“All shall be well. All shall be well. All manner of things shall be well.”
– St. Julian of Norwich-
Every year around this time, a little sadness would set in as a dark cloud would loom in over the final days of summer. It was inevitable. The new school year was around the corner and there was no escaping it. Even as someone who really liked school growing up and then chose to stay in the school setting as a teacher for several years, the end of the summer always felt the same way. It was just a little sad. The freshly stocked school supplies and new back-to-school shoes my mom made us wait to wear until that first day definitely helped build the excitement, but what is it about endings and new beginnings that get us feeling a little low?
For me, the close of the summer meant that I had not accomplished everything I had planned for during my time off, even though it was probably full of wonderful experiences I was choosing to overlook. I had reached my limit for summer. Time was up. And then on the other hand, the beginning of the school year was brimming with several unknowns, stacked high with expectations I wasn’t sure I could live up to. No wonder it left me feeling a little heavy!
Here’s the truth of it all: in all my years as a student and then as a teacher, that feeling always came at the end of the summer, but in a few weeks time, it also always went away. It would slowly fade with each new day as I got to know my new teachers better and remembered how much I missed seeing my friends and got back into the groove of the school year. Routines are tough to start again, but when we do, we’re reminded and empowered by how capable we truly are.
Since last March, a lot of us, myself included, have lost our routines and fallen away from some of the things that used to bring us so much life. The hardest part now is starting again. And unlike a new school year, which comes each August whether our children want it to or not, sometimes we need that nudge to dive back in. We need the encouragement of our loved ones and those around us to put on that new “back-to-school” mindset and dive all in. But the reality is we need each other. It’s the familiar face of an old friend, the kind gesture of a new teacher, and the encouragement of those around us to get back involved that makes the transition into any new season possible. Just as Jesus needed his disciples, we truly need each other. So say goodbye to those end of summer blues. A new beginning–a new hope–is on the horizon. Are you ready? Tap into your inner child–that one that is a month into the new school year–and let them remind you, “All shall be well!”
August 8th was my birthday and as I reflect on the past year I look back on all the changes that happened in and around me because of the circumstances. As I look back to a year ago I remember the deep uncertainty many of us were in and still might be. Amidst this uncertainty I am drawn to the scripture story from the gospels where Jesus calls Peter to walk on the water.
What is striking to me from this passage is that Peter could have easily stayed in the boat because it was what he knew was safe… Peter didn’t stay in the boat though. He stepped out into the unknown, doing something no (non-divine) human being had ever done before. He walked on water. I think this past year we were given a choice. We could have either continued our same old routines, even if they weren’t working, simply because they were what were easy. Or we could have stepped out of the safety of the boat and into the water.
Much like Peter I think we have been called to step into the unknown and do things that may have been unimaginable before because it is in that walking into the unknown that we encounter Christ. Maybe this past year you realized that you need to reach out to old friends and family members more often. Maybe you realized that you wanted to be more active and pick up some exercise routines. Maybe you realized that you need to slow down and enjoy a more relaxed lifestyle. As we rise this coming year I know I personally will continue to be aware of the ways in which Christ is calling me to step out onto the water and I invite you to do the same. The water is fine 😉
When I was young, getting ready for school was all about the new shoes. School supplies were up to my mom, but shoes were for me to pick out. Stride Rite Mary Jane’s for Kindergarten, saddle shoes for second grade, tennis shoes for sixth grade, Birkenstocks for sophomore year. The excitement for the new shoes masked my true concern and worry for those first days. Many nights before school I would not even be able to sleep, instead worrying about a litany of questions, would I like my teacher? Would my teacher like me? Would I have friends? Would I be able to open my locker? As a mom sending our four children off to school this week, my concerns are not much different. Sometimes I wake up around 3 am just to consider my concerns. I don’t really pick this time, but my body seems to know that this is the ideal time to ponder the following: Will my child be loved and accepted? Will he/she be challenged, yet appreciated for his/her differences? Will they make friends? Will they remember to bring home the right books from their locker?
