RELATIONSHIP SUCCESS WITH YOUR HELP, YEA!

Posted April 8th, 2017 by CLMrf and filed in View From the Pew
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IMG_2914Dear Friends, Catholic Life Ministries happens because of the financial and spiritual support of our donors. Recently we completed a marriage preparation program called Engaging the Engage and a marriage enrichment weekend called Hidden Treasure. The evaluations have been outstanding. We are doing good work and you make it possible; THANK YOU!

Robert and Lori

Engaging the Engaged: Preparing for a Lifetime of Success in a Sacramental Marriage

We learned how to communicate with each other, how to pray together, and how to resolve conflict.  Thank you for an amazing experience.  

There is a lot that I need to work on to be a better wife…I learned how amazing my fiancé is and all that he does for me…Thank you for accepting my faith.

IMG_2948 I need to open up more…about praying and  welcoming God…We learned some important communication skills…Thank you; you have taught me and my fiancé a lot.

IMG_2928 I need to learn/speak more of my emotions…new communications skills have been a great help…I am going to miss these sessions…Thank you for taking the time to bless us with wisdom, knowledge, and faith.

 Some important skills we learned are communication, problem-solving, and learning to forgive…Thank you for the structure of the class…These sessions put attention on things we were avoiding.

 We discovered that we both want a Sacramental marriage…We liked getting to know all the other couples…We learned to put God/Jesus at the center of our marriage.

 Hidden Treasure: Helping Couples to Discover the Amazing Gift of Their Marriage

IMG_2866I feel blessed…I loved it…many couples could benefit from all of this information.

The sessions most helpful were “Taming the Tongue” and “Marriage Is Good for Sex.”  I have more tools in my toolbox to deal with the everyday struggles of matrimony, arguments, forgiveness,  affection, friendship, honor, love, fidelity, and listening.

I feel hopeful because we don’t have to be perfect.  We need to be the best versions of ourselves for each other.  The tools [presented] over the weekend help us to be the best version of ourselves as God has meant us to be because we are not perfect.

 

IMG_2888In participating in this retreat I feel love…It reminds me that we all have a lot in common.  We all need help and     understanding at times. [This couples retreat] allows you to get to know yourself and your spouse and open your eyes. 

The session most helpful was emotional engagement because [in] my experiences, I haven’t seen emotions explained like Robert did…it was beyond my expectation.

IMG_2861[Hidden Treasure]…reinforced what I had forgotten was important in my marriage…I feel God because I was able to experience it.  I will be able to share it with others.  I saw and feel the difference it made.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you win the rat race, you are still a rat.

Posted March 24th, 2017 by CLMrf and filed in View From the Pew

By Robert Fontana

Regret is an awful feeling.  I’m meeting with a lot of people who have been on the fast track to American success; and now they are, well, miserable.  Some of these folks seem to have it all – great looking spouses, $1,000,000,000 homes, gifted children – and yet they are about to implode with all the stress building in their bodies over the demands of their work, tensions with those good-looking spouses, and their gifted children who are using their gifts for expensive toys, late-night escapades, and drugs and alcohol.

10543624 - an army of rats is approaching - i hope the cat is ready! 3d render with digital painting.

By certain measures, they have won the “rat race;” but they hate the persons they have become.  I’m not sure if these people would call themselves “rats,” but they often call their significant other a “rat” and a lot of other names not suitable for this G-rated column.  If only they could turn back the clock.

I also meet with young adults just starting out in life. Some are living with their love interest and are preparing for marriage now that they have school and their career path settled.  They have entered the “rat race” and are eager to win it.  How are they going to avoid the pitfalls of my older friends who now live with deep regret?

This is what I say to both groups: Are you becoming the person, family, couple that you want to be?  To put it another way: when you turn 75 and your children, family, and/or friends throw you a party, what do you want them to say about you?  If they threw that party for you today, what would they say about you?

You get to create yourself.  Yes, your family history shapes who you are, and your biology gives you certain physical, mental, and emotional parameters.  But your past and/or biology do not totally determine the person you are becoming.  You get to choose that person.  I’m not saying that it is easy to overcome your past especially if there has been abuse and /or addiction in your history. I’m not saying that it is easy to overcome certain biological limitations and challenges.  Still, when all is said and done, you can have a profound influence in shaping the person that you are becoming through the choices you make.  Here are two examples:

