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Experience the love you always dreamed of…
There are many and varied images of Jesus Christ. One that causes me sadness yet gives me great hope is the Sacred Heart. In this familiar image, Jesus is pulling back his cloak to reveal His heart which is flaming, pierced, and surrounded by a crown of thorns. If we did not know better, we could think it was a sign of defeat. Perhaps one might even think Jesus is glorifying pain and suffering.
Having been someone who has been on the other side of healthy, I identify and find solace in that agonizing image. Many times, when there was nothing in the material world that could soothe, including well intentioned humans, in the depths of my loneliness and suffering, I could always find courage at the foot of the Cross and in that wounded Heart. He knew. He was there to meet me in that place.
Jesus appeared to Saint Margaret Alacoque and said to her, “My Heart, loving passionately mankind, can no longer contain the flames of its charity; it is necessary for it to manifest it to them, in order to enrich them with the treasures it contains.”
Christ’s heart of love is burning so profusely and generously it cannot contain itself. He desires to pour out His uncontainable, unfathomable love on humankind sharing the treasures of His Sacred Heart.
So, what are we afraid of; pure, unselfish, immeasurable love? What holds us back from this most lavish offer?
What keeps humanity at a distance? Why are we reluctant and afraid to let that love consume us? At times, I feel unworthy of that level of generous, magnanimous love. Is it free, even for the likes of me?
Love is what directs God’s Heart. God IS love! Perhaps our warped understanding and experience of love is what scares us the most? Maybe we have been used instead of loved properly. Maybe the love we have been shown in the past from someone we were close to was measured, earned, or conditional? When they had their fill or became bored, they discarded us and moved on to something or someone more interesting?
What about our family of origin? Was it broken or dysfunctional? Our first home should have been a “school of love” where we were taught many valuable life lessons on love, free to make mistakes and learn from them. Sadly though, they might have been places of betrayal, pain and abuse. You need not remain in that place of loneliness and hurt, run to the Sacred Heart.
Father Berlioux, a nineteenth-century French priest and spiritual author writes this of Christ, “It was love that caused Him to be born, to act, to suffer, and to weep; it was love, finally which made Him die. And in the Eucharist, it is love that induces Him to give Himself to us; to be our guest, our companion, and our Savior, our food and our nourishment.”
Abyss of Love
EVERYTHING Christ does and says is out of LOVE! We need not be afraid of anything He asks of us which is ultimately for our own benefit. In each of my own heavy crosses, I initially thought they were well beyond my ability to handle. On my own that is true. It is in our weakness Saint Paul says, “…for the sake of Christ, that we are strong.” (2 Corinthians 12:10) When we are under the delusion of believing we have it all together, it is there that there is no room for Christ to carry and sustain us.
If your past has shown you only twisted versions of faux love. If your current situation is not the best demonstration of a “selfless donation for the good of another,” then may I strongly recommend you to turn to the genuine Heart of Love to seek what you are lacking. It is from this Heart—the Most Sacred Heart, that you will learn how to give and receive REAL Love.
Finally, Saint Gertrude who also had the pleasure of intimate union with Jesus shares these words, “If people but knew how You love them: if You would but discover to them the infinite riches of Your heart, they would all fall at Your feet, and would love only You, O mystery of infinite charity and abyss of love…”
So the question to each human heart is this; will you continue to spend your limited days on earth accepting a counterfeit of love, wallowing in the hurts of the past, and exposing your heart anew to more abuse? Or, will you run to the “Mystery of infinite charity and the abyss of love?”
As always, our Loving God leaves that up to us and will NOT force this amazing gift of His Love on us without our permission. So what’s it going to be?'
Back in the 1950s, Dorothy Day, the co-founder of the Catholic Worker Movement, began to articulate a vision that was largely ratified at the Second Vatican Council. She said that the prevailing notion of a “commandments spirituality” for the laity and a “counsels spirituality” for the clergy was dysfunctional. She was referencing the standard view of the period that the laity were called to a kind of least common denominator life of obeying the ten commandments—that is to say, avoiding the most fundamental violations of love and justice—whereas priests and religious were called to a heroic life of following the evangelical counsels of poverty, chastity, and obedience. Lay people were ordinary players, and the clergy were spiritual athletes. To all of this, Dorothy Day said a rather emphatic no. Every baptized person, she insisted, was summoned to heroic sanctity—which is to say, the practice of both the commandments and the counsels.
