. Decide which feasts that you’ll make a special effort to celebrate at home. There are a lot of feasts days in the Church, so I recommend you first focus on celebrating solemnities, feasts days of the highest rank in the liturgical calendar. This means a rough average of a couple celebrations per month, which is doable for most of us! You can also add in a few feast days that may be particularly meaningful to your family. For example, we celebrate the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe at our house, since she’s always been a special intercessor for us.
  1. Put them on the calendar and plan ahead. Take note of when the feast or solemnity will occur (some dates fluctuate a little from year to year) and set a digital planneror written reminder a few days before the feast to get your celebration activity, food, prayers, songs, and so forth in order. I strongly recommend you sign up for these feast day reminder emails, which will alert you to an approaching solemnity AND give you resources for learning more about the feast and celebrating it at home.
  1. Learn about the solemnity or feast you’ll be celebrating. It is pretty crucial that you know a decent bit of information (at least the basics) about the feast day you’re planning to commemorate. Read some articles about the history of the feast day, ways that the Church celebrates it, and ideas for bringing the feast day to life in your home in a memorable way. Share what you’ve learned about the feast day or solemnity with your family. (Again, CelebrateTheFeasts.com directs you to great articles and resources to learn about the solemnities on the Church calendar.)
  1. Prepare your feast day celebration(s). Put your grocery list (for a meal that corresponds to the feast day; for example, you may make a meal with all white foods representing purity for the Feast of the Immaculate Conception) or craft supply list together a few days ahead and shop for what you need. Select any prayers or songs celebrate-the-feastsyou might pray/sing on that day and print out copies of the prayer or lyrics for the family. You can browse Catholic blogs and Pinterest for fun ideas to celebrate (or, as I mentioned, make it easy on yourself by using the CelebrateTheFeasts.com reminders and ideas).
  1. Now, celebrate the feast! Make a big deal about it on the feast day or solemnity that you’ve prepared for! Get the family excited for the planned festivities and try and be in good moods as you celebrate throughout the day! Treat it like the holiday (holy day) it is, enjoying the celebrations, however complex or simple they may be.

Sometimes, though, even the best laid plans to celebrate a feast day are hard to execute amidst the unexpected twists and turns of daily family life. I recommend that as a backup plan, you do at least one small thing to acknowledge the feast day at home. If it’s a Marian feast day, pray a decade of the Rosary. If it’s not a Holy Day of Obligation, go to Mass anyway. These simple ways to celebrate don’t take any preparation, but help turn your focus to the importance of this day on the Church calendar, and bring your family one step closer to living a vibrant, liturgical, and fun Catholic life at home.

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How to Become a More Grateful Person

There is a running joke in my family about asking God for help in parking the car. My nana initiated the practice of imploring God when encountering difficulty in finding an open parking space: “Jesus, please help me find a parking spot.” Well, my dad repeats this tcht_series_medprayer, adding his own twist at the end. As he drives around a busy lot looking for a space, he, following the wit and wisdom of his mother, prays, “Dear Jesus, please help me find a parking spot.” When a space almost miraculously appears in the near vicinity, he looks up, signaling his conversation with God, and jokes, “Never mind, Jesus. I found one.”

We do a lot of praying and asking God for help, but we often forget to thank him for our answered prayers. Maybe you can think of times in your family life when you asked God to heal your little one of an illness or to make it clear to you whether or not your family should relocate to begin a new career. Yet when the illness was gone (or acceptance granted in its place) or the decision to move made, somehow God evaporates from the process, and you move forward without acknowledging God’s guiding hand in the situation. There is a better way: intentional gratitude.

So how do we grow in gratitude? Here’s a quick list of gratitude hacks:

