Our Lenten Journey-Week Five

For many of us we will not have the Holy Week and Easter we wanted, have come to know or would desire to have. Fellow Christians from around the world mourn with you. In this last week before Holy Week, I cannot help but think how we can be co-creators with God to make these last few days, and next week special, life-giving, and holy.

At the Easter Vigil Mass, we hear of the Creation Story and are reminded that God is the Great Creator. From Him, all life is born. He also created us to create and invites us to co-create with Him to live fully alive the Vocation He set before us. Take time this week to plan how you would like to live the journey through Holy Week and ask God to help you find the spirit of faith, hope, and joy that we have come to love about the traditions of this time. Invite Him into your hearts and minds, into your homes, families, Zoom calls. Co-create something beautiful with God!

Actions:
Rest in the Lord, for He is waiting with open arms to hold you close.
Allow God to nourish you when you feel dry, for He desires to see you Fully Alive.
Rely only on Christ when you are empty to provide you with the graces you need to move closer to Him.
Be open to the Holy Spirit to guide you when you are lost, to help you navigate times of hardship, crisis, tensions, and loss. Ask the Holy Spirit to keep you in line with the will of God.
Find a moment of Joy each hour of the day, each morning when you wake up, each week when you would normally be gathered in faith.
Create with the Lord! Create the light we seek. Create room to continue to grow in faith, hope, charity, through prayer, fasting, and almsgiving.
Co-Create with God

This Week’s Journal Question:
How can I open up my life to co-create with God during this time and throughout my life? What have I created with God in the past?

Prayer:
I invite you, Lord, to come and create with me during this time and always. You are the Great Creator, help me to bring beauty and goodness into my life.

Our Lenten Journey – Week Four (The Great Lent)

These Lenten reflections have been knocked off their original theme and arc, and have shifted in times of need and change. We are living our Lenten journey in ways we could not imagine before this time. The Great Lent. How are we remaining open to the will of God? How are we opening ourselves up to the possibilities of this time?

God has permitted this time to occur. That is clear, so, as a community of people going through this BOTH collectively AND individually, what are we doing to remain open to all that can still happen in these days of distancing, fear, and dark unknowns? It can be easy to fall into the darkness, but we must resist that urge and find the light that never dies. Seek out spiritual friendship. Find a spiritual director. Connect with fellow parishioners. Reach out to me. We are a community of faith, and nothing can destroy that. We can help each other navigate this Great Lent as artists, as creators, as children of God.

During these past two weeks, I have felt that for many of us we have never experienced a time that is fit for the imagination, creativity, the artist quite like this time. Each generation, each year provides new unknowns, darkness, light, challenges, opportunities, closed doors, and invitations. With God as our Creator, the Ultimate Artist, we too were created to be artists and creators. Two weeks ago I put out a call to create and to share in your creation. What have you created during this time that brings the glory of God into the darkness? What have you discovered about your faith, your relationship with God, with others, with yourself during this time? Have you discovered a spiritual friendship in being creative?

Last week we focused on seeking Joy. This week we refocus on creating for and with the Great Creator. We are over halfway through our 2020 Lenten Journey and how are we doing? No matter the world’s curveballs we can still draw closer to Christ, still prepare our hearts for Easter, still pray, give alms, and fast. How are you doing?

Actions:
Rest in the Lord, for He is waiting with open arms to hold you close.
Allow God to nourish you when you feel dry, for He desires to see you Fully Alive.
Rely only on Christ when you are empty to provide you with the graces you need to move closer to Him.
Be open to the Holy Spirit to guide you when you are lost, to help you navigate times of hardship, crisis, tensions, and loss. Ask the Holy Spirit to keep you in line with the will of God.
Find a moment of Joy each hour of the day, each morning when you wake up, each week when you would normally be gathered in faith.
Create with the Lord! Create the light we seek. Create room to continue to grow in faith, hope, charity, through prayer, fasting, and almsgiving.