As I say, Vatican II, in its doctrine on the universal call to holiness, endorsed this notion. Though the Council Fathers taught that there is a substantial difference between the manner in which clergy and laity incorporate poverty, chastity, and obedience, they clearly instructed all followers of Christ to seek real sanctity by incorporating those ideals. So, what would this look like? Let us take poverty first. Though the laity are not, at least typically, summoned to the sort of radical poverty adopted by, say, a Trappist monk, they are indeed supposed to practice a real detachment from the goods of the world, precisely for the sake of their mission on behalf of the world. Unless a lay person has interior freedom from an addiction to wealth, power, pleasure, rank, honor, etc., she cannot follow the will of God as she ought. Only when the woman at the well put down her water jug, only when she stopped seeking to quench her thirst from the water of the world’s pleasures, was she able to evangelize (John 4). Similarly, only when a baptized person today liberates himself from an addiction to money, authority, or good feelings is he ready to become the saint God wants him to be. So, poverty, in the sense of detachment, is essential to the holiness of the laity.
Chastity, the second of the evangelical counsels, is also crucial to lay spirituality. To be sure, though the way that the clergy and religious practice chastity—namely, as celibates—is unique to them, the virtue itself is just as applicable to the laity. For chastity simply means sexual uprightness or a rightly ordered sexuality. And this implies bringing one’s sexual life under the aegis of love. As Thomas Aquinas taught, love is not a feeling, but rather an act of the will, more precisely, willing the good of the other. It is the ecstatic act by which we break free from the ego, whose gravitational pull wants to draw everything to itself. Like the drive to eat and to drink, sex is a passion related to life itself, which is why it is so powerful and thus so spiritually dangerous, so liable to draw everything and everybody under its control. Notice how the Church’s teaching that sex belongs within the context of marriage is meant to hold off this negative tendency. In saying that our sexuality should be subordinated to unity (the radical devotion to one’s spouse) and procreation (the equally radical devotion to one’s children), the Church is endeavoring to bring our sex lives completely under the umbrella of love. A disordered sexuality is a deeply destabilizing force within a person, which, in time, brings him off-kilter to love.
Finally, the laity are meant to practice obedience, again not in the manner of religious, but in a manner distinctive to the lay state. This is a willingness to follow, not the voice of one’s own ego, but the higher voice of God, to listen (obedire in Latin) to the promptings of the Holy Spirit. I have spoken often before of Hans Urs von Balthasar’s distinction between the ego-drama (written, produced, directed by, and starring oneself) and the theo-drama (written, produced, and directed by God). We might say that the entire point of the spiritual life is to break free of the former so as to embrace the latter. Most of us sinners, most of the time, are preoccupied with our own wealth, success, career plans, and personal pleasure. To obey God is to break out of those soul-killing preoccupations and hear the voice of the Shepherd.
Imagine what would happen if, overnight, every Catholic commenced to live in radical detachment from the goods of the world. How dramatically politics, economics, and the culture would change for the better. Imagine what it would be like if, today, every Catholic resolved to live chastely. We would make an enormous dent in the pornography business; human trafficking would be dramatically reduced; families would be significantly strengthened; abortions would appreciably decrease. And picture what it would be like if, right now, every Catholic decided to live in obedience to the voice of God. How much of the suffering caused by self-preoccupation would be diminished!
What I am describing in this article is, once again, part of the great Vatican II teaching on the universal call to holiness. Priests and bishops are meant, the Council Fathers taught, to teach and to sanctify the laity who, in turn, are to sanctify the secular order, bringing Christ into politics, finance, entertainment, business, teaching, journalism, etc. And they do so precisely by embracing the evangelical counsels of poverty, chastity, and obedience.'
Learning to Work and Learning to Pray
When I signed up for AP Biology last year in my 10th grade, I never imagined Biology would be difficult for me. On the first day, I felt confident and self-assured. But as the days passed, I began to fall behind. While my peers answered questions and confidently recited the concepts, I felt confused and bewildered. Day after day, I smiled, nodded my head, and pretended I knew what was going on.
The night before the first Biology test I had barely studied. I looked over a few vocabulary words and attempted to memorize a few definitions. When I looked at the first test question my head began to spin. The questions were paragraphs long and despite reading them over and over again I couldn’t comprehend them!
The next day, I got my graded test back and wasn’t surprised to see 53%. But I felt dispirited because many of my classmates had received better scores. When I checked my grades online, I noticed that my overall grade was lowered to a “C.” I didn’t know what to do.
