Friday, March 20, 2020

Socially Distanced

Editor's note: This is another great contribution from the one and only Holly Vaughan. You can follow her on Twitter here! 

Odds are you aren't leaving your house much right now except for work. In many places you aren't leaving your house even for work. 
I understand - I also am not leaving my house except for necessities.  Our state hasn't put forceful measure in place yet, but since I 
am blessed to be able to do my job from home and I already homeschool we are playing it safe and hunkering down at home. 

At first it seemed almost fun - you know, except that deadly virus part. We started keeping ourselves home last Sunday so this is our day 
five, and we've only been out twice since then, quick trips for necessities. Today is the day the new has started to wear off, and a bit of
stir craziness has set in inside my mind. I have a bit of anxiety anyways, and now I have a lot of time to ponder the "what-if's." I am 
thankful to be able to stay in and keep my children safe, but at the same time I miss my work community and my parish community (I
work at my parish, so the two are quite related.) I worry about who my husband may come in contact with at the farm each day. And I 
can't help but think this would be easier if there weren't so many unknowns.

In trying to turn my focus to productive things I was considering what my children will remember about how I handled this time of trial. 
When we talk about this five years from now, what will they recall? In a moment of clarity I realized that i prefer it not be that I sat 
around and ate cheetos while playing the Sims. I generally don't eat cheetos or play games, so that would probably clue them in to my
anxiety. 

There are SO MANY good things happening in the Catholic world and in the world in general. People are pulling together and I want 
them to remember that.  This is also such a good opportunity to be a model of prayer which is so important during this time especially 
since we are not able to access the Sacraments that we, to be honest, took for granted. So I am sharing my thoughts here on how I plan
to modify my own behavior, which I started implementing today. Maybe they will help you as well. 

*Let my kids see me pray. Include them in it. Silent prayer is beautiful, but I am tasked to teach these children to pray, to invite them 
into that moment. Since I pray the Divine Office, they likely won't join in that much, but they can witness it, instead of me hiding away
in a search for silence every time. 

*Include them in all of the incredible offerings of Catholic media. I prayed a live rosary via Zoom with my Oblate Chapter to fulfill the 
Pope's request today and they sat in. We were able to discuss how that prayer must have sounded to God. All of those voices, united in 
different languages but the same words, from all over the world, lifting up to the Lord. What a powerful example of the Unity of the 
Universal Church. I also made sure they knew how many live rosaries were happening virtually all over the country. 

*Ramp up homeschool a bit - there are SO many resources being shared by kind and generous companies and people. We have learned 
about a different animal each day this week from the Cincinnati Zoo, taken virtual tours, and are able to slow down and really spend 
time on the subjects that interest us the most. I want them to remember that, and know that this world can pull together and love each
other. 

*The news is important but it's shouldn't take us over. I'm working so hard at this. I want to read the headlines every thirty seconds and
obsess over them, but it just isn't healthy to do so. I try to check them morning and evening, and maybe at lunch. I make sure they know
I am checking, but more sure that they see that I am not obsessing, at least outwardly. ;) 

*It's a great time for a lesson in germ prevention. Seriously. 

*We are not going to handle this perfectly. Everything I wrote above are my goals, but I have and will fail them often. In reality this is 
hard and scary, and there will be some days that we just sit together on the couch and watch a whole season of Scooby Doo, and that's 
ok too. We do not have to do everything by some lofty set of standards all the time. In this time of distance, we are also seeing new 
types of unity emerge. Our Church and our communities are still connecting, still finding ways to support one another. We are going
 to be hanging on to that, hanging on to Jesus, and praying for a swift resolution to this trial, while also remembering to enjoy this 
abundance of time with each other. May we all join in prayer for one another. 

Thursday, October 24, 2019

Receptivity

 Editor's note: This is another great contribution from the one and only Holly Vaughan. You can follow her on Twitter here! 

Often when I attend Adoration, I find myself splitting my time between prayer and spiritual reading. The other day the book I happened to take along to the church was my Guide to Benedictine Spirituality for Oblates. I’ve read it several times since becoming at Oblate of Saint Benedict, but never fail to pull new nuggets from its pages.  The page being held by the ribbon marker was an article entitled “Sharing the Mind of Saint Benedict.” Following each article there are questions for reflection that help you put the things you read into practice. One question hit me particularly hard: “How do you understand receptivity?” 

I don’t know that I’ve ever really paused and considered receptivity on it’s own merits before. The dictionary defines it as:able or inclined to receive especially : open and responsive to ideas, impressions, or suggestions.” So while I planned to spend the rest of Adoration reading, I actually spent it praying about this one question. The question in the book was referring to the ways we could be receptive to the teachings of Saint Benedict, and to the mind of Christ. But receptivity is something, I think, that we should be working on and fostering in many ways in our everyday life. It is something that can help us show the love of Christ. 