  1. Count your blessings daily. Do this in some tangible way – by writing in a gratitude journal, by setting aside time in prayer to list the things you are grateful to God for that day, or by sharing them with the family at the dinner table each evening. If you only decide to count your blessings in theory but don’t come up with a tangible way to do this in practice, then you’re not very likely to become a more grateful person anytime soon. Gratitude takes conscious practice.
  1. Shift from negative to positive thinking in the moment. When a frustrating situation arises or a negative thought comes your way, instead of dwelling on it or letting it fester to the point of altering your mood, make a deliberate shift to think positively. One evening, when exhaustion had already totally overcome me, I was attempting to put my sleep-protesting toddler to bed and became instantly overwhelmed with frustration with the situation. The litany of thoughts like, “Why can’t you make this easier on me, little man?” and “Gosh, if I weren’t so tired from doing so many chores today I wouldn’t feel so miserable right now” began running through my mind. In that moment I had a choice to continue to let the scroll of negative thinking and emotions continue or to opt for positivity – and gratitude. Taking a turn for the better, I could have adjusted my thinking to: “I’m so thankful I have a toddler to put to sleep right now, even if he is a bit spirited or challenging at bed time” or “I sure am tired, but I’m pretty glad I got so much accomplished today around the house.”
  1. Balance petitions with thanksgiving in prayer. Often times, our prayer time canprayer become a litany of requests. Petitions take the driver seat, and offering gratitude to God takes a relatively minor role—if we even bring our words of gratitude to our personal prayer time at all. If we only knew how valuable our spiritual lives could become if we stopped praying backward, if we modeled our personal prayer according to the prayer of the Church. This means spending the majority of our time listening to God speak to us in His Word, like in the Liturgy of the Word, and giving Him thanks, as we do in the Liturgy of the Eucharist. When we look at the prayer of the Church, we see that the Prayers of the Faithful—the petitions—make up a noticeably smaller fraction of the liturgy than petitions usually do in our personal prayer. Of course it is not a bad thing to petition God. Petitions are indeed very good (after all, St. Teresa of Avila said that we pay God a compliment by asking great things of Him), but they are never meant to dominate our prayer. If we are talking the whole time we are praying, how can God get a word in edgewise? And if we aren’t in the practice of thanking Him, how can we ever stop to notice how He always answers our prayers? Become a true disciple of the Eucharist (a term meaning “thanksgiving”). Give thanks.
  1. Don’t forget to thank God for suffering. It’s often through suffering that we are sanctified – made holy – and draw closer to Christ. Yet it is so easy to forget to offer gratitude for times of suffering that we would much rather forget or, instead, complain about. When a friend of mine was battling cancer, she told me “I don’t want to let one day go by that we don’t stop and genuinely enjoy it. In some way, it is a blessing to have cancer, because it has helped me to slow down and cherish each day.” I hope I can cultivate gratitude to the point of having that kind of thankful attitude even in the midst of intense suffering.
  1. Express gratitude to/for others. The previous gratitude “hacks” were focused a bit more on cultivating personal, inward gratitude, but to become a more grateful thank you noteperson, it’s essential to outwardly express gratitude to and for others. Every day, make a deliberate effort to thank someone for who he or she is in your life, something kind that person has done for you…anything about that person which makes you grateful. Express appreciation for a family member, coworker, friend, priest, service man or woman, a great waiter or waitress, a teacher. You’ll be practicing gratitude by verbalizing (or writing) your thankfulness for someone, and perhaps even inspire them to become a more grateful person, too.

When we practice gratitude, grace will flood into our everyday lives. (It’s no coincidence that the words gratitude and grace come from the same root, gratus) Cicero taught, “Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all the others.” Imagine the grace that God can bestow on your ability to spiritually lead your family if you begin excelling in the “parent” of so many other virtues that will bless your marriage and family.

Know that the Lord is good! It is he that made us, and we are his; we are his people and the sheep of his pasture. Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise! Give thanks to him, bless his name! –Psalm 100:2-3

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6 Simple Resources to Amplify Your Prayer Life

“What the world most needs today is prayer.  It is prayer that will give birth to all the renewals, healings, deep and fruitful transformations we all want for society today.  This world of ours is very sick, and only contact with heaven will be able to cure it.” –Fr. Jacques Philipe 

Furthermore, any great transformation that we wish to see in ourselves thrives on the commitment and strength of our prayers.

Sometimes, though, praying can be a bit of a struggle. What to pray, how to pray, when to pray, being faithful to prayer when distractions and busy schedules get in the way, persevering in prayer when your spiritual life seems dry – all of these “obstacles” to prayer sometimes leave me in a bit of a prayer rut. That’s when I turn to some outside help to give my prayer life the kickstart it needs to keep going.

Of course, the best outside help is God Himself, who longs to draw closer to us and deepen His relationship with us through prayer. Asking God to give you the grace to move forward in your prayer life is a prayer that He no doubt loves to hear and answer.

