Jared L. Wuerzburger
Peace be with you.
Franciscan Young Adult Ministry had the luxury of spending October 24th, 25th, and 26th of 2020 at Our Lady of Fatima Retreat House in Indianapolis. I am writing this reflection about our grace-filled retreat that sought to experience Christ in the Chaos of this year. I served as a spiritual companion during this profound weekend, and I plan to write to convince you of the need to spend time uniting ourselves to God via prayer in this chaotic world.
Shannon Sonderman and Oscar Henriquez, Young Adult Ministry Coordinator’s for FRAYAM planned and orchestrated an eventful weekend focused on personal prayer. You may have experienced spiritual retreats whose primary goal is to overwhelm you with engaging activities, forced sharing, and community building. Although these can be beautiful encounters, these were not the focuses of this retreat. Instead, activities, sharing, and community were the side-effects of the focused and prayerful rejuvenation that can only occur when resting in Christ Jesus.
Father Adrian Burke of Saint Meinrad Archabbey was our presenter for three sessions across three days. The focus on the conferences was simply prayer. How can we communicate with our creator? Why is this beneficial? How does prayer change us? How does the world view prayer in contrast to our sacred Tradition approach?
We can, and we must rest in the peace of our Lord and God. It is imperative to do as we were commanded to:
19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Mathew 28:16-20, NRSVCE)
To dwell or abide in the peace of God, to rest fully in that love of God, is to see as God sees and to love as God loves. We must focus on the needs of the other instead of fixating on the needs of ourselves. This requires the gift of grace, collaborating with the Holy Spirit, and, therefore a developed prayer life.
Father Adrian desired to clarify the nature of prayer, but first, disclosing what prayer is not.
“Prayer is not a transaction. Prayer is not trying to convince God to fix your problems or the problems of people you love. Prayer is not a Quid Pro Quo. The Eucharist is not a transaction. We are not in it to change God’s mind but instead of understanding God’s mind. It is relational. Prayer nurtures transformation. Prayer is an intimate relationship that is rooted in presence”.
We must come to see prayer as a gift that is given to us by God. This gift is given to change us. We must actively choose to be changed in this increasingly busy world. If we allow God to change us through prayer, praise, and worship, we can begin to be engaged with Christ to change the world. This cannot be very comforting! One must let go of self and allow God to change our usual ways of seeing, thinking, and acting in the world. The change is Christological. We become like Christ, through Christ, and with Christ; side by side, we are converted. Prayer is the primary way that we consent to this change. Daily prayer practices become our Fiat allowing God to issues these miraculous changes in us according this his word (Luke 1:38).
Why must prayer become a regular practice? Prayer focuses our mind to remember that Christ is with us continuously throughout the day. Our Master and Lord is ready to lead us to the truth in union with the Holy Spirit. We must be conscientiously willing to exercise prayer as a concrete discipline in our daily lives.
Father Adrian ended our last conference with guiding words of spiritual direction, “The next time you feel anxious. The next time you feel fearful. Or the next time you feel angry or upset about something. Or stressed out over something that has happened or might happen. Or worry about something that may come along the way. Or shame, resentment, envy, abilities, irritation, fear, or boredom. The next time you feel any of these things. Pay attention. Stop, take a deep breath, and allow yourself to feel what you are feeling. Stop allowing yourself to give in to the temptation to cover up these feelings to make yourself feel better somehow. We don’t like feeling these feelings. Allow yourself to feel these emotions. What does it feel like? I am calling you to be present to yourself. Do not allow yourself to find a lame form a pleasure that comes from an addictive behavior. Scrolling through Tictok or Instagram or whatever you have learned to lean on to feel better. Instead, all this does is make you feel more isolated. Think of yourself as a mountain. A mountain of rock. The weather that comes through or over the mountain is just the weather. It can rain, be foggy, etc. But, the mountain remains the same. And, so do you. You are not your feelings or moods. Be in your feelings without judgment, knowing that they will change.”
Father Adrian also recommends the following: Think of your feelings as messengers from Christ. They are telling you something. Christ is telling you something. Christ is continually communicating with you through presence. What are these feelings trying to tell us? What is Christ attempting to present to us via these feelings? God wants to remind us that in Christ, we have nothing to fear.
23 And when he got into the boat, his disciples followed him. 24 And behold, there arose a great storm on the sea, so that the boat was being swamped by the waves; but he was asleep. 25 And they went and woke him, saying, “Save, Lord; we are perishing.” 26 And he said to them, “Why are you afraid, O men of little faith?” Then he rose and rebuked the winds and the sea; and there was a great calm. (Mathew 8 23-27, NRSVCE).
Christ is asking us the same question he asked his disciples in Mathew 8. Why do we need to pray? To remind us not to be afraid.