As months and tests went by, my grade kept fluctuating. My mom gave me the best advice: pray more and seek God’s help. From then on, prior to taking every test, I began to invoke the Holy Spirit and I truly felt that God was helping me. I knew I wasn’t alone. My test scores began to rise rapidly. I spent more time in prayer. Everyone noticed a radical change in me as I grew deeper in loving and trusting God.
Prior to taking the AP exam, I spent months studying, praying, and preparing for the exam. Knowing that this year’s exam would be online due to COVID-19, I was nervous. The test day arrived and the single aspiration on my lips was. “I am the God who gives you success.”
As I began the exam and looked at the data, graphs, and wordy questions, I felt discouraged and overly conscious of the time I had. However, I pushed through. I felt that I did okay. Months went by. On the day the results were posted online, my brother woke up first, signed into my account, and checked my score. He then told my mom and dad about it. I had told my family not to tell me my score until I asked them.
Hours later, unable to contain himself, I let my brother tell me my score. It was unbelievable! I couldn’t believe my ears when he said I had scored a “4” on the AP Biology exam. My classmate, who had the best grade in the class and was expected to get the highest score, got a lower score than me. How did it happen?
I know that was not through my own merit and I will always be grateful to God for this blessing in my life. Of course, I have learnt the importance of working hard and doing all the necessary study. But I’ve also learned the importance of placing my trust in God. I trust that God will always be there for me in my life to do the unbelievable, despite any obstacles I may face.'
Get a whole new perspective through the eyes of the ultimate observer
Who is the observer? When I consider this question in prayer, I realise that I observe God’s love and mercy from a very interior and personal point of view when He allows me to witness His good works by acting through me. God’s witness is never clearer than in my role as a nurse. I see people every day when they are at their lowest and most vulnerable. In those moments, God whispers, can I come forward? When I surrender and give Him my yes, His Spirit moves through me to touch the people I care for: I feel my gaze soften to rest on the face of my patient, and I know that He is looking through my eyes. Suddenly, the right words are on my lips and I know that they come from Him.
The response from my patients is unmistakable. Their faces change and there is a peace and light about them. In those moments, I believe that I become the ultimate observer of God’s supernatural love and mercy in my patients encounter with Him. These interactions with my patients have nothing to do with me, and everything to do with God carrying out His Will through me. This can only happen when I step back from myself and allow my personal relationship with God to deepen. But it doesn’t end there. He then calls me to share that relationship with others.
Where It All Began…
When I was baptised at Pentecost last year my personal relationship as an adopted member of God’s family began. My response to God’s call was immediate and absolute. From that day forward, I became irrevocably devoted to Him. This devotion led me to understand that I can do nothing without the presence of Christ and my need for Him in my life surpassed any other need that I had. He met me where I was, totally exhausted and needing His help, and in all my imperfection and nothingness, I surrendered everything to Him. I purposefully gave Him absolute control over my life, including my marriage, friends, family, pets, career, finances…You name it, He now owns it!
My personal prayer to Him throughout the day became not my will, but Yours Lord as I began to shed layers of my old self. As a result, God transformed me inside and out. I experienced healing from my longstanding C-PTSD and various pain related ailments. People started responding to me in positive ways. Teachers crossed my path when I needed them, my already happy marriage improved beyond imagination, negative influences gently fell away without conflict, and I felt at peace. More importantly, I felt God’s presence by my side, and I began listening for His voice.
It has always been more natural for me to listen than speak to Our Lord and each day I sacrifice my time to contemplate the Face of Jesus and simply let His words flow over and within me. I believe that God Our Father desperately wants to have a personal relationship with each of us and He wants to share His burdens with us. He reveals this when we devote our time to Jesus.
Part of devoting time to Jesus is surrendering our will to Him and letting Him work through us to deliver people from their afflictions. It has been said to me that associating with sinners is against their religious values, however I wonder how we expect Jesus to continue healing the afflicted if we do not make ourselves available for Him to work through us?
We don’t need to be nurses to let God touch others around us. We all have friends, family, co-workers, and acquaintances that need God’s healing love. Each time we surrender to God, we are saying not my will but Yours, Lord and our spirit connects with His. This is how God meets us. We were created to live in intimacy with God, to pray without ceasing, to live in a place of worship. As we move into this way of living, we become introspective. We receive the deep unconditional love of God, and we are forever changed. We can’t go back because we are transformed as His love for us shifts from superficial head knowledge to a deep heart revelation that becomes the very core of our identity.
