The Great Adventure Catholic Bible Study 73 Books. One Story. Your Story. Thu, 21 Aug 2014 13:49:24 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Do You Look Like Hope? Thu, 21 Aug 2014 04:15:22 +0000 road_tripAs I write this, I’m fresh off the experience of an epic five-week road trip with my son Adam.

While the art and science of traveling 7,500 miles with a 19-year-old in a MINI Cooper is fodder for a blog post, I spent much of our adventure pondering a single bible verse.

In 1 Peter 3:15, the apostle offers encouragement to the faithful of his time:

Always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope.

In the following verse, Peter teaches that their evangelization be tempered with gentleness and respect, and delivered with a clear conscience.

As we drove across this magnificent country and into Canada on our excursion, Adam and I met literally scores of new friends along the road. It often happens that within a line or two of introduction, I share that I am a Catholic.

I don’t do this to proselytize. My faith is simply as central to my being as my brown eyes or my vocation to motherhood. It defines me as a person, informs my actions, and lays foundation for my life’s greatest goals.

And over the past few weeks I’ve found that venturing outside my comfort zone and into new venues provides a fresh perspective on those three words at the heart of 1 Peter 3:15: “Always be ready”. (Tweet this.)

Are You Ready?

With so much national news attention on our Church these days, I met folks in certain parts of the country who didn’t know a single Catholic, but were intrigued by what they’d heard of late about us.

In separate conversations, I chatted with new non-Catholic friends who were following Pope Francis on Twitter or had heard about the Church’s humanitarian responses in Iraq, Syria and along the southern borders of our country.

These opening salvos, often delivered in a somewhat defensive manner, were an opening for me to share a bit about the Church I love and the God I serve.

But I’ve learned to tread carefully in such moments. (Tweet this.)

It’s easy, when someone asks us questions like this, to misperceive the motivation behind it.

Avoid Those Social Media Smack-downs

In some cases, we may hear their question as an attack and respond in similar fashion.

If you’ve ever been involved in sharing your faith in a venue such as Facebook, you know how unproductive these types of dialogues can be. (In these moments, I try to remind myself of St. Peter’s instruction towards gentleness and respect.)

We might hear a question about our faith and understand that behind it wait many other questions – deeper and more subtle – from new friends who are lost and seeking something in their lives. They may recognize in us something they desire for themselves: a sense of the peace, happiness and grace that we experience as Christians. A simple, “What’s up with that Pope of yours?!” delivered with a laugh could actually be an invitation to share the true reason for our hope.

But we may be sorely tempted to laugh back, dodge the bullet, and simply move the conversation along to safer pastures. In those moments, we fail to “always be ready”. We may avoid the temporary discomfort that accompanies sharing our faith, but we have also lost a golden opportunity to win souls for Christ.

You Weren’t Made for Fear

The words that proceed my favorite three (“always be ready”) in 1 Peter 3:13-15 hold the key ingredients to being ready when such opportunities present themselves:

Now who is going to harm you if you are enthusiastic for what is good? But even if you should suffer because of righteousness, blessed are you. Do not be afraid or terrified with fear of them, but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts.

Often, in praying with these verses, I marvel how St. Peter could have written something thousands of years ago that could be so relevant to the challenges I face today as a believer.

Mocking_Bird_ArgumentIt’s almost as though he foresaw twenty-first century “Evangelism 101” moments: the messiness of a Facebook faith smackdown, a Catholic combox war on a blog, or even the ugliness that can come up at a family dinner when one present has a disdain for our Church.

And in these verses, Peter provides exactly what I need to enable me to “always be ready”. By reminding me to “sanctify Christ as Lord” in my heart, St. Peter helps me to lay a firm foundation for these moments. For me, such sanctification isn’t an easy one-step process, but rather a day-to-day journey of prayer, reception of the sacraments, and trust in God’s ultimate wisdom and providence.

I won’t claim that I’m successful every time an opportunity to share my faith presents itself, but these days I am making it a high priority to “always be ready”.