  • Nelson Mandela was a political activist, freedom fighter, and the first black African to be president of South Africa. Mandela spent 25 years in prison because of his work to give black South Africans the basic constitutional rights as full citizens.  He was asked by former President Bill Clinton:  tell me the truth, when you were walking to freedom the last time, didn’t you hate ’em?” He said, “Yes.  Briefly I did. I hated them and I was afraid. I hadn’t been free in so long.  And then I realized if I still hated them after I left, they would still have me. I wanted to be free. And so I let it go.” He said, “That’s what you have to do.  That’s what we all have to do.  We have to let it go.”
  • DSCF5526Vincente was a man Lori and I met on El Camino de Santiago.  We first met him as all three of us were walking up a steep gravel path on a rainy day.  As we approached Vincente from behind, we could see that he walked slowly and with limp.  As we got closer we saw that, with one hand, he pulled a small upright basket on wheels. This contained his overnight bag. In his other hand, he held a crutch.  Clearly, he had some paralysis on one side of his body; we assumed he had had a stroke.  We stopped to talk with him; he shared his name, “Vincente,” and that he had been walking for 65 days.  He covered about 8-10 kilometers a day (5 – 6 miles) and still had at least 100 kilometers to go to reach the great cathedral of St. James in Santiago, Spain. Once he arrived there, he told us, he would meet his 85-year-old father and together they would take a holiday at the beach.  Vincente radiated joy and refused any offer to help him haul his gear up the hill.  He walked in rain and in 100-degree weather, up and down mountain passes, along some trails clearly meant only for mountain goats! He endured, taking one day at a time.  Vincente did not focus on his limitations.  He focused on what he could do; and he did it.

St. Paul writes (Romans 12:2),

“Do not conform yourselves to this age but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and pleasing and perfect.

C 3 If you are dissatisfied with who you are as a person, as part of a family, and/or in your marriage, you can change!  According to St. Paul, one gets out of the “rat race” through a renewal of the mind.  St. Paul’s exhortation coincides with current trends in psychology summarized in this phrase: change the way you think, and you’ll change the way you feel and act.  Still the transformation of the mind in Christ does not happen in a vacuum.  It happens through community. Identify the kind of person in Christ which you would like to become and start hanging around and talking with people who have those traits. If some of the issues holding you back are deeply rooted, get professional help.  Or, if you do not know what is hindering your growth, but find yourself in constant tension with the people and commitments of life, get professional help.  Get the help sooner than later.

If your car isn’t working right, you know that the longer you wait to take it to a mechanic, the worse it will be.  This is also true with the issues keeping you from becoming the person, family, and/or couple that you would like to be.  The longer you wait to get help, either from good friends or from professional counselors and spiritual directors, the harder it is to make the changes that you want to make.

Still, change is possible.  You have been created in the image of God.  You have been given the gift of free will, not simply to choose what you want to wear today or what you want to eat for supper, but to participate in creating the person that you are becoming.  If you are in the “rat race” and find that you are the “rat,” transformation in Christ is possible, no matter how old you are.  And if you are just starting out in life and don’t want to even start in on the “rat race,” that is possible too.  The choice is yours.

Post your thoughts.

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Join us for the CLM Spring Retreat: “My Soul Thirsts for God” 

Sunday, April 30, 2017, Peace and Spirituality Center, (St Mary-by-the-Lake) Bellevue, WA

The Catechism of the Catholic Church states that “The desire for God is written on the human heart” (Art 26)Most people of faith want to draw close to God; we want to know God’s love and  presence in a more personal way.  If that is true for you, consider taking time for this day of prayer. This will bee a day of quiet prayer, Scripture reflection, and small-group sharing. Set your    calendars for:

Robert Fontana will be the retreat director.   Robert has presented retreats for families, youth, and adults for over 35 years in Catholic parisrob's professional photohes and  retreat centers in Washington, Alabama, New Jersey, Montana, Oregon, California, and Texas.  He has also taught internationally in Tanzania, Swaziland, South Africa, Haiti, and Belize, Central America.  Robert has a Doctorate of Ministry and a Masters in Couples and Family Therapy.

Cost: $30 – singles, $50 – couple           Scholarships available!

Time: 9:30 a.m.- 4:30 p.m., Mass at 3:30, with presider Fr. Paul Fitterer, SJ

 To register: You can register online at catholiclifeministries.org.  Look to the column on the right, scroll down to “Register for an event.”  You may also mail in the registration fee along with your name, address, phone number, and email if you have one.  Send registration to: CLM, 1827 NE 58th St, #B, Seattle, WA 98105

 

 

 

LENT 2017: GET REFLECTIVE

Posted March 10th, 2017 by CLMrf and filed in View From the Pew
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By Robert Fontana

“Wait a minute, Robert, I was just at Mass. The priest challenged us to get out and serve the poor , reach out to neighbors who are suffering, and get involved with public policy to work for social change, and…”

woman-praying-at-altarI know, I know, I was at the same Mass.  And that is very tempting especially if we normally sit on our haunches and do nothing for others the rest of the year.  Lent then becomes the time to stop being lazy and do something good for others less fortunate than us.  Okay, perhaps that is what you and I need.  My problem with this approach is that, for most of us who have jobs, families, and are active in church, it simply adds additional busyness to our already busy lives.  And what it does not do is invite us to a more interior journey of prayer where we take the time – because the interior life does take time –   to examine who we are now as persons of faith, and who do we want to become in Christ.