Here are a few other resources I use to motivate me in prayer:

The Liturgy of the Hours: I feel like the Liturgy of the Hours is one of the most underutilized prayer gems by lay people in the Church today. The Laudate app is usually my preferred tool of choice for praying the Liturgy of the Hours in spare moments I can grab throughout the day, and it is such a helpful guide to calm me and connect me to God, the Source of all peace and transformation, through beautiful prayers that countless others around the world are also praying that day, too.

Thirsting for Prayer by Fr. Jacques Philippe: Having loved so many of Fr. Philippe’s other writings on the spiritual life (my favorite is Searching For and Maintaining Peace), I was eager to dive into this treatise knowing that it was no doubt going to be one of my favorite resources on prayer. Sure enough, I couldn’t stop highlighting everything as I was reading, and it has already deepened my prayer life. You can read the intro to the book here.

HH Meme13What Every Couple Should Know About Marriage and Prayer by Venerable Archbishop Fulton Sheen: This great CD/MP3 download continuously reminds me of the treasure that prayer is to my marriage. It’s also by one of my favorite saints, and I pretty much hang on every word he says. This particular talk does not disappoint.

Pray More Novenas: This great email service delivers novena prayers straight to your email inbox. It’s easy, it’s free…and most importantly, novenas are such a fantastic practice in enhancing your prayer life by capitalizing on the beautiful devotions and saintly intercessors that can help us grow in our spiritual lives.

Scripture: The Psalms, the Gospels, Paul’s letters…you name it. It’s hard to get past a few verses without finding something so rich to stop and meditate on. Yet we often completely forget to make the Bible a part of our regular prayer routine. I like to have the EWTN app on my phone to use the Bible feature when I’m on the go or not near my printed Bible.

Chapter 4 in Head & Heart on “Prioritizing Prayer”: The couples I interviewed whose stories, tips, and brutal honesty about their prayer lives made it into chapter four of this book continue to inspire me when I need it most, and I often refer to the other reflections and resources in that chapter to get me back on track when I start to lose focus in prayer.

*If you like these resource ideas, make sure you have a copy of my free Catholic Resource Guide, a great tool to use to help you grow in faith this new year!*

10 Lessons from My Mom on How to Be a Great Mother

*This article originally appeared on the IntegratedCatholicLife.org in 2013. I like to re-share it every Mother’s Day!

Me and RJJust a few short months ago, I became a mother, and now I am just months away from meeting my little one on his birthday in December. The blessings multiply as pregnancy continues—with every little kick and each ultrasound picture of my little boy sucking his thumb or smiling big (just like his mama) in the womb, I thank God for the opportunity to share in new life.

It is amazing how much my pregnancy has given me pause for reflection on my relationship with my own mother, and on the qualities that make her the most remarkable role model in my life. I can honestly say that my mother is the most saintly person I know — an unmatched giving, loving, patient, faithful, prayerful woman who knows her life’s work is to be a wife and mother, and boy does she live out her vocation well.

If I am half as good at being a mother as my mother is, than I think my children will be exceedingly blessed. But I certainly have my work cut out for me. Fortunately, after observing my mother’s graceful living over the past 24 years of my life, I’ve picked up on some of her unsaid but well-lived tips for being a great mom.