At the heart of relentless love, is a lifestyle of prayer, worship, justice, and discipleship. All of this starts with surrender and dying to self: in other words, we are being crucified with Christ. Becoming the observer of God’s awesome power is firmly grounded in love. It takes place when we surrender and release the love of God, bringing restoration to people and circumstances. We love, because He loved us first, and as we release the love of God, justice flows.
We release God’s love and become His witnesses when we feed people who are hungry, when we share our faith with people, when we prophesy, when we release the supernatural power of God to bring healing, when we live with mercy, humility, and obedience. Becoming God’s observer expresses His love to the world by allowing Him to work through us, and then people encounter Him.'
It is the little things that matter…
Our long-anticipated visit to Denali National Park in Alaska was almost upon us. We purchased tickets for the following day’s eight hour bus ride where we hoped to see the splendor of creation and an abundance of wildlife. Checking the weather forecast for our adventure, we were more than dismayed to learn precipitation was predicted to be 100% for the entire day! As disappointed as we might be, my husband and I decided it would be wise to change our plans completely, knowing there would be little chance of encountering anything but the inside of a bus on such a rainy day. Thus, it might be said that the next morning we ended up on a lark at Creamer’s Field Migratory Waterfowl Refuge in Fairbanks.
Perfection in My Hand
The knowledgeable volunteer docent leading our small group tour began by telling us facts about the sand hill crane, one of the species of birds which depend on the Refuge to feed and rest each fall en route to their wintering grounds to the south. We were astonished to learn that the trachea of these cranes was seven feet in length, wrapped in a convoluted fashion, much like the coils of a French horn. This design resulted in a distinct call, unique to the mother bird’s offspring, which allowed both to remain connected amid the vast throngs of cranes flying in formation each season. Just then a rush of these sleek gray birds rose up in the distance as we watched quietly.
Tramping over the dew-laden ground, we then headed toward a tent where both volunteers and an ornithologist were busily weighing, measuring and tagging various species of birds in order to track populations over a period of years. After each bird was identified and their information recorded, it was time to release them back into the wild. As a worker handed a songbird to a member of our group, a palm-to-palm transfer was made, at which time the captured bird quickly took flight. When it was my turn, reaching out my palm, a yellow warbler was laid onto its back as my fingers cradled its small body. Unlike the two birds before, this one seemed to settle in, allowing me to stroke it’s feathers as our eyes locked.
Suddenly there was a palpable Presence, as the tenderness of the Creator in this less than three inches of perfection in my hand was evident. The tears began to flow as the refrain of a song began to play in my mind as if synchronized, “All are welcome in this place, here in God’s amazing grace, all are welcome, all are welcome.” Time stood still, yet it could not have been more than a few seconds before I was urged to help the bird roll onto its side. That was all the encouragement needed, as the bird made its way into the sky. Trudging back to the car, silence was my companion. A sacred hush seemed the only appropriate response to this moment of grace.
The second stop on our agenda-less day was to an assortment of buildings that had been moved to Fairbanks to recreate a pioneer village. Wandering among the cabins and shops, I came upon a simple church. Opening the door, I walked past the rough-hewn plank pews toward the carved depiction of Jesus hanging from the ceiling. Hands outstretched, as if inviting those who entered to come in, the song’s lyrics lilted once again in my head. “All are welcome in this place.” Again and again this day I had unexpectedly encountered evidence of the lavish love of the Author of life. The care with which a sandhill crane’s call was designed, linking mother and baby; the yellow warbler, able to fly and sing yet weighing less than an ounce; the open palms of caring folks that both receive to give care, then release in trust. Finally, the reminder as I looked up, of the invitation being extended through the hands offered to all who choose to enter into God’s amazing grace.
Always, all are welcome…'
A special interview with Dr. Thomas D. Jones who went on four separate shuttle missions with NASA. On one of those missions, he was actually able to take the Eucharist with him!
Tell us about what it was like to be out in space looking out at the stars and back at the Earth. How did that impact your faith in Jesus?
To realize my professional dream of flying in space, which every astronaut hopes for, I had to wait for almost 30 years. So my first flight was the realization of a childhood dream. Gazing out at this immense view of the cosmos surrounding our home planet, gave me a chance to think about why I was there. It was such an emotional experience to truly see the incredible beauty of the universe, and our home planet in all its lovely variety— really breathtaking. I just felt so thankful to God for the chance to be there physically—overwhelmed by His grace and Presence.
