Faith Shared Is Faith Multiplied…

Recently, there was a faith-sharing program at my parish. The idea was to have one visitor for each religious education classroom who would spend 15-20 minutes with the children, sharing via a story, song, prayer(s), an experience, etc. from their faith journey and allowing for questions and conversation. It was remarkable to see the impact of such sharing. Not only were the children positively affected by the presence of the visitor and his/her sharing, but the visitors were also affected through both their interactions with the children and the act of sharing their faith. Beyond the shadow of a doubt, faith shared was faith multiplied!

In reflecting on this experience, I couldn’t help but think of my own family. I know what faith and my relationship with God means to me, where I stand today. I can also see how both have changed during the course of my lifetime. As a parent, I strive to share my faith with my children and to encourage a relationship with God. This is something I pray about and ask God to help my husband and me to do without going overboard. My greatest desire when it comes to this is that my children may come to know God and develop a relationship with God that is central to their lives, a relationship that they can call their own and to which they can remain faithful; not one forced upon them and not necessarily identical to mine outside of the basic tenets.

Sometimes I wonder though, what does faith and/or prayer mean to my children (elementary school and pre-teen) at this time in their life? What kind of impact might going to Mass, religious education, family life and prayer be having on them? Well, instead of continuing to wonder, I decided to try to check it out.

What do you remember most in terms of your faith experience so far?

My First Communion.

What about your First Communion?

I remember it because it was a big milestone in my Christian faith and it was really special to me. I got to drink and eat Jesus’ blood and body for the first time. Finally, I got to receive Communion after all those years of going to Mass every week and not being able to receive because I was too young.

So you finally got to receive the body and blood of Christ. How was that special to you?

I had waited such a long time to do it and had always wanted to be able to receive Communion. After I receive Communion, I feel like it’s the start of a new week and that all of my mistakes from the past week have been forgiven. After I receive Communion I feel happier. In the Gospel it says whoever eats my body and drinks my blood will never hunger or thirst. When I receive Communion I feel blessed and like I will never run out of faith.

What does it mean to you to “never run out of faith”?

It means that I will always believe. Every time I receive Communion I feel stronger in my faith. It’s good to have faith because it can help you to be a better person and God can help you through anything and everything. When you pray to God, God always answers, in one way or another, and He always listens.

How do you know that?

I know that God always answers in one way or another because God can speak to you in many different ways such as images, nature, or animals and God can help you to relax. For example, one time I had a big test I had to take and I prayed to God the night before about helping me not to be nervous. I was afraid that I would be clueless and I wouldn’t know what to write or what to put down for answers. When I was taking the test, the next day, I felt calm and relaxed and I wasn’t afraid about not knowing how to answer the questions. I prayed to God to help me not to be nervous and I wasn’t nervous and that’s one example of how I know that God always listens and answers your prayers. I still don’t know how I did on that test, but I know that God was with me.

How does that make you feel?

Blessed and happy.

What would you say to someone who doesn’t pray?

God doesn’t just help people who pray. He helps everyone. If someone doesn’t pray and they’re still going through a tough time, He will help them get through it. I think it’s a person’s choice whether they want to practice faith or not, but I would recommend doing it. Praying has helped me through tough times in my life and it would probably help others too.

……………………………………………………..

What do you remember most in terms of your faith experience so far?

When Jesus was talking about being the good shepherd and how He came for everyone, and not a particular group of people. To me, that means that everyone is equal in the eyes of Jesus. He didn’t just come to save Jewish people. He came to save any person in the world. He came to save everybody. This also means that Jesus can help anybody to be a better person even if they haven’t been a particularly devout person. It means that with His help we can all become a better person. I find this verse comforting because sometimes when I am really upset and I might feel like no one cares about me, it helps me to realize that, that is not true. God always cares about me.

“God always cares about me,” what’s that like for you to know that?

It helps me to feel comforted. It also helps me to feel like there is someone out there who cares about me all the time no matter what. Someone I can turn to for help.

What’s it like when you turn to God for help?

When I’m really upset, I can feel kind of desperate. Generally, when there is a problem, I pray for help. I ask God to help me and to help the situation. As I’m sitting there I feel like praying helps me. I pray and then I try to be quiet and I feel like God helps me to stop worrying. God answers my prayers.

What would you say to someone who doesn’t pray?

I would say to them, “Try it. God always listens to prayers.”

How do you know that?

My mom told me that. I think it’s her way of encouraging me that I can turn to God with anything. When I pray, it helps me to feel better. So maybe my mom is right.

……………………………………………………..

Wow! God is clearly answering my prayers. May God continue helping all of us to grow, to share, and to live in faith. Praise God!