  1. Pray always. Literally. Every moment of every day, do everything in a spirit of prayer. The most important thing you will ever do for your children is to pray for them. And prayers change everything. They contribute more to your kids’ growth, health, happiness, and sanctity than anything else. Pray for your children and for your ability to be a good mother.
  2. Be patient. Your children will learn from you either how to explode under pressure and anger or how to be composed, loving, and patient. Even when frustration levels are high, look at your family members as if they were little Christs, little souls whom you are called to love and practice patience with, even in the most trying of circumstances.
  3. Love and respect your husband. Your children will see you do it, and observing your marriage will impact the kind of marriage they desire and have of their own someday. If you disagree with your husband, don’t disagree with him verbally in front of the children. Always have your spouse’s back, and then discuss any disagreements in private. Show your children that you are an unbreakable team.
  4. mother and daughterFirst be your children’s mother, then and only after, their friend. Too many parents are overly concerned with being liked, and sometimes you won’t be liked. You won’t be liked when you discipline your kids or you challenge them to do the right, but hard, thing. And though you won’t always be liked, if you really do what is best for your children, you will always be loved.
  5. Practice self-sacrifice and unconditional love. Kids are, by their nature, demanding. They require your love, attention, service, wisdom, and so much more in order to develop into holy, mature adults. Raising a virtuous child requires a unique degree of self-sacrificial love. Abandon selfishness, and you will not only raise holier children who see your example, but you will become more Christ-like in the process. “So faith, hope, love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.” 1 Corinthians 13:13
  6. Become best friends with Our Blessed Mother. Pray the Rosary often to receive strength from the world’s greatest mother: Mary. She will be your ultimate companion in motherhood—your best friend. Fly to her in your times of need, in your moments of rejoicing, and when your heart is aching. She will comfort you and dance with you as a Mother, to give you the grace to be a better mother yourself.
  7. Celebrate life with your kids. Tell your kids what a joy it is to be a mother, and that there is nothing greater than giving life and raising children, so they will always be encouraged to fight for and embrace life. Celebrate life with your daughters and sons as they begin to have their own children. Relive the excitement of your own early motherhood with them as they experience their baby’s first hiccups and kicks in the womb, their births, and the many memories made over years to come.
  8. Talk about and teach about Jesus and your Catholic Faith constantly, but more importantly, live the life of Jesus in your every day actions. Be unmistakable Catholic inside and outside the home, and do it with joy. When your children see how fulfilling it is to live a Christ-centered Catholic life and how it enriches your family, they will want that for themselves and their own families, too.
  9. Be silly. No need to be the world’s most serious mother. Be playful. Make up your mom in sunlight
    own lyrics to popular songs and dance like nobody (but your children) is watching. Tickle often. Your children will appreciate your spirited outlook on life and will learn from you that every day is a gift to be cherished and with which to have fun!
  10. Trust. Trust Jesus, trust your husband, trust your children, and let them see you trusting with all your might. In a culture where homes are filled with stress, be a home filled with peace and confidence in God’s will for you and your family.

Blessed Mother Teresa once said, “The woman is at the heart of the home. Let us pray that we women realize the reason for our existence: to love and be loved, and through this love become instruments of peace in the world.”

Every one of these lessons my mother has lived out and continues to practice to the utmost extent. Thank you, Mother, for teaching me how to be a great mom, for teaching me how to love and be loved and become an instrument of peace in our broken world. You are going to be an extraordinary grandmother. I hope I do you proud, so my children can hand down these lessons that they learn from me someday.

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5 Things To Do With Your Catholic Child(ren) Every Day

5 Things to Do With Your Catholic Child Every Day - CatholicKatie.com“So everything that goes on in your home has a good or bad effect on your children. Try to help them with your own good example. Try not to hide your piety from them.” -St. Josemaria Escriva

Here are 5 things you can do with your kids every day to help make faith a more integral part of their lives and to strengthen their connection to Jesus and to you:

  1. Pray. Start the day with prayer, before your usual routine or school time begins. An Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory Be, the Morning Offering, or a free-form prayer are all good options. In the evening, a decade of the Rosary, a chaplet, the Guardian Angel or St. Michael the Archangel prayers, or prayers of thanksgiving and intercession are powerful and simple prayers to say together after dinner or before bedtime.
  2. boy reading bibleRead the Bible. Get a hold of a great children’s Bible (or age appropriate Bible for your child) and read a story from it every day. The Bible has been such a routine part of my 2-year-old son’s day that he regularly requests Gospel stories and spends LOTS of time flipping through the pages himself in his own free time. When children are exposed to the Bible on a regular basis, they come to love it.
  3. Tell them how much God loves them. Make sure you remind your child(ren) every day–if not multiple times a day–how much Jesus loves them. A good time to remember to do so is when you are telling them you love them. “I love you! Do you know who else loves you so, so much? Jesus!” The older they get, the more important this message becomes, as they brave the ups and downs of growing up: God loves you more than you’ll ever know.
  4. Do something nice for someone else. Model for your kids this great practice of doing one simple, concrete act of charity or mercy for someone else each day, and encourage them (or physically help them depending on their age) to do that “something kind” for someone else, too. Ask them about their good deed at dinner or at night.
  5. dad and son runningSpend quality time together/Give your child(ren) your undivided attention. Discipleship comes through relationship building. If you want your children to really learn the faith from you and to become faithful disciples of Jesus Christ, invest intentional time in them. Make sure that every day, your child(ren) get some of your undivided attention, where you spend time talking with them, reading to them, playing with them, attending their extracurricular activities (and watching rather looking at your phone), cuddling them, or doing whatever connects you with each other and strengthens your parent-child bond.