You are known as one of the astronauts who was able to bring the Eucharist into space. For all of us who are believers, that is just so inspiring. Could you share that whole experience?
It was certainly amazing to all of us who participated. One can’t go anywhere as remote as space and forget about your spiritual life. It is faith that helped me succeed on Earth and this is the same faith that I was counting on to help me succeed in space. On my first flight in 1994, aboard the shuttle, Endeavour, there were two other Catholic astronauts. When we got together to prepare for the 11 day mission, we talked about how wonderful it would be to take the Eucharist with us into space. So, because Kevin Chilton, our pilot on the flight, was an extraordinary minister of Holy Communion, we were able to receive permission from our pastor to bring the Blessed Sacrament with us.
Every moment of the eleven-day-flight was tightly scheduled, but our Catholic commander, Sid Gutierrez, was able to find a spot about seven days in, when we were comfortable with how the mission was going, for a ten-minute Communion service. So, on that Sunday—our second Sunday in space— we took a pause from all the business of the mission to spend ten minutes alone in the cockpit with the God who had made this all possible, and share Holy Communion with Him. Indeed, it was a recognition that we could never have reached that point without His presence among us. It was really satisfying to bring our faith-life into space and to know that He was there, physically, with us.
Have you ever found it difficult to bring Science and Faith together? Could you elaborate on the relationship between science and faith?
Throughout my professional career, I have known many scientists who are spiritual, and they have their own faith practices. Right here in northern Virginia, I have met several Catholic scientists and engineers in my own church who share a strong faith. They believe in God’s Creation, and in the biblical inspiration of how we understand the universe.
I think most people have some spiritual elements in their lives. I have known astronauts who are not formally religious, but they were all moved by the spiritual experience of space travel. So I have found that most people are open to what the universe and the natural world around us reveal in terms of how we understand Creation. Scientists are so curious, like all humans, about the nature of the universe and what we can learn about it.
To me, this is a sign that science and spirituality go hand in hand. Our curiosity and interest in nature and how it functions, how the universe is put together and how it was created—that curiosity was given to us because we’re made in the likeness of God. That’s part of His personality imparted to us. So I think that this search for the truth about the natural world is a part of our innate nature as human beings.
I believe that the quest for knowledge is something that gives God a lot of pleasure—to see the creatures that He has made seeking out the secrets of how He has put the universe together. Mind you, He’s not trying to keep it a secret. He just wants it to be unveiled through our own efforts, ingenuity and curiosity. So, to me, there’s not a lot of conflict between Science and Nature and Spirituality. I think that people trying to separate them are attempting to split human nature into a rational half and a spiritual half. Of course, that can’t be done. A person is one human being whose nature can’t be separated.
On your space missions you were accomplishing, in many ways, the epitome of human achievement. Doing something really great, and yet encountering something so much greater in magnitude—the glory and the majesty of God’s creation… What was it like to have accomplished so much, while still recognizing your own smallness compared to God?
To me it all crystallized on my last mission. I was helping build the space station, doing three space walks to install a science lab called Destiny. Near the end of my last spacewalk, I was out on the very front end of the space station. Since I was ahead of our work schedule, NASA’s Mission Control let me hang out for about five minutes out there. By holding on to the front of the space station with my fingertips, I was able to rotate around so I could see the immensity of space surrounding me.
I looked down at the Earth, 220 miles straight down past my boots to the deep blue of the Pacific Ocean. I was floating there looking out to the horizon—a thousand miles away–and then the endless, black sky up above my head.
About 100 feet above me, the space station glowed like gold with sunlight reflected from its solar panels, as we silently fell around the world together. This amazing view was so incredibly beautiful that it brought tears to my eyes. I was overwhelmed by this feeling, ‘Here I am, a highly trained astronaut on this space station, cruising around the Earth, yet I’m just a puny human being compared to this vast cosmos out there.’
God pulled the curtain back a little bit for me, letting me see that magnificent vastness in a personal way. I felt, “Yes, you’re very special because you’re getting to see this view”, but was reminded of how insignificant we all are in the vast universe which God has created. Feeling important and being humbled at the same time was a gift from God. It literally brought tears to my eyes as I thanked the Lord, thrilled to be sharing this view with Him. Very few humans ever have the experience and privilege of seeing Earth from that perspective, and it was all thanks to Him.
There’s a lot of confusion in the world right now…a lot of darkness and suffering; but when you look at the world either from that very unique vantage point that you had in Space, or now in your current state of life, what’s giving you hope?