Think of some of the ways we block receptivity to those around us - thinking we already know all the answers and not really listening to someone who offers their help; being frustrated that someone doesn’t know as much as we think they should and becoming impatient; rash judgment of the person or situation we encounter; not taking a few minutes to listen to the young child that can’t wait to share some news or a treasure they found, or not taking seriously the problems of a teenager that seem small to you, but are huge to them; thinking of your next response instead of listening to what the person across from you is saying; or simply being too busy for the person who loves you and wants some of your time. All of these are ways that we are unreceptive to the people in our lives. 

And what about God? Do we notice the “God moments” in our day? Sometimes things just fall into place, or we are at the right place at the right time, or have the right words for a given situation. God is there and is guiding us to what we need, and providing what other people need through us. Do we notice it? Are we open to it? Do we take some time is silence each day to listen for God in our hearts, or read His Word and let Him speak to us? Many of us are surrounded by different types of noise, often of our own making, from the time we get up until the time we go to bed. Being receptive to God is something we must work at every day.

What is the solution? Well, that’s what I asked Jesus as I sat in Adoration that day. Three virtues came to mind: humility, love, and charity. As I look back over what I wrote down while praying, and what I have written here I can see how those virtues fit as solutions to the above issues. All three of those virtues encourage us to focus outward, to consider and care for the needs of others, and to love them with Christ’s love. Being receptive to the Lord and His gifts, and faithful in prayer, will help us to build those virtues, and in turn become more receptive to both God and neighbor. We will learn, as Saint Benedict instructs, to listen with the ear of our hearts. 



Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Your Guardian Angel Misses You!

 Staying at the Daughters of Saint Paul convent for a week last Spring was an absolutely wonderful experience. The pre-scheduled rhythm of life, prayer, Mass, meals, and friendly and welcoming sisters were all an absolute joy. Yes, life in the convent was absolutely perfect…and then I showed up. 

When we pulled up to the convent and saw one of the sisters holding the front door open for us, I shouted, “Hi! We made it!! It’s so great to see you!!!”, which would have been fine if it wasn’t nearly 10:00 pm with most of the sisters trying to get to sleep after a busy day. The next day, after coming back to the convent at night, I arrived at the door of my room only to realize I had locked my keys inside when I left earlier. This time, instead of waking everyone up by shouting, it was a 10:00 pm text for help that roused a sister to come to my rescue. 

And if all that wasn’t embarrassing enough, my final act was accidentally kicking a doorstop  holding open a hallway door out of it’s place. That may not sound like a big deal, but that particular doorstop had probably been in its place for years without ever being moved, because when we tried to put it back in to hold the door open, we couldn’t figure it out. The door continually overpowered the small rubber stop with each new attempted placaement, leaving us all puzzled with how we were going to get this door propped open again. 

I’m guessing I’m not going to be getting any invitations to your home after reading all of this…

As we continued to struggle with the doorstop, I had the idea that we should probably pray for help with the situation. I mean, we were in a convent after all. Immediately, two sisters who were watching this whole ordeal unfold dropped to their knees and began praying. You can probably guess how the story ends. As soon as they said “Amen”, the doorstop held the door open as it had done before and all was back to normal. I mean, we were in a convent after all.

One of the sisters mentioned something along the lines of “My Guardian Angel never lets me down!” Like a lightning bolt, I was struck with by the sad truth that I have been neglecting my Guardian Angel for a really long time. Don’t get me wrong, I still pray the Guardian Angel prayer with my kids every night before bed; you know the one: 

Angel of God, my guardian dear,
to whom God's love commits me here,
ever this day be at my side,
to light and guard, to rule and guide.
Amen.

But outside of that prayer, I never really think of asking my Guardian Angel to help in my daily life. Imagine that! An angel, the angel, assigned to me personally by God, at my side every single day of my life from conception to now, and I haven’t been asking for their help?!

What a missed opportunity! What a whole bunch of missed opportunities!!

Thankfully, God is so gentle with us. He uses simple situations, like trying to get an old rubber doorstop back in place, to wake us up to realities that have fallen asleep inside us. He uses seemingly meaningless accidents and odd situations to pull us closer to Him and to remind us of the truth of Heaven and the power of prayer. He uses simple things about us, like my clumsiness, to remind us that we are loved and cared for in ways beyond our imagination.


So if it’s been a while since you’ve reached out to your Guardian Angel, take this as your reminder that they care about you, they miss you, and they want you to say hi!