Bonus one: Take them to daily Mass! It’s pretty much the best way to combine all of the above into one awesome, faith-building activity that you can do together. If you have the ability to go to Mass together on a non-Sunday day of the week, do it. Over time, you won’t be able to live without it! Never underestimate the power of the sacraments to work wonders in the lives of you and your children.

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The More Margin for Peace Challenge: How to Focus More on Being vs. Doing

tcht_series_medCulture tells us that we are valuable because of what we do. It speaks to our senses, every moment of every day, telling us we need to do more. Our worth is based on what we accomplish, how we achieve, the number of hours we put in at the office, how much we make and how much we spend, and what we cross off our life’s to-do lists.
God tells us we are valuable because of who we are. He whispers in our hearts, every moment of every day, that he loves us because we are his. We are valuable because we are man, created in his image. Our worth is based on who we become—how conformed we can be to his will and the person he created us to be, the time we spend just being with him in prayer, how we love, what we cross off our life’s to-be list.

Peace builder: Focus more on being than doingSome strategies for focusing more on being than doing as a way to make more margin for peace:

  • Sit – just sit – in God’s presence: Sometime this week, go to the adoration chapel, your parish’s sanctuary, or a quiet place in your home and just sit and “be” with God. You can read or do other “action-oriented” things in prayer later, but to start, just spend time in silence with God.
  • Pick a virtue to grow in this week: Virtues help us become the people God desires us to be, the kind of people that will make us truly content and at peace with ourselves. Pick a virtue (charity, generosity, patience, trust, faith, hope, prudence, fortitude…) that you will focus on this week to help you take one step closer to being a saintly person.
  • Cross off an item on your to-do list: Look at your likely expansive list of things to do this week and determine if there is anything that can wait, making a little more margin for rest this week.

“I have said this to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” —John 16:33

***Don’t forget to post a note or set a reminder on your phone to follow through with your plan to focus more on being than on doing this week!***

If you missed the past weekly challenges to make more margin for peace, you can find them here.

How to “Downsize and Simplify”: The More Margin for Peace Challenge

tcht_series_medThe term “downsize and simplify” comes from my dad. When I was a little girl, he went on a retreat that changed his life. In front of the Eucharist, he heard the Lord speaking to his heart to “downsize and simplify,” leading my dad to leave his lucrative advertising year and begin working in ministry, first by founding the pro-life media apostolate VirtueMedia, and later by founding the evangelization media apostolate, Catholics Come Home.

Those of us looking for more peace in our lives and homes could always benefit from downsizing and simplifying in some way. Here are a few ideas on how to downsize and simplify and thus make more margin for peace in your life.

Downsize and simplify…

Downsize and Simplify to Find More Peace in Your Life

  • Your material goods: Maybe you could benefit from clearing out your closet and donating some of the clothes you don’t need to people who do need them, or maybe you can look around your home or office for other material possessions that you have in excess.
  • Your calendar: Perhaps your schedule needs some downsizing and simplifying to make more time for your family, for prayer, or for hobbies you would like to pursue.
  • Your meals: Have you considered downsizing or simplifying your meals from time to time, either in an effort to become healthier or to fast for someone who needs your spiritual support right now?

What are some other ways you can downsize and simplify in your life right now? Pick one strategy for downsizing and simplifying this week and follow through with it.

“For peace is a good so great, that even in this earthly and mortal life there is no word we hear with such pleasure, nothing we desire with such zest, or find to be more thoroughly gratifying.”—St. Augustine, City of God

***Don’t forget to post a note or set a reminder on your phone to follow through with your plan to downsize and simplify each day this week!***

If you aren’t getting these weekly challenges sent to your email inbox, you can sign up to have them sent to you each week by signing up here (and you’ll get a free resource guide, too!).