I think what inspires me is that we’ve been given very curious minds by God. We’ve got this innate curiosity and that’s made us problem solvers and explorers. So, even with all the challenges we are beset by today, whether it’s a pandemic, or the threat of war, or feeding seven billion people around the world, we’ve got the skills that we’ve been given and we’re called to put them to good use in order to solve these problems. There is a vast universe out there, full of resources. It challenges us, but if we look beyond our home world into the solar system and the universe, there are a lot of things that we can make use of.
Vast material resources on the Moon and nearby asteroids can supplement those we find on Earth. There’s a colossal supply of solar energy which could be harvested from space and beamed down to the world to help supply everybody with the power and electricity that they need to succeed. We’ve got the ability to ward off rogue asteroids that have often struck Earth, and because we’ve got space skills and the minds to develop a way to defend our planet, we can prevent these most terrible of natural disasters. So, we don’t have to go the way of the dinosaurs if we use the skills that we’ve acquired and put ourselves to the task.
We live in a world that encourages us to use our curiosity and intelligence to solve these problems. So I’m very optimistic that by applying our skills and the technology we develop, we can stay ahead of all these challenges. Look at the vaccine that we developed just this year to fight the virus. That’s a mark of what we can do when we put our minds to something, whether it’s putting a man on the Moon or sending the first woman to Mars. I think we’re in good shape for the future as well.
ARTICLE is based on the special interview given by Dr. Thomas D.Jones for the Shalom World program “Glory to God.” To watch the episode visit: shalomworld.org/episode/an-astronauts-faith-drthomas-d-jones'
Lucy was born into a rich and noble Roman family in Syracuse, Sicily. When her mother arranged for her to marry a pagan man, Lucy protested that she belonged only to Christ. To help win her mother to her side, Lucy prayed at the tomb of St. Agatha (another Christian virgin) that her mother be cured of an illness she had endured for many years. Her mother was miraculously healed and agreed not to force Lucy to marry. But the pagan suitor rejected by Lucy was infuriated by the whispers that “Lucy had found a better Bridegroom than him” (her Lord, Jesus!). In his anger, he denounced Lucy to Pascasio, the governor, as a Christian.
Pascasio seized this opportunity to humiliate Lucy in public and thereby discredit the power of Christ and His Church. Aware of Lucy’s vow of chastity, he was attempted not only to kill Lucy’s body, but to destroy the beauty of her soul as well.
The governor’s guards attempted to bring Lucy to a house of prostitution, but God made Lucy’s body so heavy that the guards were unable to move her. Next, she was sentenced to be burned, but even with oil poured upon her, Lucy’s body would not burn. Furious, the governor shouted to Lucy, “How are you doing this?” Lucy simply responded that it was not by her power but by that of Jesus Christ. Pascasio then ordered Lucy’s beautiful eyes to be gouged out. Even after this torture, she stood before him refusing to deny Christ.
Lucy sensed that her time of witness and martyrdom was near. Moved by the Holy Spirit, Lucy prophesied to the crowd telling them the persecution would not last much longer and the emperor would lose his throne. In a panic to silence Lucy, Pascasio ordered a soldier to thrust a sword through her neck. She won her crown of virginity and martyrdom on December 13, 304.
When Lucy’s body was carried to the cemetery they discovered that her eyes had been miraculously restored. To mark this miracle, Lucy is often depicted holding a dish that bears her eyes. Within decades, Lucy’s name was added next to Agatha’s name in the Roman Canon. Saint Lucy’s body rests in the Basilica of St. Lucy in Syracuse, Sicily.'
The irresistible goodness of Christmas lasts more than just a day, if you put your mind to it…
The magic of Christmas has never failed to enrapture me no matter the circumstances in the lead up to the season. Some years, the awe and wonder kick in later rather than sooner, but once the Christmas spirit conquers me, there is no turning back.
The joy we experience from receiving God’s gift of His only Son sets the tone of this wonderful season. Being good almost becomes second nature for this brief but lovely time. While Santa’s list might be an obvious reason for the little ones, I’ve wondered what it is that makes us grown-ups feel this way and how might we bring to the rest of the year this inclination to goodness that we experience during the magical Christmas season.
A Stark Reminder
Last year my husband and I undertook a trip to regional Victoria. We visited a berry farm and while picking organic produce to take home, I had a chat with the owner. It was a pleasant cool day for summer, and we discussed how it had been the opposite a year before, with raging bushfires and drought conditions severely affecting crops and lives. As a volunteer firefighter, she had suffered the loss of a couple of her close friends while fighting those fires.
