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Life in the Eucharist

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A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of leading a day retreat for children preparing for their First Communion and Confirmation. As I helped to teach and guide these children, I watched them grow in their understanding and knowledge of these incredible sacraments. During the second portion of the morning, we separated into small groups and prepared a skit on the life of a saint. My group was responsible for Saint Clare of Assisi, focusing upon the virtue of fortitude. We chose to re-enact a truly remarkable event which occurred at the monastery of San Damiano, Assisi in September of 1240. The nuns who were living alongside Saint Clare, received news that they were being attacked by the army of Frederic the 2nd and the Saracens. The sisters were terrified and were left with no where to flee. They rushed to Saint Clare, who, at the time was extremely ill and weak. It is said that while the armies began to bang on the doors, climb over the walls and shout at the sisters within, Saint Clare began to pray. She knew she could not stop these men on her own, but she asked the Lord to protect them. With the help of two sisters, they made their way to where the Blessed Sacrament was kept. Saint Clare took Jesus, enclosed in a silver and ivory box to the doors of the monastery. She presented Jesus in the Eucharist towards the raging armies, with a fearless heart. She had such a profound trust in the presence of Jesus in the Eucharist, that the armies soon became silent, and turned away.

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A Mercy Evening in the Basilica of Saint Agnes, Rome

It was beautiful to watch the children re-enact this profound miracle, with such enthusiasm and joy. As I stood up there with them, prompting lines, and passing the microphone around, I was really touched. These children were not only learning about the life of Saint Clare, but the great power that comes from Christ. Little did I realize, that this skit would play a big part in my understanding of the Eucharist.

It happened a few weeks later when I was before the Blessed Sacrament in Adoration. After a few minutes of sitting in the chapel,  I just understood in my heart that; the same Jesus who turned away the armies in Assisi, is in front of you right now. In one overwhelming moment, I had a glimpse of the incredible power, strength, beauty and joy that is found within the Eucharist. It was so clear that we are called to a profound, and mysterious, unwavering trust and faith in Christ Jesus, concealed in form of bread.

This same Jesus was present in the Blessed Sacrament in the Monastery of San Damiano, for God cannot change, and He never will. So what was the difference then? Why could Saint Clare perform this miracle in Assisi, if it is indeed the same Christ Jesus whom she brought to the armies? I think the answer lies in an honest, faithful and pure desire to seek God above all things. Of course, Saint Clare was bestowed with incredible graces, but I believe that she ferverently prayed for grace, for trust, for strength, and for the gifts of the Spirit. She was faithful in receiving the sacraments, in service for others and in prayer life. She became so focused on heavenly truths, that earthly concerns were not a stumbling block. So when she heard news of attacking soldiers, her great trust in God could not be shaken. This gift of fortitude is a huge example for us, who are also called to be saints.

I realized that as I continue on this journey of faith, and life and joys and sorrows, I am called to a deeper love of the Eucharist. The feast of Corpus Christi was celebrated last Sunday which was another affirmation of this call. It’s a call for me, but for you too!  I think this video is a good reflection on the mass, the Eucharist, and what blessings we have received through the Church.

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=1fvX_LTK7Bk&list=UU9Gin8zVjjzywF_sW9fkODA

May God continue to reveal himself to us through the sacrament of the Euchrist. That we will find a peace and joy in Christ, who through the Church, is given to us!

” While they were eating, he took a loaf of bread, and after blessing it he broke it, gave it to them, and said, ” Take; this is my Body”. Then he took a cup, and after giving thanks he gave it to them, and all of them drank from it. He said to them, ” This is my Blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many”…” – Mark 14: 22-24

 

Travelling Soul

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                     Predictable Pete   

I have often marvelled at the lives of those men and women who are classified as the “creatures of habit” or “the regulars”. Day in and day out, they find the same table at the cafe, order the same coffee with one cream and sugar, or engage in the same conversation each morning. It would appear, that these individuals value an unchanging routine. Perhaps the thought of change is a frightening concept for these folks. Maybe, they just figure they have found something that works, so why change. Either way, they know what to expect, and they like it that way.