To rest in the calming presences of Christ, who is the only solace we have in the Chaos of the world. We must find Christ in the Chaos. Grab him and rest in his peace. Or the Chaos will encompass us, and that unforgettable lack of promised peace will leave us continuously restless.
Be Strong And of Good Courage
While visiting a church this Fall, my personal moral compass was challenged. The woman making opening remarks stated that “Communion must be received in the palm of one’s hand, with one’s arm fully extended.” As soon as those words exited her mouth, my heart began beating heavily, and my mind started racing. I knew our church’s stance on this issue. The Eucharist may be received in either the hand or on the tongue.
In fact, the USCCB recently reiterated this when it announced that:
“Those who receive Communion may receive either in hand or on the tongue, and the decision should be that of the individual receiving, not the person distributing Communion.”
The GIRM, The General Instruction of the Roman Missal, in its directives for distributing Communion, states:
The consecrated host may be received either on the tongue or in the hand, at the discretion of each communicant. . . . The priest raises the host slightly and shows it to each, saying, Corpus Christi (the body of Christ). The communicant replies Amen and receives the sacrament either on the tongue or, where this is allowed and if the communicant so chooses, in the hand. (160–161)
However, it is challenging to go against instructions individual parishes have provided to us or go against the social norms imposed for the just purpose of proactively preventing the spread of COVID-19.
On this particular day, throughout the Mass, the decision that I was going to make was eating away at me, “should I act in accordance with the instructions to receive our Lord in hand or should I do what feels most reverent in my heart and mind?” Eventually, I came to my senses; of course, the answer was in prayer. I asked the Blessed Virgin Mary to allow me to see what God wished of me at that moment to best please him.
The homily was next after this silent prayer. And what do you know, the homily content was about knowing what is right and acting on it. The priest shared how so many individuals know what is right but lack the courage to act on it. Whether they are fearful of others’ opinions, the challenge itself, or even the law in some cases, they choose to ignore what they know to be right in their heart.
With this prayer I mind, I also assumed that the individual that accompanied me to Mass would choose to receive by mouth before me in the communion line, and it would be easier for me to do so as well.
When it came time to approach the altar for Communion, my friend stepped out… and into the other line. My heart dropped, and I was immediately filled with fear, but I knew what I was being called to do. I reverently walked up to the extraordinary minister and knelt onto the linoleum, waiting to receive our Lord. The gentleman kindly blessed me, most likely assuming my knelling was a personal practice in my home parish. I continued to wait, kneeling on the floor, and the gentleman blessed me a second time. Finally, he realized that I would not go anywhere and lifted up the host, almost asking me a question. I quietly said, “yes, please,” and he hesitantly administered our Lord and Savior on my tongue.
While none of this was easy, I knew it was what I was being called to do. I walked back to my pew and was tearful the rest of the Mass. I was incredibly moved by this experience. I knew that no matter what, I must do what the Lord was placing on my heart, even if it is not accepted socially or standard practice. In this monumental moment in my spiritual life, God granted me the courage nessesary to do his will. I hope to continue carrying that courage throughout the rest of my life.
As you go about your day-to-day life, I encourage you to consider the opportunities where you can demonstrate the gift of courage that the Lord has granted to you. In these often terrifying moments, I beg you to remember that the only thing we have to fear… is the Lord. Keep strong in your beliefs, and never turn from what is right, even in moments of most challenging adversity.
“Be strong and of good courage, do not fear or be in dread of them: for it is the Lord your God who goes with you; he will not fail or forsake you.”
Are You Making Enough Time for Jesus?
Are You Making Enough Time for Jesus in Your Busy Life?
I'll be the first to tell you that I'm not. Quite frankly, making time for the Lord has taken a backseat to my schoolwork, school responsibilities, and all of my extra-curricular obligations. I've been noticing that I have felt off, not quite myself, and I finally came to the realization one day that since my schedule has become more taxing, I haven't entirely made time for Jesus. This was oddly troubling to me. I don't think that it should be hard to make time for Jesus in our lives. There really is no cookie-cutter way to spend time with Jesus or to pray, and so this really got me thinking about how I could begin to make more time for that in my life.
I will give you a little background on who I am and what my life looks like, my name is Mikayla Hudgens, and I am a junior nursing major at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College. I am a representative of the Student Senate, Director of Marketing in a club called the Student Activities Committee, and the Student Nurse Association president on my campus. Honestly, I'm involved in everything, and you can usually find me at all of the events on our campus. I'm sure that you can imagine that just with all of the things that I'm involved with on-campus, my schedule is pretty tight. The nursing major is pretty taxing with all of its demands just to be successful in it. I simply find that there are not enough hours in the day for all the things I would like to accomplish. It is difficult for me to say no to adding new tasks onto my plate because I want to be involved as much as possible. But at some point, no matter how involved I get, how much time I spend trying to be successful in my major, or how much time I spend with the people I love, I always feel like something is missing. For me, that missing piece of the puzzle is spiritual fulfillment that I get through my relationship with Christ.