After all these years my first day worries have not really changed. I know that God promises to be with us always, but I think we all need the reminder on the first day of school, or any new beginning really. When Jesus left the apostles he told them “I am with you always.” Those apostles were facing a new beginning without their teacher, Jesus to guide them in their daily life. They struggled with worry and concern just like we do. Just like those early apostles, we all need that reminder from time to time. We are never alone. When we have doubts and worries, God is always with us. Not only do we have the Holy Spirit, the advocate, but also we have our community; friends for the journey. Friends help us, laugh with us, hug us, pick us up on a bad day, to remind us we are not alone. Hopefully friends that pray for us, and remind us that God is with us always. This year on your first day, know that your entire St. Patrick Catholic Community is praying with you. We hope it is the best day ever. And remember most of all, that God is with you always.
It was so nice to see such a large crowd come to celebrate Fr. Mark Harrington’s life as a Priest on July 16 and also a couple weeks before for Deacon John Meyers’ Celebration of Life. Both these men were “all in,” living lives of service and giving glory to God by the way they lived their ministry. It was so great to hear everyone singing and joining their voices to celebrate their wonderful well-lived lives. Such a beautiful sound and it brought the church alive!!!
I know I can sometimes take for granted how well we sing and participate here at St. Patrick. I am very grateful for all the people who have offered their gifts to serve at the table of the Lord, especially in all the Liturgical ministries, not just music. On a regular Sunday, I do have to mention though, from my viewpoint in the music area, I get to see those who are singing from the bottom of their hearts and also, on the other hand, I get to see how many mouths actually move when we sing. I just want to offer this encouragement…EVERY VOICE MATTERS!!! We need everyone to participate and sing and pray from the bottom of their hearts.
In the first part of this blog I mentioned that it was nice to hear “everyone” sing. This usually happens when we are gathered to celebrate something special. I’m not sure it happens every Sunday like it could though. To have full, conscious, active, participation in singing and praying, (as we are called b Vatican II documents) that is our goal, that is our higher calling, our mission to transform the world by our participation, especially in song. We inspire each other by our “all-in-ness,” that we sing what we believe! I understand that at St. Patrick the singing is probably better than 80% of the parishes in the country, but we all can set the bar higher, so that all who enter will remember not just that the music was good but that everyone sang!!!
So again, if you are one of our regulars who sing their hearts out, thank you for your witness, it is inspiring. And if you are a sometimes singer, we just encourage you to use your gifts to help our praise and worship of God become outstanding, because we know that our St. Patrick Voice is not the same without yours, (even if it is not the most well trained!) Thanks for being such a great parish, there is a lot to be proud of here, and I’m grateful for the opportunity to lead you in Prayer and Song.
What I did on my summer vacation….I can remember writing these stories or drawing pictures of my summer vacation almost every year that first week we were back to school. I am not sure it meant anything to me as I did the assignment. Back then it was just busy work for me or maybe an opportunity for my teacher to regain control of students that thought they were still on summer vacation! Now that I am older and supposedly wiser (ha!), I find myself reflecting on what I did on my summer vacation and looking for meaning.
I just returned from a family vacation – that we lovingly call the Chevy Chase Vacation! My son Andy wanted to have some distraction for me as we came up on the 1st year anniversary of the death of my son Christopher. Distraction for sure! They planned a road trip to Chicago in a motor home. My son, his wife and three of their four children and I, trekked across the tundra straight through so we would have more time in Chicago to see the sights. Nine days in close quarters 24/7 and we came out of it stronger than when we left. Now, there was a moment when it could have gone either way, but we prevailed! My 17-year-old granddaughter said “it was the best vacation we ever had”. Coming from her, who went kicking and screaming, says something.
Well, that is what I did, now on to my pondering. The older I get the more I want to know about myself, my family and God not necessarily in that order. For myself, I learned I let myself get caught up in a rat race, I need fun and recreation, I want to explore and COVID played a number on me. Regarding my family, I deepened the understanding that I love them more than life itself…and I miss Christopher deeper than I thought possible. Love and forgiveness are everyday experiences and just because you are family, doesn’t protect you from the pain and work all relationships require. Even family relationships are a lot of work, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. Never take them for granted, you do not know what tomorrow brings. What did I learn about God? God can be found in the sunrise even after driving for 24 hours straight, God has more patience than a saint, and can be found in the most obscure places if you carve out the time and space.