Saddened to hear this, I was moved even more when the farmer said she was “prepared to fight when called” should the bushfires strike again. As we left the farm, she picked up her little one and they waved us goodbye. The farm was undoubtedly the most memorable part of the trip and the resolute determination we witnessed was a stark reminder of how we all need to be willing to do good when it is required of us—no matter what the time of year.
Once we are past the Christmas joy of December and well into the new year, it might take a bit more effort for us to act on inclinations to do good. I usually find that busyness can abruptly take the steering wheel with no comfortable stop in sight. As various professional and personal priorities take over, I wonder if I can be as attentive to the Lord’s prompts as I had been while wrapping gifts and singing carols.
Our Lord, however, never slows down His pace—drawing our attention to a struggling local business, reminding us to call someone who is lonely, encouraging us to forgive, and inspiring us to give. My husband calls these God’s ways of helping us draw nearer to Him. I think of them as little stepping stones to God that we are blessed to receive.
Even if we manage to look past the busyness, there are often other deterrents that discourage us from responding to God’s prompts. For instance, when we see a call for aid, we might rationalize that our contribution wouldn’t make much of a difference or might not be well-received by the person in need. Or an inclination to make amends with someone who offended us might be deterred by a new trivial offense.
Fight the Good Fight
Despite the possible deterrents, those little tugs at our heartstrings never stop. Why? Because Jesus has overcome the darkness within and around us. His love and light are blazing bright, forever creating sparks of goodness. Acting on these prompts is up to us if we want to draw closer to His goodness. As our Lady of Fatima reminded us, our future is in God and we are active and responsible partners in creating that future.
If we remember that all the good that has ever happened to us, including our talents and blessings, are from the Lord, then we can respond willingly to even the slightest inclination to goodness that comes to mind. It is even more imperative today that we fight through the darkness, praying to our Lady for help to stay focused and strong to fight the good fight when called. It doesn’t take much to light up someone’s life, to bring Christmas hope and joy to them when they need it most, no matter whether it’s Christmastime… or any other time of year.
“Glory to God who shows His power in us and can do much more than we could ask or imagine; glory to Him in the Church and in Christ Jesus through all generations forever and ever. Amen.” Ephesians 3:20'
Are you able to click timeless photographs that capture the heart and soul of the moment? Are you able to bring out the best that nature has to offer through your photography?
Be Shalom’s Favorite Photographer!
We need your eye for detail and a beautiful, vivid photograph to print on the inner cover of Shalom Tidings magazine.
Email your photographs to connect∂shalomtidings.org along with your social media handles, we’d love to tag you whenever possible.
For more details reach out to our social media team: connect∂shalomtidings.org
We’d be happy to help you out with any questions, queries or concerns.
Theme – Mother Mary Statues from your parish, grottos, or from around the world
Other Specs – Mother Mary’s statue in focus with background out of focus
Image Orientation – Portrait
Image Quality – 300 dpi (high resolution)'
Raymund Kolbe was born into a poor, Polish farming family in 1894. As a child he had such a mischievous nature that no one would have guessed he would be called Saint of Auschwitz, Founder of the Militia Immaculata, Apostle of Mary and Patron Saint of the 20th century! One day his mother was so frustrated with his behavior that she yelled at him in exasperation: “Raymund, what will become of you?!”
This shook him to the core. Filled with grief, he went to a church and raised this question in prayer, “What will become of me?” Then he had a vision of the Virgin Mary appearing to him holding in her hands two crowns, one white and one red. She looked at him with love and asked him if he would like to have either. Raymund answered “Yes”, he wanted both of them.
The white crown of Purity came first, when he took the name Maximilian Kolbe and professed religious vows, one of which was Chastity. Back in the minor seminary, he often said to his classmates that he desired to consecrate his entire life to a great idea. Eventually he found the “Militia Immaculata” in 1917 with a goal to bring the whole world to God through Christ under the generalship of Mary Immaculate. In order to fulfill this mission, he sacrificed everything, and that brought him to the red crown of Martyrdom.