This Week’s Journal Question:
How am I opening up myself to create a new with Christ during this time? How am I taking advantage of this Great Lent? What can I do in the remaining two weeks before Easter to embrace the spirit of the season and the joy of what is on the horizon?

Prayer:
Remind us oh Lord that you are the great Creator and that you have made us in your image, to be creators for your glory, your love, your joy. Help us finish these last remaining days of Lent strong in faith, knowing you are a God of great mercy and love.

Our Lenten Journey – Week Three

We are approaching Laetare Sunday, a moment during our Lenten journey when we remember the joy of our identity as an Easter People. It is a day of celebration. This year, for many of us this is the first or second Sunday we are not gathering as a faith community. We are unable to come together and the world feels a little darker, this Sunday a little colder. Because of this, we have an even more beautiful reason to find joy in the darkness.

This pandemic truly has shifted and played with all of our lives, in full ways. It has attempted to destroy the temporal needs and the spiritual needs each one of us has. I have heard stories of children in tears because they don’t know when they will be able to receive the Eucharist next, of families worrying about how the food will arrive on their table with lost work and wages, of feeling like we have been thrust into the unknown with a God who has abandoned us. I want you to know that God is with us, that our identity as His sons and daughters has not diminished or changed. We are marching into the unknown and we this week are called to joy.

Our Joy is beautiful. It will guide us through life’s twists and turns. It will help us cross the threshold of who we are now and who we are becoming, of what the world was into what the world can be. While we are called to sit in our homes we are called to joy. While we work at our jobs to help this country continue to put food on the table, remain safe, get from place to place, and help us in health we are called to Joy. Joy can fight fear in ways only God knows. Joy can be the light that helps a weary health care worker continue. Joy can be the assistants that can lighten the burden of our times. Joy can be what brings us closer to God when our faith practices and traditions are vanishing.

All that I shared last week is still true. God is still with us. Our Lenten journey and hopes are calling us to be flexible and adaptive. We are still called to give alms, to pray, and to fast but we were never called to rigidity or told we were failures if we didn’t keep our Lenten promises just as we have stated on Ash Wednesday. How are you being adaptive on your Lenten Journey?

Actions:
Rest in the Lord, for He is waiting with open arms to hold you close.
Allow God to nourish you when you feel dry, for He desires to see you Fully Alive.
Rely only on Christ when you are empty to provide you with the graces you need to move closer to Him.
Be open to the Holy Spirit to guide you when you are lost, to help you navigate times of hardship, crisis, tensions, and loss. Ask the Holy Spirit to keep you in line with the will of God.
Find a moment of Joy each hour of the day, each morning when you wake up, each week when you would normally be gathered in faith.

This Week’s Journal Question:
Where did you find joy today? How will you seek it out tomorrow? How will you be joy to one another?

Prayer:
Lord, in this time of dark unknowns, bring rest to the weary, temporal and spiritual assistance to those in need, and joy to each heart and mind. Guide the hands of those who care for us. Guide the minds of those who are leading us. Guide us, oh Lord! For in you, we have no needs, no worries, no burdens. In you we find rest.

Our Lenten Journey – Week Two

We move through this second week of Lent on a different note than that of two weeks ago, on Ash Wednesday, when we felt the promise of the season. I have heard from some of you that between this election season, the fears of the Coronavirus, and those fears leading to the decision to essentially cancel Mass, as well as many other faith formation events this Lent have left you feeling dry, empty, lost. I understand these feelings and share with you in some, and I wonder, is this exactly where God is calling us to be this Lenten season? No, He does not want us to fear, to worry, to hate or be in tension with our neighbors because of political views, and I am sure He does not want anyone to have to suffer or die from the health issues we are facing, but maybe this is where we are meant to be. Dry, Empty, Lost. God can do a lot with these feelings and He can full us up in ways that we were once empty. He can strengthen us through our dryness, He can guide us on a better path, away from our meanderings through the desert.