I simply need to take time for my spiritual needs in order to feel well balanced and like I'm taking care of myself, and in order to do so, I needed to reframe my hierarchy of priorities in my life. At position number one, there should be Jesus, at number two is school, then probably my romantic relationship, then family, and finally friends. The next decisive action that I decided to do was take more time to invite the Lord into my life. Something as simple as this can increase your quality time spent with Jesus, and you are more likely to begin listening to God.
We all know that little voice in our head that puts ideas in there randomly. These are the thoughts that keep resonating in our lives, or that push us to pursue something. Yep, that's God if you haven't quite come to that realization yet. Because our conscience is that inner sanctuary in which we listen to the voice of God, we must remember to distinguish between our voice and the voice of God. A good conscience requires lifelong practice and dedication. Each baptized follower of Christ must form his or her conscience according to objective moral standards. That includes maintaining healthy relationships and acting justly as the Lord would have us act. Scripture is a fantastic tool for this process of forming our conscience by study, prayer, and practice.
And herein do I exercise myself, to have always a conscience void of offense toward God, and [toward] men.
I didn't realize how important this connection to God was until Jared began working at our college and made a point about it, and that's when I noticed that God is in my head all the time. Since then, I have been trying to look out for what He's saying to me.
Another way that I'm beginning to incorporate more time for the Lord in my life is simply by sitting down with someone to have a conversation about Jesus and how he is working in our lives. That being with a spiritual director or even just a friend. Something as simple as that is a form of prayer because you are reflecting on all the blessings that have been bestowed on you in your last week or however long it's been since you and that person last talked. Another tip that I have found helpful and easy to integrate into your routine no matter how busy you are is to say a prayer before you go to sleep or whenever you first wake up. Just reflect on some hopes you have for the day, some things you are thankful for, and some things you need some help with. We can't do or handle everything in our lives all the time. We simply aren't made like that. We are created to need God's help and the help of each other. The last thing that I decided to do to encourage me to have more time for Jesus is that I decided I would lead a small group. Jared approached me, asking if I would be willing, and there was really no hesitation in my response as to me wanting to do it. I was in a small group with my friends when we first went online due to the COVID-19 pandemic and into the beginning of summer, but then when that ended, I realized that I have been missing connecting with others and growing closer to others through Jesus. Sometimes, I believe that is the best way to understand myself, serve others, and connect with God. These three things are best done when we gather communally in prayer; the Holy Spirit is right in the midst of all of your interactions with those people.
"For true hearts, there is no separating ocean; or, rather, God is their ocean, in whom they meet and are united."
No matter if you are in college, some form of graduate school, or an adult with other obligations, you are undoubtedly incredibly busy with a laundry list of things. Here are some parting thoughts and reflection questions that I have for you from this reflection.
What is the hierarchy of the priorities in your life, and is Jesus number one?
What are some of the ways that you make time for Jesus in your life? Obviously, I'm not asking you to lead a small group (at this moment), but just something as simple as reflecting on your thoughts, praying in some fashion, or even grabbing coffee with someone sharing your burdens with others.
And lastly, are you making enough time for Jesus in your busy life to fill the Jesus shaped hole in your heart?
Thy Will Be done...
Bedtime in our household is usually a quasi-pleasant time – baths, reading books, telling stories, and then prayer, before approximately six hundred excuses from our kids as to why my wife and I should not turn off the light and leave the room. I like to ask my four-year-old daughter or two-year-old son which prayer they would like to say just before turning off the light. My daughter will ask for “Mommy’s Prayer!” (Hail Mary) or “Daddy’s prayer!” (Glory Be), while my son will say something like “the Green one!” (I haven’t figured that out yet). What gives me greater pleasure, though, is when I’m asked to lead “our family’s prayer,” and we all begin, “Our Father Who art in heaven…”
Throughout this year, the words “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done” have held greater weight each time I’ve recited our Lord’s Prayer. For nearly my entire life, I’ve said the words as two additional petitions; “Lord, please let your kingdom come… please let your will be done on earth…” And then I attempt to work to make it happen. I say it as if I can somehow work against the powers of the world to bring God’s Will where it is not. It’s sort of a compromise to the Creator: I “wish” for His Will and the coming of His kingdom, and then ask for things like daily bread, forgiveness, and deliverance to help us get there.
As our planet struggles with the confusion of our leaders’ responses to new scandals such as another global pandemic and the anti-human, murderous actions carried out in our country and countries abroad, how much more fervently do we plead for the coming of God’s kingdom? How much more do we pray and bargain for His Will? But now I’m wondering, what do I think God’s kingdom on earth looks like? What is His Will? What am I really asking for?
