First Sunday of Advent: Hope (Pope’s Homily)

In today’s homily for the First Sunday of Advent, Pope Francis reminded us that our salvation in Christ, at its core, is about justice, love, and the invincible power of God; in this we have our hope. With these thoughts, he opened the Year of Mercy at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, located in Bangui in in the Central African Republic. The Jubilee of Mercy will be officially opened in Rome on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, Tuesday, December 8.

The readings for today’s Mass can be found here. The homily in full:

On this first Sunday of Advent, the liturgical season of joyful expectation of the Saviour and a symbol of Christian hope, God has brought me here among you, in this land, while the universal Church is preparing for the opening of the Jubilee Year of Mercy. I am especially pleased that my pastoral visit coincides with the opening of this Jubilee Year in your country. From this cathedral I reach out, in mind and heart, and with great affection, to all the priests, consecrated men and women, and pastoral workers of the nation, who are spiritually united with us at this moment. Through you, I would greet all the people of the Central African Republic: the sick, the elderly, those who have experienced life’s hurts. Some of them are perhaps despairing and listless, asking only for alms, the alms of bread, the alms of justice, the alms of attention and goodness.

But like the Apostles Peter and John on their way to the Temple, who had neither gold nor silver to give to the paralytic in need, I have come to offer God’s strength and power; for these bring us healing, set us on our feet and enable us to embark on a new life, to “go across to the other side” (cf. Lk 8:22).

Jesus does not make us cross to the other side alone; instead, he asks us to make the crossing with him, as each of us responds to his or her own specific vocation. We need to realize that making this crossing can only be done with him, by freeing ourselves of divisive notions of family and blood in order to build a Church which is God’s family, open to everyone, concerned for those most in need. This presupposes closeness to our brothers and sisters; it implies a spirit of communion. It is not primarily a question of financial means; it is enough just to share in the life of God’s people, in accounting for the hope which is in us (cf. 1 Pet 3:15), in testifying to the infinite mercy of God who, as the Responsorial Psalm of this Sunday’s liturgy makes clear, is “good [and] instructs sinners in the way” (Ps 24:8). Jesus teaches us that our heavenly Father “makes the sun rise on the evil and on the good” (Mt 5:45). Having experienced forgiveness ourselves, we must forgive others in turn. This is our fundamental vocation: “You, therefore, must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Mt 5:48).

One of the essential characteristics of this vocation to perfection is the love of our enemies, which protects us from the temptation to seek revenge and from the spiral of endless retaliation. Jesus placed special emphasis on this aspect of the Christian testimony (cf. Mt 5:46-47). Those who evangelize must therefore be first and foremost practitioners of forgiveness, specialists in reconciliation, experts in mercy. This is how we can help our brothers and sisters to “cross to the other side” – by showing them the secret of our strength, our hope, and our joy, all of which have their source in God, for they are grounded in the certainty that he is in the boat with us. As he did with the apostles at the multiplication of the loaves, so too the Lord entrusts his gifts to us, so that we can go out and distribute them everywhere, proclaiming his reassuring words: “Behold, the days are coming when I will fulfil the promise I made to the house of Israel and the house of Judah” (Jer 33:14).

In the readings of this Sunday’s liturgy, we can see different aspects of this salvation proclaimed by God; they appear as signposts to guide us on our mission. First of all, the happiness promised by God is presented as justice. Advent is a time when we strive to open our hearts to receive the Saviour, who alone is just and the sole Judge able to give to each his or her due. Here as elsewhere, countless men and women thirst for respect, for justice, for equality, yet see no positive signs on the horizon. These are the ones to whom he comes to bring the gift of his justice (cf. Jer 33:15). He comes to enrich our personal and collective histories, our dashed hopes and our sterile yearnings. And he sends us to proclaim, especially to those oppressed by the powerful of this world or weighed down by the burden of their sins, that “Judah will be saved and Jerusalem will dwell securely. And this is the name by which it shall be called, ‘The Lord is our righteousness’” (Jer 33:16). Yes, God is righteousness; God is justice. This, then, is why we Christians are called in the world to work for a peace founded on justice.