Last week we talked about using this Lenten journey as a period of rest. How are you doing? Have you allowed yourself to Rest in the goodness of the Lord? Have you allowed yourself to relax in beautiful conversation with Him who died for our sins? How can you continue to rest in the Lord and allow him to fill you up, nourish you, and guide you? It feels like we have been saying for decades that we are a no longer a society of faith, but that of the secular. But, are you, in your family, work, neighborhood leaning into the secular world? Or do you stand with the Holy Spirit and the communion of Saints to live the life God created you, me, us to live? Is it our lost hope that allows us to feel so easily dry, empty, and lost every election cycle, or time of crisis? How can we use these moments we are in to help us move in faith?

Actions:
Rest in the Lord, for He is waiting with open arms to hold you close.
Allow God to nourish you when you feel dry, for He desires to see you Fully Alive.
Rely only on Christ when you are empty to provide you with the graces you need to move closer to Him.
Be open to the Holy Spirit to guide you when you are lost, to help you navigate times of hardship, crisis, tensions, and loss. Ask the Holy Spirit to keep you in line with the will of God.

This week Journal Question:
How will you use these feelings, that find so much collective truth, in our world today as gifts for the Lord to strengthen, nourish, guide, and love you?

Prayer:
Come, Lord Jesus, come with the Holy Spirit to protect, guide and assist us on our Lenten Journey. May we find rest in you. May we grow closer to you. May we use these feelings we have about our lives and the world around us as gifts for the Father’s hands, to heal us, and form in us a pure heart.

Our Lenten Journey – Week One

This first full week of Lent has always been special for me. The newness of the season has not yet dissipated, and the promise of spring is tangible. Our Lenten journey of fasting, prayer, and almsgiving are still fresh and likely intact. It is exciting and I sit in awe of the faith transformation that is in front of me if only I reach out to touch it. Reaching out to touch. If you have worked with me over the past few days or are on my email list for our Monthly Memos, you know that I made a change around here. The St. Dymphna Dementia Ministry is now The Hem of Christ. Much like the woman reaching out to touch the hem of Christ, believing she will be healed if she simply touches His garment, so too are those living with dementia reaching out to you and me. I have long since dreamt of finding a way to reach back out to these individuals in a new way. It will take a visionary and creative approach to shift the current narrative, to reach back out and to help heal. We learn through the beauty of art. We connect through our shared stories. We find the hem of Christ in one another. The details of how this ministry will take action will unfold over this next year, starting with this Lenten Journey. Join me in faith, friendship, and service to those reaching out!

Last week I encouraged each one of you to pick one thing, to keep your Lent simply yet meaning full. Have you thought of something? Do you know what you are doing over these 40 days? How will you pray, give alms, and fast?

Our Lenten journey, especially as care partners should be about rest or at least offer elements of rest. Christ alone can do something with nothing, but, we must be filled. We need to find ways to fill ourselves physically, socially, spiritually, emotionally. The great gift of this season is that we can fill all four of these elements through our faith journey. It seems odd to talk about being full in a season that has fasting at its core. Yet, in our fasting we allow ourselves to be filled more and more with Christ who strengthens us. When we live for and with Christ, we are becoming who we were uniquely created to become. We can give and serve those we are in this moment caring for each day. How will you allow yourself to fast so that you may become full? Resting in the Lord can be a form of fasting. By fasting from the world around us, the demands of email, social media, etc, and sitting in silence, with a rosary in hand, or in adoration, in a bible study with friends, at a prayer service, we are allowing ourselves to be filled. There is a science behind this (because God is a creative and design genius), and in doing this, by resting in the Lord, our bodies and our minds, are cleared and healed, and our relationships (because we have taken time to be in relationship with God) will flourish. We find ourselves healing body, mind, spirit, and communally.

Actions:
Rest in the Lord, for He is waiting with open arms to hold you close.

This week Journal Question:
How will you allow yourself to Rest in the goodness of the Lord this week?

Prayer:
Jesus, open your arms wide to hold us close so that we may find rest in You. Help us discover the freedom to live for You alone, to be relational with You, and to take the time we need to best be of service to You and my family in Christ.

