Saturday, August 26, 2017

Moments of Grace

Last year in 2016, The Year of Mercy got a lot of hype. The pope had called upon this theme of Mercy just at the right time and we all were talking about it. Cathedrals were designating "mercy doors" and we were walking through 'em. This time last year, I was also participating in my *first* art show and trying to come up with works I would feel comfortable showing pertaining to this theme of Mercy.

 Here are the two pieces I did for The Year of Mercy show. The above is a meditation on Christ's mercy to women in Scripture and also St. John Paul II's mercy to the man who shot him in the 80s. Below is an abstract of a Church in Guatemala that I have been to where a priest was martyred and whose cause has recently been brought to beatification this year. 
Today, as I looked back on the art show and the Year of Mercy, I am reminded that 2017 was dubbed the Year of Grace. So why haven't we really been talking about it? Or have we just kind of been taking it for granted, like we do with so many of God's graces? Or is it just me?! ;)

As I thought about the Year of Grace for the first time in a while this AM, I wondered: "If I were to participate in an art show with the theme of Grace...what would I try to depict? What would be my inspiration?"

Grace is given to us at birth. Grace is something we are given to help us overcome sin and evil. Sanctifying, saving Grace is given to us in the Sacraments. Grace is given to us when someone looks kindly on us or extends a helpful gesture. These are just some of the many examples of Grace in our lives.

For me, moments of Grace have come in the form of moments in front of the Eucharist at Adoration or on retreats. I have had moments of Grace with friends and family when we all just know we are all at the right place at the right time. I've received moments of Grace in Churches and in visiting cities all over the world. I have received Grace when the Holy Spirit gives me the right thing to say when my own words fail me. I have received Grace in prayer, particularly in novena prayers answered with a sign.

I guess that Mercy was such a big deal because an act of forgiveness is often seen as a grander gesture. Grace can come at much more frequent, less grand moments. But Grace and Mercy can be as grand and/or as frequent as we want or need them to be. I believe that Grace is all around us, but we don't always seize those moments or messages from God when He is giving them to us. Or perhaps we don't always recognize God's Grace for the power that it is and can be.

When taking a Confirmation name at 16, I chose the name Grace. Partly because I liked the name and wanted to be cool, but also because I recognized at some level that God had bestowed a special Grace on me to get me to that point in my life. I am not always cognizant of the Graces being given to me, so I know that I need to pay attention to them more, especially as this liturgical year is almost done!

What are some of the many graces in your life? How do we use this grace to our advantage? And how are we going to seize these moments of grace as we continue through this Year of Grace?

Perhaps I will come up with some images of Grace in art before this Year of Grace is through.


Friday, August 11, 2017

Re-Choosing, Re-Discerning, Re-Building

Today is the feast of one of my favorite saints, St. Clare of Assisi. When I was discerning religious life over a decade (gah!) ago, I spent a lot of time with a particular order of Franciscans and came to love St. Francis and St. Clare.

When I was in Assisi two summers ago, we went to Sunday Mass at the Basilica of St. Clare. This was such a blessing and my time in Assisi was also significant because I was at a crossroads concerning my career and making my move to Richmond.

Basilica of St. Clare in Assisi, Italy- June 2015

After Mass at St. Clare's, I got some time to explore Assisi on my own and had some quality prayer time in some significant places in the life of Francis. When praying in the basilica where St. Francis is buried, I pondered the message that St. Francis himself had received: "Rebuild my Church." I found in those moments of prayer my own answer to my current discernment, to "rebuild His Church" by taking a job in Richmond teaching Middle Schoolers. It was a perfect moment and I have been affirmed again and again that I am in the right place for me right now.

This summer, I have been praying about feeling TOO comfortable. I never want to feel too comfortable with something because that is when we stop growing and moving forward. I want to re-claim the choices and decisions that God has led me to make up until this point in my life, so that I can re-affirm and move forward. I don't want to become so comfortable in my ministry as a Middle School teacher that I stop seeing it as a ministry. So these past couple of weeks, before we return back to school, I have been pondering my past years in ministry, and re-choosing, re-committing myself as a minister through the work God has called me to do.

This month, this year (Aug 22 to be exact) will mark 10 years since I entered religious life. It will always be such a defining moment in my life, even though I didn't stay very long in community (just one year of postulancy). The choices and the moments that led up to that entrance 10 years ago were crucial as was my personal formation during that time. And ultimately, taking classes while in formation led me to want to pursue my Masters degree and further shaped my call to evangelize through media and education.

There have been times where I questioned some of my decisions, but I firmly believe that all of our decisions, whether right or wrong, shape who are today. And as I look back on the 10-15 years that I have been in ministry (NET Ministries post-college, diocesan youth ministry, postulancy, non-profit work, and now teaching) I know that all of my experiences have built upon each other, leading to where I am now.

I am not sure what the Lord wants me to build next or what the next building block will be. But I am confident that it will be right as long as I remain open to asking and responding wherever and whenever He says: "rebuild my Church." As for right now, I will be content and confident in re-committing to building where He has placed me, but listening for the call for that next piece, that next brick.

I also have to remind myself, that each little thing that we do can help build up the Church as well. It doesn't have to be some huge, life-changing building block. We are all a piece of the Church and make our mark in our own, many ways.

St. Francis and St. Clare, pray for us!