¨ What are my relationships, habits, illusions, attitudes, biases, prejudices, attachments, addictions, and/or ambitions that are getting in the way of me becoming the person in Christ that I want to become?

¨ What are the relationships, habits, attitudes, biases, personal gifts, and practices that are helping me   become the person in Christ that I want to become?

We Christians as the one Church of God go on retreat twice a year, during Advent and Lent.  During these seasons we are often challenged to live the Gospel more intensely by reaching out to our neighbors especially the least among us.  As noble as this is, it often just adds on extra busyness which, if not accompanied by some soul-searching and deep reflection, leaves us no more  inwardly free to draw close to God and love our neighbor than when Advent/Lent began.  Interior freedom – freedom from sin and  selfishness, and freedom for love and justice – is a gift and goal that comes from being loved by Jesus:  “For freedom Christ set us free; so stand firm and do not submit again to the yoke of slavery…For you were called to for freedom, brothers and sisters.  But do not use this freedom as an opportunity for the flesh; rather, serve one another through love.” (Gal 5:1, 13)

man-prayingCertainly, every person who takes Lent seriously ought to pray and ask Jesus to show him/her the best path for keeping Lent.  If you are drawn to “do more” this Lent be “reflectively busy.  Examine your life, who you are, why do you do what you do, and work on letting go of the little attachments, pet peeves, resentments, and bad habits that keep you from being the person you want to be in Christ.  Very often such reflection is aided by talking with a friend or elder or spiritual director with whose Christian walk you admire and respect.

You work a job, care for you family, participate in your Church.  When do you take extra time to deepen your interior life and grow in your capacity for love?  Let Lent 2017 be a retreat time for you to do just that!

Please post your comments

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Join us for the CLM Spring Retreat:  “My Soul Thirsts for God” 

Sunday, April 30, 2017

C 3Robert Fontana will lead us in a day of quiet prayer, Scripture reflection, and small-group sharing.

Location: Peace and Spirituality Center, (St Mary-by-the-Lake) Bellevue, WA

Date:  Sunday, April 30, 2017  Cost: $30 – singles, $50 – couple

Scholarships available!

Location: Peace and Spirituality Center (St Mary by the Lake),

Bellevue, WA  

 Time: 9:30 a.m.- 4:30 p.m., Mass at 3:30, with presider Fr. Paul Fitterer, SJ

 To register: You can register online at catholiclifeministries.org.  Look to the column on the right, scroll down to “Register for an event.”  You may also mail in the registration fee along with your name, address, phone number, and email if you have one.  Send registration to: CLM, 1827 NE 58th St, #B, Seattle, WA 98105

 

 

 

 

LENT FOR COUPLES: WORK ON YOUR MARRIAGE!

Posted March 3rd, 2017 by CLMrf and filed in Marriage Jackpot, View From the Pew
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By Robert Fontana

couple2Jane and John Doe have been married for 12 years.  They have two children, and each has told me that he/she loves his/her spouse.  Yet they are caught in an endless cycle of swearing at one another and yelling variations of, “YOU DON’T LOVE ME ANYMORE.  IF YOU DID YOU WOULD……AND YOU WOULDN’T……”

Jane and John have developed such negative thoughts about each other that no matter what the other says or does, it is interpreted in a negative and suspicious way.  Each has told me, “I’m damned if I do and damned if I don’t.”  Their marriage is holding together by a thread.

couple-withdrawingWhy did they wait for so long before they came in for help?  Imagine Jane bruising her arm badly in a fall; imagine John, cutting vegetables, getting a deep gash on his hand when the knife slipped.  Neither one goes to Urgent Care for medical care.  Then Jane and John get in an auto accident.  Jane breaks her leg, and John smashes his hand, which reopens the wound made by the knife cut; he begins to bleed profusely.  They still don’t go to ER for medical care.  THIS WOULD NEVER HAPPEN!  When we receive an injury to our bodies, we go to the doctor for help.

It seems, however, that when we receive an injury to our marriage, when we are hurting one another over and over again, we work hard to hide it from others, and we often deny it to ourselves.  There is a social stigma about relationship and mental health challenges.  Because these health issues are often seen as shameful, embarrassing, and humiliating, we might not seek help early on, which could keep the problem at a manageable level, reasonably simple to solve.  Jane and John Doe waited until their relationship was crushed by mutual hurt and pain.  The couple was staring at an ugly and brutal divorce as they called me, hoping I could work some magic to get them back on the right track.  Can their marriage be saved?  Yes.  Will they give counseling the time, the hard work, and the patience needed to improve their relationship?  I don’t know.

hidden treasure book coverLent for couples; work on your marriage.  March 1st begins the 40 days of Lent, an ancient season of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving to help each of us break with sin and selfishness.  If you are married, I urge you to use Lent as a time to draw closer to one another in Christ.  If your marriage is going well, strengthen it by trying just one of these suggestions: pray together just a little more; read a faith-based book together; serve the poor together; make a retreat together; buy a copy of Hidden Treasure and do the exercises, intended to strengthen love and friendship (Hidden Treasure, a workbook to help you discover the amazing gift of your marriage, available at amazon.com or barnesandnobles.com).