What did you do on your summer vacation?
I think that there is a certain gravitational pull, a sorting out of sorts, associated with spending time online. Every tap and every click that we register is a statement of preference, and pretty soon, the digital universe starts putting things in front of us that align with these statements. Let’s just say that I see a lot of posts and ads about Notre Dame Football and Disneyland. But I also see other things – politics, morality, belief systems, and such. It’s all well and good, but I know that these posts, articles and videos are designed to drag me further down the rabbit hole of division that we are all living in. The people whose job it is to get us to engage in their content know something about us that they use to their advantage. They know that hate gets more clicks than love.
Jesus can tell us all day long not to be afraid, and not to worry, but there will always be someone ready to pounce on our fears and anxieties to exploit them. Where Christ would seek to transform fear into trust, others would like to see it fuel outrage. Outrage spreads like wildfire, which is great for ad revenues, but often less great for discipleship.
Hatred stirs up disputes, but love covers all offenses. -Proverbs 10:12
We know that love is ultimately more powerful than hate if we can just get to the depth in which it lives. Hatred is a quick fix. It readily allows us to assign blame to the other leaving our own responsibilities and shortcomings unexamined. Like any other drug, hatred calls us back again and again, demanding more of us each time.
Jesus invites us into freedom out of the slavery of sin and hatred. What if, for a week or two, you were more intentional about what you clicked on? What if you started to use those algorithms to your advantage, sending them the message that you’d rather be surrounded by goodness, kindness, and beauty than hatred and division? Let’s take an active role in shaping the surroundings that help shape us.
I’m a classic over-packer. Even as I’ve worked on simplifying and becoming more of a “minimalist” in my home and my everyday life, it seems that when I’m getting ready to go on a trip, I’m always tempted to bring just a little too much. An outfit for every possible weather scenario, a few more books than I know I’ll actually have time to read (Yes, I still pack real books!), and a few other “essentials” that might come in handy, you know… just in case.
When traveling, I want to be prepared and I want to be comfortable. It seems responsible to try to remember everything I might need and honestly there’s nothing worse than being far from home and wishing you had something you left behind!
So, I wonder why in this week’s gospel Jesus asks us to travel lightly? Mark says: “He ordered them to take nothing for their journey except a staff; no bread, no bag, no money in their belts; but to wear sandals and not to put on two tunics.” Having had the chance to visit Israel and after walking through some of the same places Jesus and his disciples most likely walked, I now know I surely wouldn’t want to be making that journey unprepared!
And while there is something to be learned from simplicity when it comes to physical possessions, perhaps Jesus is using the physical to help us understand something about the spiritual journey he asks us to take with him. Because unlike our physical journeys, when we enter into the spiritual journey with Jesus, he knows there’s nothing we can bring that will fully prepare us for where he’s leading us. He asks us to be open, to embrace the unknown, to trust the journey and to trust him. He wants us to be dependent on him and not on ourselves. And perhaps he wants to teach us that maybe it’s ok that we aren’t always comfortable or that we don’t always have exactly what we want, but instead to believe that he’ll always provide us with exactly what we need. And maybe he’s asking us to empty our “suitcases” of unnecessary things – like expectations, fears, resentments – and allow ourselves to be light and free, so there’s nothing holding us back from entering fully into this journey with him.
So while I work on trying to become more like that person that can just walk onto an airplane with a tiny purse (rather than trying to jam my overstuffed backpack under the seat in front of me!), I think there’s a challenge here for all of us. What are we packing on our spiritual journeys? Can we trust God enough to know that he is all we need?
I have many opportunities each day to worry and live in fear, from being worried about my family, my children and grandchildren, maintaining good health, to the economy and my finances; the list could go on and on.
But did you know that faith and fear have something in common? They both ask us to believe something is going to happen that we cannot see. Fear says, “Business is slow. You’re going to lose your job.” But faith says, “Your best days are ahead of you.”
When we give in to thoughts of fear, our perspective becomes distorted. Fear is like a fog. It makes things look worse than what they really are.