The salvation of God which we await is also flavoured with love. In preparing for the mystery of Christmas, we relive the pilgrimage which prepared God’s people to receive the Son, who came to reveal that God is not only righteousness, but also and above all love (cf. 1 Jn 4:8). In every place, even and especially in those places where violence, hatred, injustice and persecution hold sway, Christians are called to give witness to this God who is love. In encouraging the priests, consecrated men and woman, and committed laity who, in this country live, at times heroically, the Christian virtues, I realize that the distance between this demanding ideal and our Christian witness is at times great. For this reason I echo the prayer of Saint Paul: “Brothers and sisters, may the Lord make you increase and abound in love to one another and to all men and women” (1 Th 3:12). Thus what the pagans said of the early Christians will always remain before us like a beacon: “See how they love one another, how they truly love one another” (Tertullian, Apology, 39, 7).

Finally, the salvation proclaimed by God has an invincible power which will make it ultimately prevail. After announcing to his disciples the terrible signs that will precede his coming, Jesus concludes: “When these things begin to take place, look up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near” (Lk 21:28). If Saint Paul can speak of a love which “grows and overflows”, it is because Christian witness reflects that irresistible power spoken of in the Gospel. It is amid unprecedented devastation that Jesus wishes to show his great power, his incomparable glory (cf. Lk 21:27) and the power of that love which stops at nothing, even before the falling of the heavens, the conflagration of the world or the tumult of the seas. God is stronger than all else. This conviction gives to the believer serenity, courage and the strength to persevere in good amid the greatest hardships. Even when the powers of Hell are unleashed, Christians must rise to the summons, their heads held high, and be ready to brave blows in this battle over which God will have the last word. And that word will be love and peace!

To all those who make unjust use of the weapons of this world, I make this appeal: lay down these instruments of death! Arm yourselves instead with righteousness, with love and mercy, the authentic guarantors of peace. As followers of Christ, dear priests, religious and lay pastoral workers, here in this country, with its suggestive name, situated in the heart of Africa and called to discover the Lord as the true centre of all that is good, your vocation is to incarnate the very heart of God in the midst of your fellow citizens. May the Lord deign to “strengthen your hearts in holiness, that you may be blameless before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints” (1 Th 3:13). Reconciliation. Forgiveness. Love. Peace. Amen.

H/T to Whispers.

Advent 2015 Resources

The Annunciation, by Murillo [Public Domain], via Wikimedia Commons

The Annunciation, by Murillo [Public Domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Let’s be honest: Christmas often overshadows Advent, especially in our increasingly secular society that tends to focus on the gifts rather than on the true meaning of Christmas (Archbishop Sheen will explain it all to you here). This year, however, try something different: try making Advent a priority in your house, taking advantage of this crucial piece of the Christian journey as we seek to grow closer to Jesus Christ.. I have put together some resources that I have tried in the past and found both encouraging and thought-provoking.

No matter what you do, however, don’t let Advent pass you by! Be intentional, prepare for the coming of Jesus at Christmas in a new and profound way this year by focusing on the season of Advent.

Bishop Robert Barron’s Daily Advent Reflections – Available in both English and Spanish, I have found these reflections a good way to start the day, often reading them as I drink a cup of tea before I get ready in the morning. On each Sunday, they are a bit longer, and sometimes include a video. Bishop Barron’s introduction is below.

Best Advent Ever – From Matthew Kelly and Dynamic Catholic, this is another great series on focusing on the meaning of Advent and how it can be truly meaningful and life-changing. Click through to see the introduction video.

An of Advent from Jimmy Akin and the National Catholic Register – Straight and to the point, this is a good thorough FAQ of sorts for Advent.

Reflections on Advent, related devotions, as well as other resources, from EWTN – There is a lot of great info on this site, but it can be a bit difficult to navigate at first. If you are looking for the weekly reflection, they are at the very top of the page.