If you are dissatisfied with some aspects of your marriage or think that you and your spouse do not communicate as well as you should, try a retreat like Marriage Encounter (www.wwme.org), or Retrouvaille (www.retrouvaille.org) or call a marriage counselor for help.  Get help now to work through issues of miscommunication, hurt, and resentment while you and your spouse still like each other and are still friends.  If you wait to get help as a last ditch effort to avoid divorce court, it just may be too late.  At that point, you have one foot out the door and may not have the motivation to do the hard work of rebuilding your marriage.

couple holding handsPray for Jane and John Doe.  They are teetering on the edge.  With hard work, and the help of God, and the guidance of a competent therapist, I am confident that they can again become for each other a primary source of joy and happiness and minimize their being a source of frustration and unhappiness for each other.  Certainly not all marriages can or should be saved.  But I have read hundreds of case studies and books on marriage and relationship success.  I have not heard of one case in which a couple who has succeeded in working through their difficulties, regrets the hard work of setting their marriage on the right path.

Lent is here.  If you are married, consider drawing on the graces of this season to value and work on your marriage.  Pray daily for your spouse; pray daily for strong, grace-filled marriages, which form the building block of society and of the reign of God!

David Clohessy was a friend when I needed one

Posted February 19th, 2017 by CLMrf and filed in View From the Pew

By Robert Fontana

david clohesseyDavid Clohessy, the executive director of the Survivors Network of People Abused by Priests (SNAP), resigned from his position in December.  He is pictured here presenting an award to me as the SNAP Lay Person of the Year, 2012.  In January, David was named in a lawsuit which claims that, in exchange for “kickbacks,” he provided names of potential clients to attorneys who were suing the Catholic Church.  David acknowledges accepting donations for SNAP from lawyers who have sued the Catholic Church, but he  denies ever accepting any money for exchange of     client information.  Lori and I believe David.

We are sad to see David leave SNAP.  Catholic   leaders have NEVER VOLUNTARILY TOLD THE TRUTH about sex abuse in the church.  The truth was pulled, pushed, and prodded out of them by survivors of sex abuse through public rallies, lawsuits, and media exposure.

David and the survivors community have been like the little shepherd boy with a slingshot and a stone, fighting the giant Goliath Catholic hierarchy, with its deep financial pockets, and a worldwide network of sympathetic government and civic leaders.  In truth, David is one of the best friends the Catholic Church has because his work is calling the Church back to its foundational principles: to live by truth which sets one free, and to protect the weak and the vulnerable, especially children.

When Lori and I first challenged the Bishop of the Yakima Diocese for his behavior of protecting  clergy and lay people who had abused or demonstrated a credible risk to abuse children, youth, or vulnerable adults, we quickly lost lots of friends.  I thought that most Catholics, including clergy with whom I had worked, would rally to our side, given the national scandal of sex abuse that had spread across the country and around the globe. But that did not happen.  Sadly, we learned that few Catholics could stomach going to Mass if they were mad at or challenging their Bishop or their pastor.

There were a handful of people who listened to our story and fully stood by us; there were a few who “got      involved” to help as we tried to expose the shenanigans of the bishop and diocesan officials who did everything but tell the truth about sexual predators in the Diocese of Yakima.

snapWe turned to David Clohessy and other SNAP   leaders for help, moral support, a listening ear, and guidance.  David had a long history of fighting Church leaders; we were just beginning.  David helped us enter into the world of survivors of sex abuse.  He taught us about the role of bishops and church officials from the victims’ side of the  story, a perspective we had never known.

We began meeting with survivors of sex abuse, some who had been abused by diocesan priests at local parishes, and others who were Native Americans abused by Jesuits or nuns at boarding schools.  We not only learned about the abuse they received as children, but also about what they  described as being “re-abused” by church leaders who refused to believe their stories, paid lip-service to their pain, and manipulated them into silence.

We also began learning about current issues of cover-up by the bishop from 1997 through 2005.  These were not cases dating back 40 and 50 years, but were happening while I was at the Diocese of Yakima.  David Clohessy was an invaluable ally who taught us to trust the survivors, to look for signs of cover-up, to question when diocesan leaders made pronouncements, and to combat diocesan stonewalling with patient commitment to uncovering the facts of a case, regardless of whom it might implicate.

During this time, I was discouraged to learn about a dear priest friend who had been living a double life of public ministry and private sexual promiscuity; he was abusing a vulnerable young adult.  I learned about two of my former spiritual directors, priests with whom I had trusted my deepest thoughts and feelings and to whom I had confessed my sins; both were connected to abuse.  One was in prison for abusing boys at a family shelter.  The other was named as the long-time sexual partner of another priest who was a serial pedophile from Spokane.