“What was from the beginning,
what we have heard,
what we have seen with our eyes,
what we looked upon
and touched with our hands
concerns the Word of life–

for the life was made visible;
we have seen it and testify to it
and proclaim to you the eternal life
that was with the Father and was made visible to us–

what we have seen and heard
we proclaim now to you,
so that you too may have fellowship with us;
for our fellowship is with the Father
and with his Son, Jesus Christ.

We are writing this so that our joy may be complete.” — 1John1:1-4

Course Correction…

Sometimes I can be jogging along the road, running straight ahead, focused on the finished line or getting to the next step, and before I know it, I am on my own. Somehow I have managed to veer off course. When that happens, I’m left scratching my head and wondering, “How did that happen? Where did God and I part ways?” Maybe God took a breather or a right turn a few blocks back, and somehow, I was “in the zone” moving along with zeal and completely missing the fact that the course had changed, or that it was not a straight line from point A to point B.

It can be so challenging, and downright difficult, to be filled with the desire, enthusiasm, and passion to get to point B only to find that, not only is point B a moving target, but that point B also seemingly moves without any rhyme or reason. When I feel so called to something, my prayer and reflection points to it, and comments and feedback from others support me moving in that direction, it can be so trying when that thing seems so close, but then turns out to seem far beyond reach. I can’t help but wonder, “What the heck! I thought we were on the same page!” Frustration would be a mild term for the feeling.

When that happens, it is like a flashing red light appears and I can almost hear “wheeee-oooooo,” “wheeee-oooooo,” “wheeee-oooooo,” beckoning me to put the brakes on and pull over to the side. As much as I might prefer to charge ahead, after all this is the course. It has already been decided! (Or, has it?)

I find it is only by coming to a standstill and regrouping with God, and sometimes also with the help of close family or friends, that I am able to take a deep breath and to move toward accepting that perhaps, the time has not yet arrived. I recall the past, and the things that God has made possible in my life, even when they seemed so far out of reach. I am reminded that nothing is impossible for God, that God really does know best, and that I need to let these experiences help me to keep trusting that God is with me, and that God’s timing is impeccable. With this, I feel grateful once again and am able to say, “Okay, God. I’m ready to get back on track. I’m ready to take it slow. You lead and I will follow. Let’s walk on.”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y-8L3GO1-CI

Letting God Out of the Box…

Driving the length of the New Jersey Turnpike with the many exits, all numbered and some with A, B, or C, E or W tacked on after the number, I take notice of all the different roads that one might choose. I think of all the different paths and possibilities throughout life, not only for me and my husband, but also for our children. As we navigate the challenges, the joys and the sorrows of life, and the busyness of the world in which we live, it seems the best thing my husband and I can do for ourselves and our children, is to help them to know about God and to teach and encourage them to pray; that is, to help them to have a relationship with God. In fact, of all the things my husband and I might give to our son and daughter, or that they might acquire for themselves, prayer and relationship with God is the one thing that no one can ever take away from them.

Looking out the window as we continue to drive along, I think back to a time, when prayer in my life was just a cursory thing and relationship with God was a foreign concept. I recall one day, thinking and feeling that God was so distant…so far removed. Did God even care about the daily happenings of my life? Weren’t they too small for God compared to all other things?

I recall a conversation in which it became clear to me that my ongoing restlessness probably had something to do with where I was placing God in my life. If my life was a baseball diamond, it was as if God was way over in the bullpen, on standby, instead of behind the plate, calling the pitches. I started to think about, and to imagine, what it might be like to have God leading the way. The more I thought about it, the more I started to feel like I wanted God to be at the center of my life. The only problem was that I didn’t know where to begin. Other than attending Sunday Mass, praying before meals, and thanking God for all that I had and praying for other people at bedtime, I wasn’t aware that there were other ways of praying, or even that it was okay for me to pray for myself.

At the suggestion of a good friend, and the encouragement of a Spiritual Director, though, I began by simply spending more time in conversation with God. At first, just talking to God, wherever and whenever, seemed strange to me. So I started by going to daily Mass as often as I could and somewhere in the time leading up to Communion I would express my desire for God to be at the center of my life and for God to guide me and lead me. As time went on, I found myself more at ease and wanting to know more about God and God’s Word. I started to spend more time reading Scripture and praying with Scripture; setting aside time for quiet reflection and asking God to help me to see and hear more clearly. I also started to become more familiar with other parishioners and one day, one of the women at daily Mass asked me if I wanted to go downstairs after Mass for the women’s prayer group. I was unsure, but decided to give it a try, and before long it became a regular weekly activity.

What I did not know then, was that God was answering my prayers. God was placing me with people who, through prayer and sharing, were helping me to witness God and God’s ways in everyday life, making God seem closer than ever. In the years since I first had that conversation about God being in the bullpen, I have developed a relationship with God that is far greater than I could have ever imagined. It is like having the best GPS one could ever have.

NJTP