Resources from the USCCB – this site includes reflections and prayers on the meaning of Advent, a guide for how to set up an Advent Wreath, and even an electronic Advent Calendar

Historic and Symbolic Meaning of Advent from the Catholic Encyclopedia – Pretty self-explanatory. It’s an encyclopedia article on Advent.

For my own part, I will be posting weekly reflections as well, in addition to any other helpful items or articles I might find over the next few weeks.

Make this year’s Advent purposeful. Know that my prayers are with you all; please keep me in your prayers too!

UPDATE (11/27/15 14:58): A friend of mine just sent me a really cool “Names of Jesus” Advent chain activity. There are 25 names, so you can start on December 1st with your kids. An excellent way to learn about Jesus and enter into the season of Advent!

On the Journey: Childhood

Augustine’s Confessions I.7-12

“You are the one and only mold in which all things are cast and the perfect form which shapes all things and everything takes its place according to your law.” -Confessions I. 7

One of the most profound experiences that one can have, in my opinion, is holding a newborn child in their arms. The beauty and innocence in the eyes of an infant can reach a person to the very soul, putting him or her in touch with the God who created us all, who at one time formed us in the womb so that we might be held by our own fathers and mothers.

The parent of a toddler running around the house may not be so keen on seeing that innocence, and the parent of a teenager may outright deny it!

We are all born in this wonderful state, but then again, we are also human. We are not born perfect, and we will grow to make mistakes, fall, both proverbially and actually, and by God’s grace, we will get up again.

I remember when I was a young child, probably middle elementary school and I was out playing with some friends. I did not want to come home, only because I wanted to play longer, and ignored the calls of my mother. (And when I say calls, I mean verbally, from the front porch. Well, whistles actually. Cell phones weren’t so common then. Man, I feel old all of a sudden…)

This obviously didn’t end well.

From Wikimedia Commons - Unlimited License

From Wikimedia Commons – Unlimited License

She kept calling, and I kept ignoring, and finally it came time that I had to leave my friend’s house so he could eat dinner. I proceeded out his front door, said goodbye, and waited. And hid behind a rather large bush. And waited some more. I mean, I knew I was in for it, so why not, right? I saw my mom ride by on her bicycle, looking frantically for me. I’m not sure how long it had been; it seemed like hours, but it was probably only 15 or 20 minutes. Eventually, I knew I had to make my presence known, and so I stepped out so she could see me.

That was the first time I experienced what it was like to be grounded.

Lord knows it wouldn’t be the last, and that I have probably given my mother and father a fright or two or ten since then!

But my point is this: even at that young age, we struggle with the right thing to do, what choices we make, and this is where we find Augustine in this week’s reading. He recounts what he must have been like as an infant (whiny) and what he was like during his early school years (a brat who didn’t want to concentrate on school work):

“I was disobedient, not because  I had chosen something better than they [my parents] proposed to me, but simply from the love of games…My eyes shone more and more [with curiosity]…[and I] wanted to see the shows and sport which grown-ups enjoyed.” –Confessions I.10

The Carpenter's Shop, by Everett Millais [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Somehow, I don’t think our Lord ever got in trouble… Painting entitled “The Carpenter’s Shop”, by Everett Millais [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Augustine sought to follow his own desires, seeking what he considered the “wealth of this age” (I.9). But even at this point in life, even though he  had a lot of growing up to do, and many more mistakes to make, he still had an inclination of the presence of God, taught  to him by his mother Monica.  At one point, he even pleads with his mom, appealing to her own devotion, “Give me the baptism of Christ your son, who is my God and my master” (I.11).

I wish I was as eloquent as Augustine at that age!

There is a two fold lesson that we can learn from our own lives and from Augustine in all of this. First, we must grow up. Second, we must remain children. Scripture even supports this: in the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus Christ tells his followers, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven” (18.2-4). In one of the Apostle Paul’s letters, he speaks of “put[ting] away childish things” (1 Cor. 13.11).