SNAPDavid never once asked that we leave the Catholic Church or quit ministry.  He merely invited Lori and me to continue to be advocates for survivors of sex abuse in the church and in society and to work at holding church leaders accountable for their behavior.  He never failed to answer a phone call, respond to a text and/or email, or give us help as we dealt with the duplicity, misinformation, and nastiness of the bishop and associates.   David was a good friend when Lori and I needed one.  We will deeply miss his leadership at SNAP; we pray the Holy Spirit will sustain and bless him and his family.

(For more information on SNAP go to snapnetwork.org or call (314) 282-9936 ).

 

We live in scary times. What to do?

Posted February 5th, 2017 by CLMrf and filed in View From the Pew

By Lori and Robert Fontana

We live in scary times.  How are we as Christians and   faithful citizens to respond to all that is happening?  Jesus said to read “the signs of the times” as we try to understand what God is doing in the world and to discern what God is asking of us.

mexican poorWhat are the “signs of the times”?  Here are a few obvious ones: social upheaval with a new enigmatic  American president; a world     refugee/migration crisis unparalleled since WW II; a global environmental crisis caused by human-influenced climate change; social unrest among diverse peoples left out of the global economic order (think poor farmers in southern Mexico and   factory workers in Ohio); oppression of religious minorities;   distrust of social institutions from churches, governments, banks, corporations, and media; sexual abuse of women and children; political divisions between urbanites and rural folk; and violence as a quick, easy response to unplanned pregnancies, personal insults, criminal behavior, and diplomatic challenges.

 How would one know what God is up to within all of this chaos?  One way is to consult the Scriptures, particularly the Gospels, and remind ourselves of the scandalizing teachings and behaviors of Jesus: he gathered together disciples (men, women, and children) and taught them the Beatitudes.  He ate with social outcasts; taught love of enemies; healed pagans and Jews; protected vulnerable women from abuse by men of power.  He spoke truth to power, both Jewish and  Roman; welcomed children; affirmed marriage; fed the hungry; healed the sick; and showed mercy to the condemned.  

Pray these Scriptures and seek to “put on the mind of Christ.” (Phil 2:6)  But don’t do this in isolation.  Pray through the Scriptures with others. Let your insights be tested with the thoughts of  other people of faith and good will, even if they have a perspective different than yours.  One of the great needs during these difficult times is for people of faith to be willing to listen and learn from one another:

pope francis 4 Pay Attention to Pope Francis.  Pope Francis has challenged us  – Catholics, Christians from all  denominations, and all people of goodwill – to build bridges and not walls, to welcome the migrant as a friend not an enemy, and to allow mercy to be the clearest manifestation of our faith in Jesus. 

Pope Francis is not blind to the risk of placing the Church (which means all the baptized, lay and clergy) at the service of mercy.  Francis understands “mercy” to be central to understanding who God is and what God is doing in the world through Jesus and the Holy Spirit.  It is risky business to allow “mercy” to shape one’s civic duty.  For Francis, this means advocating for the unborn; sheltering the homeless; respecting gays and lesbians; caring for the sick and aged; welcoming and supporting the divorced and re-married; receiving with compassion the members of all religious traditions; speaking with and listening to   political opponents; working to eliminate the human contributions to climate change; and joining with all people of goodwill to work for the common good. 

Our Christian faith has challenged us over the years to transform our thinking.  For example, we have always worked as   advocates for the unborn, but I once favored capital punishment.  In prayer and through the writings of Pope John Paul II and the example of Sr. Helen Prejean, I was challenged to rethink my position.  We had never talked with a follower of Islam; but the examples of Jesus, St. Francis of Assisi, and Pope Francis challenged us to meet with Muslims, attend their Friday prayer, and learn from them how they view the world.  We would resist attempts to impose sharia law on others, but the Muslims we met we gladly welcome as neighbors. 

During these difficult times, we want to be about what God is doing in the world.  We, Lori and Robert, want to be careful that we are on God’s side of on an issue, and not simply trying to pull God to our side/our view of an issue.  Very often this means standing in the middle of an issue and holding on to the good from the “left” and the “right.”  We encourage you to do the same.

All of us can do this if we draw close to Jesus, talk and listen to others who may be different from us, and pay attention to the actions and wisdom of Pope Francis who is convinced that “MERCY” is the word the Holy Spirit has given us to respond to the “signs of the times.”