Blending our Lenten and Dementia Journey

“My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road, though I may know nothing about it. Therefore will I trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.” – Thomas Merton

As we enter this Lenten journey may we remember that we may not know where we are going. We don’t know the trials and triumphs ahead us. We are unsure of how we will grow and transform over these 40 days of Lent. And, as Care Partners twisting both the Lenten Journey and the Dementia Journey into one, we are reminded even more deeply of the unknowns that God has set before us and that we care called to something of a great ministry. We have in our hearts a desire to grow, to find the good, the true, and the beautiful along this path, but it can feel lonely as the needs of our day to day creeps further into our plans and we may not be able to keep our Lenten promises regarding prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. We are not alone on this journey, for the Father always sees us, for Jesus knows our human desires and pain, and the Holy Spirit is guiding us always.

As we receive our ashes we are reminded that from dust we came, and to dust, we shall return. Those living with dementia are often hyper-aware of this fact. We see the mortality of our loved ones and ourselves through this journey. We experience loss far more frequently than others, yet, there is beauty in that, a cause for finding ourselves grateful for the moments we are given, and the gifts we still can give. As part of Lent, we are asked to give alms, to share our time, talent, and treasure. One thing that we can give as care partners, or as individuals with the diagnosis of dementia, is ourselves. We may not have the ability to give as we once did or would like to, but through our selfless giving, this can be by helping our loved ones attend Mass or a service each week during Lent, to sit a moment or two longer, or smiling at the CNA and other care partners who look down, lost, and in need of something to lift their spirit, we are giving what we have.

As we pray, let us not think about doing more, but doing what we can with great devotion. Don’t overload your plate with 3 different daily emails, devotionals, books, and prayer challenges. Find something that is simple that can be done with great love, well. Some ideas may be:

To follow along and pray the rosary with, The Peace with Dementia Rosary by Matthew Estrade,
Read Matthew Kelly’s book Rediscover Lent or Rediscover Jesus
Sign up for Dynamic Catholic’s Best Lent Ever
Join the #LentFit Challenge through the Catholify App
Participate in a Marian Consecration through Fr. Michael Gaitley’s book, 33 Days to Morning Glory
Pray one Our Father together with your family, or loved with dementia after a meal, when you first get up, when you stop by for a visit and take in every word of the prayer together.

Do one act of prayer, and do it with great love, devotion, and intention.

As we Fast we find ourselves in a pattern continual reminders as we long for that which we gave up, are Fasting from. Those living with dementia or over 59 not required to partake in fasting from food, but maybe there is something we all can do? We are called to holiness, to grow closer to God, and what will help us get there? Only you can answer this question, but again, there is no need to be extreme, maybe it is one simple thing that reminds you of the great gift God has given us through his Son, Jesus, and that we are from dust, and to dust, we shall return.

I am praying for you as you walk your Lenten journey, please pray for me. We are a community of sojourners on this Dementia Journey, but we are also a community walking together towards our eternal home. May God bless you, always!

4th Week of Advent

We have arrived at the fourth and final week of Advent. Although it is a short week, we are still called to continue to prepare our hearts for Christmas. So much goes on during this time of year, and as Christians, we seek to see beyond the gifts and decorations, enjoying them of course, but recognizing the call to prepare the way of the Lord. We must allow not only our eyes to see the beauty of Christ’s coming, but our hearts as well. To see and listen to the great wonder of God’s gift of the Christ child to all of us. If you have prayers left unsaid, preparations of the soul not yet completed, you still have time. Allow the preparations of faith to take precedence over the material. Bring the hope, joy, peace, and love of this season into your final preparations. Christ is near. Come and gather at His manger.