In 1941 Kolbe was arrested by the Gestapo and sent to the Auschwitz concentration camp. A fellow prisoner wept for his wife and children after being arbitrarily chosen to be locked in the starvation bunker when a prisoner escaped. Hearing this, Father Kolbe volunteered to take his place. During those terrible days in the bunker, he led the men in prayer, and encouraged them. During every inspection, while the others lay on the floor, Father Maximilian knelt or stood in the middle, looking cheerfully at the officers. After two weeks nearly all the prisoners except Father had died due to dehydration and starvation. On the eve of the feast of Mary’s Assumption into Heaven, the impatient Nazis injected carbolic acid into Father Kolbe who raised his left arm to calmly take the deadly injection. In 1982 Pope John Paul II canonized Maximilian Kolbe as a Martyr of Charity and “patron saint of our difficult century.”'
Thanks for your interest in writing for Shalom Tidings!
Shalom Tidings seeks articles that portray stories of powerful conversions and profound God encounters. We are also looking for inspirational pieces on how to overcome fear, insecurity, loneliness and depression that many are struggling with these days and also a few practical tips to grow in your faith. You could write providing valuable insight on how to find more meaning and purpose in life.
Below are the answers to some frequently asked questions about submitting an article to Shalom Tidings.
What should I write about?
To get a sense of the type of work we publish, check out our website.
As you can see, our articles cover all areas of spiritual life and how to handle difficult situations through prayer and devotion. You could write about a God experience that touched your life, a testimony of healing and deliverance, a conversion story, or even an everyday experience of God in your life.
Should I pitch you my idea before writing the article?
Sure! Pitch your idea by emailing our editor at [email protected]
(Note that we can’t guarantee publication until we review a completed submission. We’re happy to evaluate your pitch before you get to writing!)
When will I hear back from you after I send my pitch?
Please allow up to three weeks for our editor to respond to your pitch.
How long should my articles be?
Aim for 500 – 800 words. From time to time, we’ll publish longer pieces, and if that’s the case, we’ll let you know.
Should I write a headline?
That’d be great! We reserve the right to tweak it for SEO, style or just to make it more attention-grabbing.
Fun fact: We actually write approximately 5-10 headlines before choosing one for an article. If you want to suggest one or two potential headlines, that makes our job easier!
Will you edit my article?
Yes, we’ll edit for content and clarity, doing our best to preserve your voice. You’ll be able to see if there are significant edits and we’ll often work with you should these be required.
Have any tips for ensuring my piece is a fit for Shalom Tidings?
– Please write in the “we” voice as much as possible.
– Support your advice with personal experience or stories.
– Including sub-headings is much appreciated. (We love to use H2 and H3!)
– Only one space between sentences, please!
– Definitely avoid an ‘advice only’ column style writing.
– Considering our lay audience, delving into deep theology is not ideal.
How should I submit my article?
1. Submit your article as a Word document through the ‘Contact’ page.
2. Email it to our editor as a Word document to [email protected]
Should I include a photograph that can be used with the article?
If you have one, yes, please. Make sure they are high resolution. We reserve the right to use another image if the one provided by you does not work.
Should I include a headshot?
Yes, that would be great! We may not use it in the magazine but, we will use it on the website.
Can I include a bio?
Absolutely! There are a few items we need from you to build your author profile.
– Add your name, email, website and social media (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest) handles to the top of your article. If you don’t have one, just your e-mail ID works too.
– Include a 2-3 sentence bio at the top of your article. We’d love for you to mention how long you’ve been writing professionally and name-drop a couple of places you’ve written for so we can create a short bio and showcase your expertise and experience wherever possible.
Are you definitely going to publish my piece?
We reserve the right to not publish your article if our Editorial Council decides it’s not a strong fit for Shalom Tidings. You are then free to publish it elsewhere.
Can I repost my submission on my blog?
No. If we run your article on Shalom Tidings, we retain the rights to that content. We don’t allow republishing on your own blog or any other website. (Did you know reposting content can hurt SEO traffic results for everyone involved? We try to keep it tidy around here.)
You are more than welcome to share your article from shalomtidings.org once it is published.
Do you pay?
No; all of our writers are zealous evangelizers who wish to share Christ’s love and peace with the world.
What should I do after I submit my article?
Our editor will get in touch with you and let you know of the progress. If and when we publish it, we hope you’ll be active in the comments, responding to readers’ questions or thoughts. We also hope you’ll share your article on social media!
We look forward to your contribution!
Ready to pitch your idea or submit your article?
Before you submit your piece, please run through this checklist. Did you…
– Add your name, email, website and social media (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest) handle to the top of your article?
– Include your 2-3 sentence bio at the top of your article?
– Attach your file?
If so, you’re ready to submit!
For more information and any other queries, please drop us an email at [email protected] with the subject line ‘Article Submission.’'