Now Over to You:

Have you ever had a friend or relative ask you a question that gave you the chance to share your faith? How did you reply?

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So You Want to Do Ministry? Then You Need to Remember 5 Things Wed, 13 Aug 2014 04:15:06 +0000 Hoffman-ChristAndTheRichYoungRuler copyWe often peruse Scripture for the most profound truths, which is great, but in doing so we sometimes miss the simplest truths and timeless insights that Jesus’ “day to day” ministry taught us.

Recently, the Lord has been reminding me of several fundamental principles of leadership as exemplified through His public ministry.

Here are five reminders that the Spirit has breathed upon me in my morning Scripture study this summer. Maybe some of them will resonate with you, as well.

#5: Jesus doesn’t need you as much as He wants you

A careful examination of Scripture reveals something beautiful about Christ’s calling forth of the apostles from the group of disciples (Mark 3:13, Luke 6:13): while Jesus desired them, He didn’t “need” them, so to speak. Jesus chose to animate the gifts of those around Him, calling them into loving service.

Christ came (in part) to establish the Church on earth, yes, but He wasn’t about to fulfill God’s mission alone. As the perfect leader, He understood the importance of delegation and empowerment in building God’s Kingdom on earth.

Notice that Jesus sought them out, He didn’t wait for them to come.

Do you actively seek out Core Members and Catechists throughout the year or just wait and hope they come knocking on your door at a parish ministry fair?

#4: Jesus didn’t judge His team’s effectiveness by outward appearance

Have you ever fallen into the Youth Ministry trap, for instance, of thinking you need the youngest, hippest Core Team of Catechists? Or the Adult Ministry trap of believing only the older or most knowledgeable should be doing the teachings?

Let’s be clear:

There is no perfect Core Team.

Having all young souls or all older souls doesn’t create the optimal balance of energy and wisdom or of openness and life experience. Christ Himself reminds us to look deeper than the outward appearance (Matthew 7:2). This is yet another reason that a Core application process, ongoing training, and true discernment should go into every potential Core Member’s involvement.

Don’t just take warm bodies, and don’t just dismiss bodies that seem too out of the mold.

#3: Jesus didn’t measure ministry effectiveness by activities, but by prayer

Jesus modeled delegation and dependence on others so that the ministry and mission could move forward (Luke 9:1-6).

If it was modeled by Christ, it’s time for all the one-person ministry shows to cease, allow others to help, so you, as the leader, can pray more!

#2: Jesus didn’t judge His success by immediate change

People don’t just need time for their eyes to dilate to Christ’s Light, but for their souls to adjust as well.

Don’t rush change.

Don’t put God on the clock. (Tweet this).

Change takes time.

Re-read John 1:11 and Luke 8:15. The more people you bring along on the journey the better. Share and impart the vision (Habakkuk 2:2) and trust that, in God’s time, the collective journey toward God is going to pay off.

#1: Jesus knew how to handle frustration

Enthusiasm is contagious, but so is negativity.

Ministry is difficult. Ministry is stressful at times. Certain souls in the kingdom – and, indeed, in ministry – can suck all the joy right out of you if you let them, so don’t! Choose joy, and breathe peace.

Take a page out of Jesus’ playbook. (Tweet this).

Be steadfast in love and stand firm in truth (John 6:51-58, Luke 9:37-42). Don’t cater to the crowds and don’t react to negativity; virtue demands more. Stand in the face of adversity. Kneel in the presence of divinity. Laugh in the face of negativity.

Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you (James 4:8).

Jesus didn’t do things in a manner that a lot of modern parish staffs would be comfortable with, to be sure. Christ’s Church has survived and thrived for two millennia, and will not cease (Matthew 16:18).

If you want your ministries and, indeed, your parish to thrive long after you’ve been called home to heaven, delegate now. Empower others with Christ’s mission and watch that commission change the face of the world for years to come.