 

Spring begins tomorrow…in Ireland

Posted January 31st, 2017 by CLMrf and filed in View From the Pew
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By Robert Fontana

Ah, the flowers are budding, the sky is clearing, the days are warming, and the Pub owners are opening up their patios for its patrons.  Spring is in the air, that is, in Ireland.

irelandFebruary 1 is celebrated as the first day of spring in Ireland.   Okay, you’ve visited Ireland.  You know that Ireland is an island in the North Atlanta.  Ireland has two seasons.  Summer with some rain, July thru September; Winter with lots of rain, October thru June (and its cold).  The Irish need a day of hope to get them to St. Patrick’s Day in six weeks.  That day is February 1, the first day of Spring and also the Feast of St. Brigid.  Brigid was a fierce lover of Jesus who lived in Ireland at the time of St. Patrick.   We Fontanas become “O’Fontanas” on Feb 1 and mix the two events, first day of Spring and St. Bridgid’s Day, for a fun family ritual.  I share that with you below, but first, let me give your a brief story of St. Bridgid.

St. Brigid of Ireland.  St. Patrick baptized Brigid’s mother, Brocca.  Brocca was a slave and Brigid was born into slavery.  Not much is known of her childhood, but she was a friend of St. Patrick according to the Book of Armagh which reads:  “Between St. Patrick and Brigid, the pillars of the Irish people, there was so great a friendship of charity that they had but one heart and one mind. Through him and through her Christ performed many great works.”

St. Brigid is credited with founding and leading a double monastery, one belonging to women and the other t0 men.  This indicates the prominent role that women played in the formative years of the Irish Church.  Many miracles are credited to her intercessions before and after her death.  She is remembered by her followers in Kildare (Church of the Oak) which was a center for prayer, study and copying of the Scriptures and other ancient writings, and metal work.  The nuns at Kildare maintained a fire symbolizing the divine presence in the world and in the Church from the middle of the 5th century until the Protestant Reformation 1,000 years later.

St. Brigid is credited with creating the “St. Brigid’s Cross” made from reeds.  It is said that she was comforting a dying Druid king who asked Brigid to tell him about her God.  She told him the story of Jesus, and as she was doing this, crafted a cross out of reeds, like the one pictured.

St. Brigid is one of the patron saints of Ireland, with St. Patrick and St. Columba, and she is also known as Mary of the Gael.

Here is a prayer and ritual to celebrate both even if you do not live in Ireland and Spring is no where to be seen.

Begin with this Prayer to St. Brigid

Saint Brigid, daughter of Ireland and lover of Jesus, draw us by your prayers into the living flame of God’s love.  Help us to clean our hearts and homes of all that is selfish and self-centered. 

Pray that we will be attentive to the poor and spiritually abandoned, that we will practice the Beatitudes in good times and bad, and that the warmth of God’s love will animate all that we say and do.

Each member of the home takes a kerchief or handkerchief (could also use a bandana or cloth napkin) in hand and walks through the house dusting the furniture and books, and lamps, etc. singing “Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia.”

When the house has been thoroughly dusted, go outside and tie the kerchiefs on the branches of a tree and pray this prayer:

All:  St. Brigid, come this day to our home and hearts, come by the power of God and be our guest.  Help us, dear Brigid, to wipe away the dust of “me, and my, and mine” that we might love others with a selfless heart.  We pray this in the name of Jesus.  Amen.

Our Father…

 

Culture Christmas is over; the real Christmas continues…

Posted December 28th, 2016 by CLMrf and filed in View From the Pew
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By Robert Fontana

Culture’s Christmas ended at midnight on December 25th.  So all the decorations in the stores have come down to be replaced by those for New Year’s and even Valentine’s Day.

DON’T FOLLOW THEIR EXAMPLE!  Stand up to the culture and keep your Christmas decorations up at least through the 12 days of Christmas which would take you to the great Feast of Epiphany on January 6th.  And even after that holy day, why not keep your nativity set up throughout the month of January and play a few Christmas carols on your CD player each day, and encourage your parish church to do the same? February 2nd, the Feast of the Presentation of Jesus in the temple (Luke 2:22-31), would be an appropriate day for bringing closure to our observance of Christmas and the birth of God’s beloved son Jesus, born of Mary (the Vatican keeps up its nativity set up until Feb 2).

Why?  Because the Feast of the Incarnation of God’s love in Jesus is so marvelous, so awesomely amazing, so over the top, and has such transformative power in helping us love God and love each other!  Let’s keep the celebration going for another month!  Perhaps by extending the observance of Christmas through the simple gestures of singing Christmas hymns and maintaining the crèche in our homes and churches, we will be better equipped to carry on the work of Christmas throughout the year: welcoming the lonely, caring for the sick, visiting the imprisoned, clothing the naked, and feeding the hungry.

When I sit in silence before the figures of the nativity crèche, I am struck by the profoundly human scene I am witnessing: such adoring love being poured out for this newborn baby.  Who among us has not had such an experience of being utterly captivated by the incredible beauty and vulnerability of a newborn child?  And do not our hearts spontaneously overflow with love for the child as we gaze on her in the crib or hold him in our arms!