I make a daily effort to put my energy into believing and not worrying. Our God is all-powerful. He has brought me through in the past, and He is going to bring me through in the future. That’s positive self-talk.
Let’s surround ourselves with people of faith who will remind us of the many blessings in our lives. If we stay in control of our thoughts and learn to choose faith instead of fear, we’re going to be filled with peace and confidence. We were created for a life of hope and peace; not to have our enthusiasm and joy stolen by fear.
Let’s choose to walk in faith today. Remember, it takes the same amount of energy to worry as it does to have faith. So let’s switch our gears to having faith and trusting God. God will work everything out for the best if we just believe.
Do not fear: I am with you; do not be anxious: I am your God. I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my victorious right hand. Isaiah 41:10
You don’t need to have spent any time on the roads over the last month to notice the ever growing bandwagon on the streets of Arizona. We are suddenly a basketball town again, and everyone surely enjoys the ride…including me! GO SUNS!!! (Younger me, wrapped in my purple and orange blankie with Charles Barkley & Kevin Johnson posters on his wall just got really excited to read older me saying this.)
If you know (older) me (or listened to any of the “Ask a Father” podcasts Brian Cannon and I made for the parish), you know that watching NBA basketball is just not my thing. Do I want to see the Suns win? OF COURSE! Younger me is still inside somewhere. Now, I just typically want to see them win in the form of highlights only or maybe the last 5-10 minutes of the 4th quarter. However, full disclosure, I have fully jumped back on the bandwagon and I actually watched a few full 2nd halves of the conference semi-final and conference final games! “Playoffs” must have been the key word.
In our Gospel today, we see a bandwagon forming around Jesus. The word is getting out and people want to see for themselves. They want to be a part of the action. They want to be a part of the story. The woman with the hemorrhages reaches out to Jesus, and is healed. The family of the little girl reaches out to Jesus, and he restores life where there was death. Jesus welcomed them onto the bandwagon and answered their desire by revealing his own desire to care for them, to restore them, and to make them whole.
Who wouldn’t want to be on that bandwagon?
If we got off, let’s get back on that bandwagon (Jesus is always there to welcome us). If we are on, let’s never leave. This bandwagon is special. It is a parade of love. We are part of the story. His bandwagon is ours. We are created in his image, signs of his love. We are part of the action, continuing God’s presence in the world today. Go team, go.
As I read the Gospel for this Sunday where Jesus is asleep in the boat with the apostles, I thought about my Dad who can fall asleep anywhere he makes a pitstop – a chair, the sofa, even while on his knees saying his prayers at night. He can even sleep soundly in the midst of a thunder and lightning storm. But whenever there was a storm when I was a child, I would run to him, like the apostles ran to Jesus, wake him up and climb up onto his lap, grab his arms and wrap them around me, because the place I felt the safest was tucked in my Dad’s embrace, listening to the storm rage outside our home. And while he didn’t calm the storm like Jesus, he calmed my heart because I knew he was right there, and I was safe.
And while this is my reality, there are those who this comfort, peace and security is far from their reality. For some, while Dad was there, his presence didn’t bring the safety and reassurance that was needed. For others, their fathers were not present. Whatever the situation may be in our families at this time, I pray that we open ourselves to a deeper relationship with the One Father whose presence is even greater and more constant in our life.
In a reflection on Father’s Day by Nicole Smithee, she encapsulates my hope for my Dad and all the “Dads” who will be celebrating this day, and that is to “know beyond a shadow of a doubt that your Heavenly Father is [in the the boat] of your life and will never leave you; that God has always been there in the highs and lows; that one heart-to-heart with Him can calm the raging storm of your soul and heal the deepest wounds of your heart; that one word from Him can ignite hope deep within you and breathe bravery into your very lungs; that one conversation with Him can deposit wisdom for your world and inexpressible joy in your current circumstances.”
Happy Father’s Day to all who have ever stepped into the role of “dad.” Whether that be a brother, an uncle, grandpa, cousin, friend, or in the most familiar case to me, the moms who stand in the role of dad – may we all have an open heart to the Father who loves us simply because we are His children.
“See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!” 1 John 3:1 (NIV)