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Today is a day to remember. To pause. To reflect. To be thankful. Today we celebrate Remembrance Day in Canada. For every Canadian, this is a day where we celebrate our heritage. We give thanks and honor those men and woman who gave their lives for our freedom. These war veterans were those who fought in the first and second world wars. Many of them sacrificed their lives, futures and families for the Canada we have now.
Leading up to today, I saw countless people wearing a bright red poppy on their jacket to prepare for Remembrance Day. This symbol is a powerful representation of the unity we have as a Canadian people. I know that I wear my poppy with pride. At 11:00 a.m, I stopped along with millions of Canadians for two minutes of silence. In this moment, I found myself incredibly thankful for what I have been given. The gift it is to live in a country that is free. To live without fear of persecution for religion. To know I have health care coverage. To have a democratic government. To live in a province with clean and fresh air. To have rights as a woman, a citizen and a voter. To live in a country with beautiful landscapes. To be Canadian.
Although we reserve this celebration for November 11th, I want to continue to be thankful for my homeland throughout the rest of the year. Not only do we have maple syrup, moose and Tim Horton’s, we truly have a strong nation. We are founded upon the sacrifices and dedication of men and women who gave their lives for Canada. What a blessing it is to be Canadian.
Maybe you have heard the expression, a picture is worth a thousand words. There is definitely some merit to this saying. The pictures, symbols and signs which surround us, are actually capable of speaking volumes! Just think of a stop sign, a countries flag, a set of stop lights, a no smoking sign… The list goes on. These images are able to express rules, cultures, behaviours and procedures without saying a word.
Now if I said there are certain images, symbols and pictures which are capable of expressing truth itself, would you agree?
The Catechsism of the Catholic Church writes this, “Truth is beautiful in itself… Truth in words, the rational expression of the knowledge of created and uncreated reality, is necessary to man, who is endowed with intellect. But truth can also find other complementary forms of human expression, above all when it is a matter of evoking what is beyond words: the depths of the human heart, the exaltation of the soul, the mystery of God”.
So what we’re saying is: truth is beauty. Truth is understandable by means of the intellect. But truth can also be understood apart from words.
” Even before revealing himself to man in words of truth, God reveals himself to him through the universal language of creation, the work of his Word, of his wisdom: the order and harmony of the cosmos- which both the child and the scientist discover-” from the greatness and beauty of created things comes a corresponding perception of their Creator’ ‘for the author of beauty created them'” ( pg. 532, 2500).
If God wishes to reveal himself through creation, then we need to search for him in these created realities. It’s incredible that he chooses such relatable, attainable and everyday circumstance to speak to us.
It is also true that sacred art, in many different forms, is a way to encounter God, truth, beauty and goodness. ” Created ‘ in the image of God’ man also expresses the truth of his relationship with the Creator by the beauty of his artistic works” ( CCC pg. 533, 2501).
Take for instance this icon of the Blessed Virgin Mary and the child Jesus. The beauty of this image is not only because of the artists’ talent. No, it is beautiful because it reflects God as our Creator. It is beautiful because it points us to what is true. It is beautiful because it moves us to contemplate God, who is love and life!
So, a picture is worth a thousand words, yes. But, it is also capable of bringing us closer to the Creator of the universe who is truth and beauty itself. What a blessing it is to understand God, his Mother, the Saints, Angels and the Church through sacred art.
How does man see God?
Well. That’s one large, slightly overwhelming and intriguing question. I think it’s something worth reflecting upon. Especially when we live in a time that often disregards the existence of God, or any kind of existential questions. It’s time we take a moment to really consider this. How does man see God? How do I see God?
The late Bishop Brincard of Lyon, France once said that, ” whenever you see something good and beautiful in another, you see God“. This simple statement is really beautiful. Just think of all the wonderful qualities of your friends and family. Their kindness, honesty, gentleness, generosity, sense of humor, joy and smile are really reflections of God. Therefore, God uses all created things, people and realities to bring us to himself. If it is true, then we need each other to see God. It’s no wonder that we spend our lives growing up with a family, or that we desire to spend our lives in a marriage, or giving ourselves for the service of the Church or the poor. We are created for the other! We are made for community and unity. It’s no coincidence that God has given us these relationships. It’s so that we might find Him through them. His love is constantly drawing us to himself and he uses all people to carry out this mission.
There are numerous texts in the bible which talk about God’s people as the Body of Christ. Saint Paul uses this theme at length throughout his letters to the Romans, Ephesians and Corinthians. He urges us to recognize this unity and connection we have in Christ:
” For as in one body we have many members, and all the members do not have the same function, so we, though many are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another” – Romans 12:4-5
” If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together”- 1 Corinthians 12:26
In both of these verses, we see how important each person is in the salvation of the other. We are not able to exist apart from each other. When one of us is wounded, persecuted, mistreated, we are suffering. When one of us is honored, respected, loved, we are rejoicing.
If we choose to see God in each person, then we are choosing to see God in each moment. The good and beautiful qualities of each human being, was designed to glorify God. If we are searching for God, we need not look far. He is there, waiting for us in the laughter of our sister, the forgiveness of our father, the kindness of our mother, the commitment of our spouse. What an amazing gift we have been given for each other.
A very wise professor and priest once had my entire patristics class memorize the following quote:
This beautiful quote was taken from Pope Francis’ encyclical ; Light of Faith (Lumen Fiedei). I have always been quite fond of this quote, for the way it encourages all people in their journey of faith. That although darkness exists, our faith in Christ will always provide sufficient light for what lies ahead. The light will prevail ( I’m totally envisioning Gandalph the white in The Two Towers, charging down the hillside to defeat the army of orcs. Because he is radiating such intense light, the orcs are blinded by his presence and thus unable to defend themselves… What an epic moment ! ).
However, we will always encounter a kind of darkness in our lives. Regardless of age, culture, circumstance, beliefs or religions, we all share in this battle against the darkness. Whether it be loneliness, depression, addictions, anxieties, abuses, abandonment, hopelessness, insecurities, or exclusion, we can relate.
One of the greatest remedies against this darkness, is the Word of God revealed through scripture. Since God knows each of our personal struggles, our sins, our battles, he gives us words of hope!
For example, here is one that I received today which was inspiration for this post :
” May you be strengthened with all power according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience and with joy, giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. He has delivered us from the dominion of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins” – Colossians 1:11-14
The Word of God is like the shining stars that illuminate the night sky. Without the stars, we are lost in darkness. With their light, we can journey onwards, one step at a time.
I have listed a few more references from scripture. These are beautiful verses of encoragment, hope and victory. As it is a Living Word, God will use His word to speak personally and directly to us!
In times of distress and anxiety:
” When I say, ” My foot is slipping,” your love, Lord, holds me up. When cares increase within me, your comfort gives me joy” – Psalm 94:18-19
” May the God of peace, who brought up from the dead the great shepherd of the sheep by the blood of the eternal covenant, Jesus our Lors, furnish you with all that is good, that you may do his will. May he carry out in you what is pleasing to him through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen”. – Hebrews 13:20
When you feel like you’ve walked into a wall… For the 15th time !
“For I know well the plans I have in mine for you says the Lord, plans for your welfare, not for woe! Plans to give you a future full of hope” -Jeremiah 29:11
” Until now you have not asked anything in my name, ask and you will receive, so that your joy may be complete” – John 16: 24
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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.
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.
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
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!
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.