The Incarnation of God’s beloved son born of Mary is really not too difficult a story to grasp.  We have a taste of it every time a child is born into the world, regardless of the difficult circumstances of that birth.  Every human being conceived is a child of God, made in God’s image and likeness, and carries within his or her soul a spark of the divine and a hint of the Incarnation.  Is it any wonder that Jesus said unless we become like little children, we will not enter the kingdom of heaven?  Is it any wonder that Jesus said when we do any act of mercy to the poorest and most marginalized persons, we are doing that act of mercy to Jesus.

When we pray before the crèche we see the entire human story, of rich and poor, women and men, young, old, and precious new life with its inevitable death looming in the future. This human story is sanctified through God’s most audacious act since the creation of the universe: the Son of God born of a woman.  God’s commitment to the human race is now made perfectly clear and irrevocable.  Jesus is God’s full, complete, and absolute offer of love to every human being. Thus the followers of Jesus are also completely and irrevocably committed to “every human being” as the bishops at the Second Vatican Council so elegantly stated:

The joys and the hopes, the griefs and the anxieties of the [men and women] of this age, especially those who are poor or in any way afflicted, these are the joys and hopes, the griefs and anxieties of the followers of Christ. Indeed, nothing genuinely human fails to raise an echo in their hearts. For theirs is a community composed of [men and women]. United in Christ, they are led by the Holy Spirit in their journey to the Kingdom of their Father and they have welcomed the news of salvation which is meant for every [person]. That is why this community realizes that it is truly linked with [humankind] and its history by the deepest of bonds. (Pastoral Constitution of the Church in the Modern World)

Christmas calls for a “Gloria” that should continue through January! So let’s continue the observance of Christmas in prayer, song, symbol, and service.  Let’s invite the Christmas Spirit, which is the Holy Spirit, to inspire us in joy, graciousness, and generosity within the daily events and commitments of life.  May it be said of us as it was said of Ebenezer Scrooge, following the visits by the three spirits, “…that he knew how to keep Christmas well, if any man alive possessed the knowledge. May that be truly said of us, and all of us! And so, as Tiny Tim observed, ‘God bless Us, Every One!’” (A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens)

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A Five-Minute Christmas Homily – Jesus is the Gift of Christmas

Posted December 22nd, 2016 by CLMrf and filed in View From the Pew

By Robert Fontana

35680619 - african american reverend holding up biblePastors and preachers, keep your Christmas homily short.  The Christmas liturgy, Christmas carols, and family celebrations proclaim the meaning of this sacred day.  All the faithful need from you is an “exclamation point” (and it helps to involve the community).  Here’s my try at a 5 minute Christmas homily.

Priest                 MERRY CHRISTMAS, CHURCH!  I’m going to need your help with this Christmas homily.  When I raise my hand, would you shout out, “Jesus is the gift of Christmas!” (Raises hand.)

Church             JESUS IS THE GIFT OF CHRISTMAS!

Priest Would all the children and teenagers stand.  I know that you have       presents under the tree, and they are probably wrapped.  I want you to remember, (priest raises hand)

Church            JESUS IS THE GIFT OF CHRISTMAS!

Priest              Adults, please stand.  You are friends, parents and grandparents, uncles and aunts.  You are probably responsible for most of the gifts beneath the tree.  I want you to remember, (priest raises hand)

Church            JESUS IS THE GIFT OF CHRISTMAS!

Priest              Jesus, once a baby in Bethlehem, once a man in Galilee, once a prophet crucified in Jerusalem, is here with us right now!  Jesus is not a doctrine to memorize; Jesus is not a list of moral do’s and don’ts.  Jesus is a    person, like you and me, risen, and living in our midst.  Let us invite him into our hearts this night (priest raises hand).

Church             JESUS IS THE GIFT OF CHRISTMAS!

nativityPriest               Every gift has to be opened in order to enjoy it.  If you do not open the “gift of Jesus,” he will remain closed off in a box somewhere.  But when you open the “gift of Jesus,” amazing things happen.  YOU FEEL LOVED!  YOU FEEL FORGIVEN!  YOU FEEL DEEP JOY!  And you sense a new purpose in your life.  You want to share this gift with others, with your children and friends, and especially with all who are poor, alone, sick, and afraid (priest raises hand).

Church           JESUS IS THE GIFT OF CHRISTMAS!

Priest             So as you open presents, do not forget to open the gift of Jesus.  Receive Jesus’ love; receive Jesus’ forgiveness; receive Jesus’ joy.  Then share this love, forgiveness, and joy with everyone, everywhere, everyday of the year.  Merry Christmas, Church (priest raises hand).

Church          JESUS IS THE GIFT OF CHRISTMAS!

Please post your comments!

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Marriage Musings:  MY SPOUSE IS DRIVING ME #*&#%#%!!!!

Posted December 12th, 2016 by CLMrf and filed in Marriage Jackpot

By Robert Fontana

couple-withdrawingTrue stories!  Names and circumstances have been changed:

Jay and Sandra, 30 years of marriage; four children.