“Why hasn’t God’s will been done?”
Personally, the canceling of public attendance at Mass, canceling graduation for our senior students, canceling non-essential jobs, canceling school, and canceling the most basic human need of social gathering in almost every aspect of our lives has slowly emptied me of motivation. I tend to bring these up in my daily petitions with God Almighty. In my vain hurt, I feel spite even for those who now invite me back to physically attend Mass, as if the Kingdom of Heaven is one remaining event that hasn’t been canceled. So I drop to my spiteful knees and pray Thy Will Be Done, and Thy Kingdom Come, then stand up to have a look around, hopeful that life will return to what I think it should be. Still cancellations. Still masks and fear and confusion and spite on the faces of my friends. Still, we are confused and afraid. “Why hasn’t God’s will been done?” “Where is his kingdom?” I ask myself.
These worries come between us and our true source of life – the Mass. Often they even take the place of our daily reflection and time spent in quiet with the Holy Spirit. In retrospect, this is an absurd thought, to value our comfort instead of worship to the Lord. However, in my vanity, the two become one, and I begin screaming my prayers, “THY KINGDOM COME, THY WILL BE DONE ON EARTH,” and God’s silence becomes a scandal to me and my wants.
In my daily life, traces of despair begin to appear through April, May, June. “How can we go on with ‘all of this stuff’ happening in the world today?” The powers of the world – and our selfishness - tell us that it is too much to hold onto the Cross; to set our lives aside and follow the Lord, whatever the cost. These worries push in from every side, like an ocean rising around my home built on sand.
How much have you and I prayed for a turnaround in this year’s events, and yet God Himself is allowing the unease to occur?
Last Wednesday, I was able to go to my local parish alone to be in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament. I nearly cried seeing the monstrance on the altar and feeling the cold air and silence of awe, filling the space for the first time in months. But I also felt a shudder creep over me. Something which caused me to physically tremble and lower my head further: I felt tremendous fear. There on the floor, staring at my God on the altar, I began to feel the terror of something much more devastating than what any scornful glance from masked grocery shoppers or any deadly biological pathogen might do: the fear of God, Our Father. As a funeral director, it didn’t take long to recall that very soon, this holy building will shelter my body at my own funeral. Will I take those earthly worries to my grave, or will I nail them to the Cross as Jesus did?
How much have you and I prayed for a turnaround in this year’s events, and yet God Himself is allowing the unease to occur? We plead for ease, for relief, for health, for safety, in front of His Son nailed to the Cross. It is only through His Will that I can stand literally in front of His body and blood and worry about the comforts of my life. He holds in His Hand our specks of dust that we cling to even while praying at the foot of the Cross – and yet He loves us. How terrible a thought. “Forgive me,” I begged.
Stepping out of the church, still at a loss, but nonetheless renewed in faith by the awe and fear of God, I trace the most significant sign of the greatest love across my chest and drive home.
That evening, I kneel with my children to pray the Lord’s Prayer. I remember that the King Himself first uttered those words, “Thy kingdom come.” My thoughts turn to John the Herald crying in the desert, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!” (Mt 3:2, RSV). It is here already. “It is the Lord,” echoing the words of the Beloved Apostle but a few days after his master had died.
"When I pray with my children, “…Thy will be done…” it is not just a petition..."
I remember how Jesus of Nazareth asked the Father for relief and ease in the garden; “Father, all things are possible to thee: remove this chalice from me…” (Mk 14:36, Douay Rheims). How much do I beg God to remove these “awful” times from us? In reality, nothing that I might endure is comparable to the injustice brought upon Christ in His Passion. Jesus continued his prayer in the garden of Gethsemane, fully aware of the torture he was to endure: “…but not what I will; but what thou wilt” (Mk 14:36, Douay Rheims). God’s will is not just a future thought, but also a present reality, and it does not necessarily mean our comfort. His will is being done, whether I like it or not. We are not waiting without hope. This is not a godless hour.
When I pray with my children, “…Thy will be done…” it is not just a petition that God brings forth his will on earth, but also an affirmation that I participate in His will and let it live in my heart, regardless of what I want. And when I conclude “deliver us from evil,” how much of that evil is the pride filling my own heart, taking up space owed to the will of God?
“Amen,” say, my children, tucked into bed. My daughter makes the sign of the Cross as my son tries to follow. I tell them I love them and close the door. They sleep peacefully, and yet they have no idea what is going on in the world. A thought grabs me: it doesn’t matter. They sleep because they trust their dad, and that is enough for these little ones whose “angels behold the face of my Father in heaven” (Mt 18:10). From His silence had come God’s answer. May we all trust in Our Father, and that will bring us peace.