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The Virtue That Will Enrich Your Life, Starting Now Thu, 07 Aug 2014 04:15:12 +0000

“I would maintain that thanks are the highest form of thought; and that gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder.” – G.K. Chesterton

gratitudeAs I look back on my life, there are two instances that stand out in my mind as moments where I felt especially grateful. It’s interesting that both occasions did not involve anything material.

Of course I am grateful for the diamonds and roses that Jeff has brought me, and for the gifts we have received from loving relatives and friends, but why these two occasions stand out in my mind is because I was in very great need and someone voluntarily offered to help.

You Know the Feeling…

Once was after the birth of our first child. Two friends came over and completely cleaned our mobile home from top to bottom, even dusting the drapes while I sat on the couch holding a baby.

I knew they were doing it completely out of love and selflessness, which made their gift so special. The warm feeling in my heart couldn’t be expressed in words.

The other occasion was one in which the person who helped me probably has no idea how that moment made a difference to me.

It was just a simple offer to pick up a child from school and bring her home. I had several places I needed to be all at the same time that day and the task of juggling it all was overwhelming. Her cheerful offer brought tears to my eyes and she could not have imagined how deep was my thank-you.

We Were Made to Be Dependent

In order to be truly thankful, we need to acknowledge our inability to be self-sufficient.

We need to remind ourselves to have such gratitude toward God since our every breath is dependent on his mercy and loving kindness. That inexpressible, warm feeling of gratitude should overwhelm us everyday and especially during mass when the host is elevated and we enter into the mystery of the sacrifice made by the God of the Universe just for us.


To become truly thankful is to realize how needy we are.  (Tweet this.)

Recently a dear friend of mine suffered an accident and was in need of daily assistance. Church friends and neighbors rallied around her and made sure she was cared for. It was a great testament to the community and a blessing to watch because I could see how grateful and overwhelmed my friends was by the outpouring of help.

If you can think back to a time when you had that feeling of overwhelming gratitude, capture it in your heart and bring it to mass as an offering to Christ.

Now Over to You:

Do you remember a time when someone helped you out of the kindness of their hearts? How did you respond, and how has gratitude enriched your life?

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Rethink the Prayer God Gave You: Three Invitations to the Our Father, Part 2 Thu, 24 Jul 2014 04:15:02 +0000 our_father_2In my last post, I spoke about the inexhaustible riches that can me mined from the Our Father prayer. I proposed three “invitations” at the heart of this pre-eminent prayer. The first was the Invitation to Purification.

In this post we will look at two more invitations.

#2: The Invitation to Filiation

Filiation refers to the power that God has given us, in Christ, to become his daughters and sons. We are adopted into the Divine Family (Father, Son and Holy Spirit), are partakers in his divine nature (2 Peter 1:4), and by his Spirit can cry out, “Abba, Father!” (Mark 14:36,Romans 8:15,Galatians 4:6)

You see, the opening words of this prayer, “Our Father” is not only revealing a profound truth about the very nature of the First Person of the Trinity, it is revealing us to ourselves! (Catechism, No. 2783).

Because we are deeply loved as his own, we can come to our Father with a fundamental disposition of a child to a loving parent. This disposition is called parrhesia: “the straightforward simplicity, filial trust, joyous assurance, humble boldness, [and] the certainty of being loved” (Catechism, No. 2778). There are few paragraphs in the Catechism I love more than this one because I regularly have to “sit” in the mystery of that truth. This is how my Father wants me to approach Him.

By the way, this disposition (sometimes called holy boldness) is what fueled the faith of the first followers of Jesus. It threads it’s way through the early Church in the Acts of the Apostles (Acts 2:29; 4:13, 29, 31; 28:31).

#3: Invitation to Imitation

imitationFinally, a third invitation of the Our Father is the Invitation to Imitation. When we have faith in the Father’s character as a loving parent (Invitation #1), and love him with filial boldness (Invitation #2), it gives us the hope we need to face the challenges of life. But, it also comes with an incredible responsibility: making the Father and his love known to the rest of humanity. It cultivates a desire for us to become like him, to be living icons in the world that can counter the idols of God that have been created by some parents and religious teachers.