These creatures of habit, regulars, and predictable Pete’s are somewhat enticing to a person like me. Each new day brings the same kind of events, circumstances and expectations. One can wake up with a 95% chance that things will go according to plan, and the day will flow smoothly. If you ask me, it sounds like a pretty good set up.

Journey of Surprises 

Now, another category of people could be called, the ” free spirits” the “spontaneous” or the “adventerous”. Generally, these kinds of people thrive with the unexpected. They are always ready to try something new and ready to make exciting plans. These passionate people do not get caught up in expectations, for they live in the moment.

If I had to choose between the two, I would definitely go with predictable Pete (or in my case, predictable Patricia). I feel comfortable in the known, the certain and the reliable. However, in the past few weeks, whether or not I wanted it, I was thrust into the second category of the free spirit and adventurous type. Jenny the Spontaneous is my new alter ego… I have recently started working as a substitute teacher with elementary students. With each new day, comes a new grade, school and set of students. Sometimes the day is wonderful, other times, the day makes me question my career choice! No matter the day, there is no way I can predict what will happen, or who I will encounter.

At first, I thought this kind of schedule would make me crazy! How could I possible feel content when my life was like the tasmanian devil-twirling around the city, jumping to schools each day and feeling like I was going out of control. Needless to say, it is getting easier with each and every day. I am still a baby sub, and I have so much to learn, but I think I am finding ways to cope with this change!

Tips for the Travelling Soul

I will list a couple things that are helping me in this journey as a substitute teacher:

1. Today is a gift to unwrap : I may not know what I’m getting into, but there is always something special to be found in the day! It might be a great conversation, a compliment from a student or a welcoming school community

2. Appreciate the small stuff: Do not overlook the smiles in the hallway, the student who held the door for me, or the teacher who helped me find the staffroom

3. Make love the priority: To share the love of God with each student, class and school I encounter. To never loose the opportunity to share this great love!

4. Laugh it off: To keep things light, and not overthink everything! I will make mistakes, and say the wrong things, but it’s O.K. Life is beautiful, and I better laugh, or it will be a long ol’ journey.

Although I would rather find myself comfortable in the shoes of predictable Patricia, I see the beauty of embracing Jenny the Spontaneous. I’m learning that it’s all about trusting in the Lord and having a positive outlook. I am beginning to see the beauty that is found in the unknown. With each new day comes a new adventure. Just like the disciples who would travel from town to town, I am called to live like that. To be ready to share the love of the Lord with those I meet each day. I might not always know what to expect, but it’s how I live, love and serve others that really matters!

To live like a travelling soul, is to love no matter where you are

The Eternal City

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Saint Peters, Vatican City, Rome

Rome. What comes to mind when you think of this city? For some, it is the pizza.   For others, the crazy drivers. Or perhaps the pasta, gelatto, siestas, espresso, fashion, museums, love… the list goes on and on.

When I think of Rome, I think of the early Church and her history. I picture the architecture of the incredible churches and monuments. Of the cobblestone streets on which countless saints have walked.

Roma is home to many famous historical sites like the Colesseum, the Pantheon, St. Peter’s Basilica, the Trevi Fountain and the Roman ruins. The winding streets of the city, never cease to provide new and amazing historical treasures. Take for instance the 900 churches/chapels that are in Rome alone. Not only are these churches incredible on the outside, but their interior structure and design is often breathtaking.

There is something so unique and magical about the city of Rome. It is not difficult to find beautiful places, structures and designs. I have often asked people traveling through Europe, what their favourite place to visit was. Time and time again, they choose Rome. They speak to the food, the culture, but almost always, about the historical architecture and the Church history.

I think people are drawn to Rome, because it represents an ongoing history and tradition. These sites, churches and events have been preserved and upheld for thousand of years. You can walk into a church, hundreds, or even thousands of years old, and participate in mass. This mass, is the same mass that began at the time of the disciples. So when tourists come to Rome, whether or not they realize it, they are completely immersed in the history of the Church. Yet, unlike most historical realities, the Catholic history is not something only of the past. The beliefs, traditions and Church itself, exists today.