Sandra:  I’m married to the quiet man.  We are both going to retire soon, and I will have to spend my time with HIM!  Oh he’s a good father, makes a nice salary, but rarely says a word!  And when he does talk, it’s to “suggest improvements” with meals, parenting improvements, or whatever!

Jay:  I’m not sure why we’re here.  I don’t criticize my wife.  What she takes as criticism are suggestions just to make things better.  She’s very emotional; I’m very rational.  I don’t understand why she is so unhappy, but she takes it out on me by not wanting to have sex.

 And

Max and Esmerelda, living together for 8 months; wedding in four months; she’s pregnant.

Esmerelda: He disappears at the hint of conflict!  WE HAVE A BABY COMING!  This was not in the plan, but I’m getting used to it.  When I told him that I was pregnant, he didn’t say a word.  He just turned around and left!

Max:  I needed time to think. I could not think with you yelling at me about getting a better job and moving to a bigger apartment.  You are just like your father.  He yelled at you; you yell at me.

Can these relationships survive?  ABSOLUTELY!

couple-in-counseling-unhappyFrom the research:  Couples like these above have contacted me, a therapist-in-training in Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT), an evidenced-based approach to couple counseling that is extremely effective.  Here’s the process:

  1. Name the real culprit undermining the relationship! Stop blaming one another for all the unhappiness in the relationship.  “He’s not the problem,” and “She’s not the problem.”  The problem is the negative dynamic the two of them have created that undermines love.  One spouse’s negative words and/or actions feed the negative words and/or actions of the other spouse and vice-versa creating this “demon dynamic” that is hurtful and leads to bitterness and emotional distance.
  1. Call “time-out!” “You created this demon dynamic, and you can un-create it.”  Once couples have learned to recognize the “demon dynamic,” they can learn how to stop it when tensions are escalating by calling “time-out!”  “Time-out” gives couples space to replace the “demon dynamic” with a healthy marital dynamic, something they learn to do in counseling.
  1. Replace the “demon dynamic” with an “agape dynamic.” Agape is a Greek word that describes doing what is best for another person. In regard to couples in conflict, it means helping couples to replace the “demon dynamic” of hurt and counter-hurt with words and behaviors that restore love.  I especially help couples to listen to and understand the emotions behind a spouse’s comments.  EMOTIONS DRIVE BEHAVIOR, even for adults who say they are not emotional.
  1. Emotional engagement. I especially help couples to pay attention to each one’s own emotional life, particularly the deeper emotions that lie behind anger, rage, and bitterness.  These are the difficult feelings of shame, guilt, loneliness, hurt, sadness, isolation, and rejection that surface when a spouse does not feel safe, loved, accepted, affirmed, and cared for in a relationship.   When a spouse can name these feelings and the other spouse can listen with understanding, then positive engagement happens.

Marriage and Faith:  Speaking kindly to loved ones during difficult times has been a challenge since the time of Adam and Eve.  Here’s wisdom from the Epistle to the Ephesians:

 Therefore, putting away falsehood, speak the truth, each one to his neighbor, for we are members one of another. Be angry but do not sin; do not let the sun set on your anger, and do not leave room for the devilNo foul language should come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for needed edification, that it may impart grace to those who hear.

Woman Looking at a Man Sitting Beside HerMarriage Tip:   When you are not feeling well, you go to the doctor who checks your pulse and blood pressure, indicators of your physical health.  Couples ought to do an annual check of the “pulse and pressure” of their marriage through a relationship assessment (go to workonyourmarriage.org; click on “Marriage Assessment” in the left hand column).

Be as honest as possible in doing the assessment.  If your assessment results are great, keep doing what you are doing.  Be intentional about continuing the good things that are helping your marriage work.

If from your assessment you discover that your marriage needs some work, decide now to do something positive to strengthen the areas that need work:  read a book together, e.g. The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work by John Gottman or His Needs/Her Needs by Willard Harley; watch relationship videos e.g. Hidden Keyes to Loving Relationships Gary Smalley; attend a marriage workshop sponsored by a nearby church or therapy group (look for The Marriage Tune-up in late January, sponsored by yours truly); and/or attend a retreat e.g. Marriage Encounter.

And if there are deep hurts in the marriage, and/or your relationship is spiraling out of control, DO NOT DESPAIR!  There is help.  Marriage counseling is effective with a well-trained counselor.  I recommend a counselor trained in Emotionally Focused Therapy.  Find one near you by going on-line to http://www.iceeft.com/

 THIS IS IMPORTANT:  DO NOT LET INSURANCE RESTRICTIONS OR THE COST OF MARRIAGE WORKSHOPS, RETREATS, AND/OR COUNSELING DRIVE YOUR DECISION TO GET HELP.  You spend money on sports events, vacations, hunting trips, new cars, and dinner out.  Find the therapist that is best for you even if he or she is not on your insurance plan.  The therapist can give you a receipt that you can submit for reimbursement.  And truly, the cost is worth the outcome – a successful marriage!

Please post your comments.