I regularly ask people in large audiences, “How many of you are catechists?”

About 10% will raise their hands.

I then say, “That was a trick question. Everyone is a catechist, because we all teach people every time we open our mouths or act in the world.”

The question I then often pose is, “What is your life teaching about the Lord?” (Tweet this.)

Following Up on Your Invitations

One of the key ways we can accept the Invitation to Imitation is by showing kindness, generosity and mercy to those around us. St. John Chrysostom made the point strongly, “You cannot call the God of all kindness your Father if you preserve a cruel and inhuman heart; for in this case you no longer have in you the marks of the heavenly Father’s kindness.”

Imagine how our families, parishes and dioceses would change if every Catholic walked in these three invitations of the Our Father? (Tweet this.)

Let’s close by gathering these last two invitations into a final prayer:

Father, you restored us to your likeness by grace. Help us, by that same grace to become a living icons of your love to a world looking and longing for your face. In your Son and by your Spirit, we will live in the joyous assurance and certainty of your love, while bearing that love clearly and courageously to those we will encounter. Amen.

Now over to you:

How do you see yourself imitating the Our Father, and living as catechist in your everyday life?

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Rethink the Prayer God Gave You: Three Invitations to the “Our Father,” Part 1 Thu, 17 Jul 2014 04:15:46 +0000 our_father_1The “Our Father,” or “The Lord’s Prayer,” stands without peer among the prayers found in Sacred Scripture.

St. Augustine said, “Run through all the words of the holy prayers [in Scripture], and I do not think that you will find anything in them that is not contained and included in the Lord’s Prayer.”

There is probably no prayer more widely known than the Our Father. It’s the “go-to” prayer of most Catholics. Like a well-worn and favorite piece of clothing, we can wrap ourselves in the comfort of this prayer during times of difficulty, uncertainty or grief.

Sadly, that familiarity can sometimes breed contempt. (Tweet this.)

We often rattle off the Our Father without even thinking about the words we are saying. So it’s wise to regularly check-in with this powerful prayer to renew our appreciation of it.

And because of it’s divine origin, it is inexhaustible in how it can speak to us. In fact, the Catechism dedicates over 100 paragraphs to unfolding it’s beauty (Catechism, Nos. 2759-2865). In the next two posts, I’m going to propose three “invitations” of the Our Father prayer.

#1: The Invitation to Purification

purificationThis is not a purification from sin (that comes later in petition #5), but rather a purification of our heart from any obstacles to experiencing the full measure of the Father’s love for us.

It “has to do with paternal or maternal images, stemming from our personal and cultural history, and influencing our relationship with God. God our Father transcends the categories of the created world. To impose our own ideas in this area ‘upon him’ would be to fabricate idols to adore or pull down. To pray to the Father is to enter into his mystery as he is and as the Son has revealed him to us” (Catechism, No. 2779).

For example, if early in your life someone carved out an image of God for you, that portrays him as a cosmic Santa Claus keeping a list of all your good deeds and bad, or a capricious god who cannot be trusted, then that is an idol.

Tear Down Your Idols

The Church implores us to pull it down, get rid of it, because that is not the Father revealed by Jesus Christ. So, before we even speak a syllable of the Lord’s Prayer we need to ask the Lord to cleanse us of these interior obstacles to his love. I put this intention in a very simple prayer,

“Father, you know my life. For much of my life, I saw you as a distant deity ready to judge me for being an imperfect son. Help me, by your grace, to tear down that idol and behind it find you waiting for me with the loving arms of a Father. Through Christ, in the Spirit. Amen.”

In the next post, we will explore the Invitation to Filiation and the Invitation to Imitation.

Now over to you:

What are your reflections on the Our Father in your life, and on this first “invitation”?

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