Rome is and will always be a destination of beauty. Not only does the culture, food and people contribute it’s appeal, but the history and tradition of the Catholic church. If you have never been, I would recommend Rome for your bucket list. As some have said, Rome Sweet Home. I couldn’t agree more.

The Wonder of Creation

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While contemplating how to begin my first blog post, I decided to start with a topic very close to my heart. Unforuntately no, this topic has nothing to do with lemons, or citrus fruits for that matter. Although I do enjoy lemonade, lemonIMG_1040 meringue pie and marmalade. It is actually about the beauty of creation. More specifically, the wonder which is completely revealed through nature. Take for instance this photo of a very simple lemon tree. Taken with my humble iPhone, I was able to capture a stunning moment in time. Between the contrast of the light and shadows, the yellows, greens and blues, this photo is quite magical. What makes it even more special, is the memory with which it is connected to. When I see this photo, I remember the garden where the tree was planted. I remember the friend whom I walked with and the conversation we had there. I recall the oranges that we picked and ate on the next tree over. The colours of the trees and flowers, the smell of the fruit, the warmth of the sun, and the fresh air- each played it’s part in the beauty of that afternoon in the garden. Perhaps the greatest gift of creation, is the peace that can come from it. How often do we find ourselves longing to be out at the cabin, fishing on the lake, snowboarding in the mountains or simply getting outside for a walk after work. As humans, we desire this connection to nature, because we often feel rejuvinated or energized afterwards. There is something in the air, something in the water, that makes us feel alive again! For me, this happens when I go to the cabin up north. From the moment I shut the car door and breathe in the fresh air, I feel quite free and calm. I just love going up there because it’s so relaxing- but I think it’s more than that. It’s because I have an interaction with the beauty of creation.

Now, taking a more existential approach to the concept of beauty in creation, I turn to the great Catholic Theologian Saint Thomas Aquinas. Framing his argument ( the 5th way) around the natural world, Aquinas argues that everything has been created with a final purpose from an intellectual designer of the universe; God.

Take for example the small seed which over time, with sufficient water, sunlight and soil, begins to grows and develop. Eventually, this seed transforms into a marvellous oak tree and towers above the rooftops. How is it possible that this tiny and simple seed, has the capacity to become an incredible tree with a complex organization? It now has roots, bark, leaves and branches. It also follows an established routine with the seasons, as leaves begin to change and fall.

Did you ever actually ask yourself,  how it is possible for this seed to know how to change into a tree? Why didn’t the tiny seed become a pine tree instead? How was it possible for the seed to differentiate what kind of finality it would have? On the argument of the 5th way, Aquinas writes   “… Now whatever lacks knowledge cannot move towards an end, unless it be directed by some being endowed with knowledge and intelligence; as the arrow is directed by the archer. Therefore some intelligent being exists by whom all natural things are directed to their end; and this being we call God (Aquinas, Summa Theologica, Article 3, Question 2).

It is reasonable then to conclude that this seed, which lacks the capacity for an intellect, cannot direct itself to a final end, without the assistance of another. This other, must have a final plan for the seed, which will be fulfilled in the final oak tree.  If we understand this other to be God, then we see that God can cause all things to come into existence, and has their final end in mind when he creates them. It would mean that God is the sole creator of all creation.

However, some may feel skeptical to this argument and attribute it all to chance. Yet, this does not hold when you look at the structures of order vs chaos. We would then have a completely chaotic universe becoming almost perfectly ordered in their structure, function and organization. This is just not a reasonable argument for the finality of created things. Chance does not accurately explain the finality and purpose of our universe.

One of my teachers explained this topic so profoundly when he said that looking outside and observing the great beauty of creation, is like looking into the intellect of God. For if God has designed everything- from the tiny seeds, to complex human beings, then each day we receive the gift of seeing the mind and beauty of God. He has planned and crafted each sunset, flower, snowflake and dew drop! It’s no wonder that we find such  peace and beauty in nature. We are coming into contact with the creator of the universe!

” The heavens declare the glory of God, the firmament proclaims the works of his hands”

           -Psalm 19:1