1st Week of Advent 2019

Advent has begun. Christmas day is drawing near. During these next few weeks, we prepare to celebrate the greatest collaboration between God and Humanity (as Matthew Kelly informs us) through the birth of Jesus, and we prepare for the second coming of Christ. We decorate our homes, we light the candles on our Advent wreath, and we find quiet moments for prayer. It is easy to prepare for the celebration of the birth of Christ, but how are we doing preparing for His second coming? How well are we seeking to live in a spirit of forgivingness? How are we finding ways to increase in prayer, trust, and love for Christ Jesus? How well are we working to living in the fullness of the gifts of the Holy Spirit? How well are we loving our neighbor, no matter who that neighbor is, or what they believe? Let us walk towards December 25th with a child-like spirit preparing for both the birth and the second coming of Christ.

An Unanswered Prayer

As care partners, individuals with dementia, and people of faith, we pray. We pray for miracles of Biblical proportion, and the size of a mustard seed. We pray Novenas, clutch our rosary beads as we say the Chaplet or Mysteries of the Rosary. We pray, and we hope, and we pray some more. What happens when our prayers go unanswered and no amount of increase in prayer seems to give us an answer? As care partners, we seek healing, rest, guidance, and support. We may pray that God takes away our pain, the dementia, the physical trails, the uncertainty of what each second brings, our financial worry, our exhaustion. We seek out new Saints or prayers. We up our attendance at church or try extra hard to not drift off in prayer. We try to find a way to force ourselves to trust in Jesus, wondering if maybe that was the “problem.” Yet, that prayer we feel with such urgency is followed by silence. What do we do?

I don’t have answers for you, I feel and understand your pain. We continue in hope, trusting that something will work out. We continue to pray, to connect with others, to get out of bed and take one more step, and work to find ways to help ourselves and others. Even when running on empty, it is amazing the power of our faith. We march on. We find community. We look to God with tears in our eyes, and we pray. He knows what is in our hearts, and the plan He has for us. He knows the path you have taken, the mistakes made, the trials and triumphs. He knows the path forward.

As people of faith, whatever your faith denomination maybe, I say to you, I am here, but more importantly, God is with you. ALWAYS!

Continue to Pray.

Find community, someone to sit in the pew with, to pray with, to share your emotions and pain with from time to time.

Start Spiritual Direction, someone to help guide your faith and prayer.

Find someone living on the path of dementia, and create a text prayer chain or start a support group.

Pick up a copy of the Peace with Dementia Rosary book mentioned back in the spring.

Find a Catholic Therapist or one that will respect your faith to see regularly, or simply have in your Rolodex.

Contact me, reach out.

We are together on this journey, seeking God in all things and in all moments. When He is silent He has not gone away simply changed the way He is communicating with us.

“Blessed be God in all His design.”

Faith and Dementia

As some of you may know, I have started a ministry that partners my work with those living with dementia. It is called the St. Dymphna Dementia Ministry. Today May 15th is St. Dymphna’s feast day. She lived in Ireland in the 7th century and in addition to being known as a patron saint of psychologists, and those living with mental disorders, she is also the patron saint of those living with dementia. You may read more about her here.

This ministry was put in place to help those with dementia and their families continue to live their faith, in whatever faith they may live.  It is important to never strip away one’s faith because of a dementia diagnosis, yet we some sometimes don’t know how to help them practice their faith. That is where I am here to help you. I work through this ministry with parishes and other places of worship, and faith-based organizations as well as with families, guiding them through the process of helping loved ones and fellow members of the community practice their faith in this moment of their journey. I provide training, consultations, as well as faith-based life enrichment programming to help all living with dementia, live with dementia in faith. While I myself speak from the Catholic lens, I have connections with other faith leaders throughout the New York City area, as well as throughout North East Wisconsin.

Faith-based programming needs no research to back it up. Simply by willing the good of the other and helping them continue to seek and grow in faith in whatever capacity that may be, we are adding an unmeasurable amount of meaning and hope to their life.

So, if you, your faith community, or your loved ones are living with dementia and seek to learn about ways to continue practicing your faith with dementia, unsure how to go about it, please reach out to me. I am here to help you, to pray with you, to connect you with others of similar faith, and to support you.