Of course there is no contradiction here. In one sense, we must strive to return to the humility of childhood, seeing ourselves how God sees us, trying to better ourselves, get aways from the distractions of the “wealth of this world.” We must seek refuge in Him as the Father that He is, accepting the mercy of His Son, allowing the Spirit to penetrate our hearts. At the same time, this movement of child-like faith and humility will cause us to grow up, to see the world how it truly is, to see the emptiness of worldly wealth and to see how His truth and beauty permeates all things. We discover that we can either allow ourselves to be swept away by that beauty, or turn our backs on it as we would a cold wind.

The Father has cast us in His image; let’s rediscover the mold from which He made us as little children.

For reflection:

How can you become more like a child to grow closer to God?

What things do you need to put away in order to grow closer to God?

Up in two weeks: Confessions I.13-15. Normally I try to post weekly, but I am taking this short hiatus to focus on enjoying vacation and studying for finals. There will be other posts on the blog before then, I am sure, but the next one in this series will be on Dec. 9.

This is part of a continuing series, Companions on the Journey. You can take a look at previous posts in the series or read the introduction.

There is One King

As today’s Feast of Christ the King draws to a close, let us remember that in the end, there is only one true King, one Victor. We cannot serve two masters. We must serve the King, our Savior, He who desires to reign in our hearts:

Salvator Mundi

Photo by Toby Hudson CC BY-SA 3.0 or GFDL, via Wikimedia Commons

“He is our king. He desires ardently to rule our hearts, because we are children of God. But we should not try to imagine a human sort of rule — Christ does not dominate or seek to impose himself, because he “has not come to be served but to serve.”

His kingdom is one of peace, of joy, of justice. Christ our king does not expect us to spend our time in abstract reasoning; he expects deeds, because “not everyone who says to me, Lord, Lord!, shall enter the kingdom of heaven; but he who does the will of my Father in heaven shall enter the kingdom of heaven.” -St. Josemaria Escriva

Let us then invite the King into our hearts, preparing the way for Advent, for His coming in the manger, and go out into the world to spread His message of love and truth in word and action. Pax.

On the Journey: Eudaimonia, Pears, and True Happiness

Augustine’s Confessions I.5-6

No one can part You from the things that You love, and safety is assured nowhere but in You.

What motivates our actions? I think it is safe to say that in almost all cases, human beings are driven to act by that which they see as good, that which will lead to happiness. Aristotle says “happiness depends on ourselves” and in a sense, I suppose that is true. In order to be happy, we must act, we must seek that which makes us happy. And what makes us happy? The good, true, and beautiful.

I remember when I first listened to Beethoven’s Missa Solemnis. It was at the recommendation of a dear friend and mentor, Fr. Paschal, God rest his soul. He gave me this advice before listening to it: “Don’t worry about anything else for an hour! Get a nice glass of wine, turn the music on, and just experience it!” Despite my busy academic schedule at the time, I did what he suggested, and it became a pivotal moment: the music moved me in a way that had never happened before. In that moment, I felt truly happy, allowing myself to be caught up in the movement of the work, to escape the worries of life, even if only for an hour. To borrow a literature term, it was truly a pastoral moment.

I was experiencing something that many of us encounter in our lives, in some fashion: there are things on this earth that make us truly happy and bring joy to our hearts. But while they make us happy, we must remember that the good, true, and beautiful leads to something else, something higher.  Augustine reminds us of this deep truth of human existence: we can find goodness in so many things of this world, such as beautiful objects, material things, friendship. For Aristotle, this quest for happiness was a quest for “eudaimonia“, pursuing health, wealth, and excellence to achieve the ultimate in human flourishing. Augustine, on the other hand, goes further: our quest for happiness must move to a much deeper, a much higher. level or we risk twisting even the good things in our lives into something that will bring us to ruin, rather than fulfillment.

What happens when this quest for happiness, or perhaps we can say now fulfillment, becomes twisted? This is where confusion and sin enter the picture. Sin, a turning in on oneself and away from God, is the disordered seeking of that which we think is good but in reality is not, or even seeking a good but through means that fracture our relationship with God and those around us. After all, even the worst atrocities in human history have been committed by people who thought they were doing good. We are wronged, so we commit revenge. We are envious, so we commit murder. We are lustful, so we commit adultery. At the center of these actions is a disordered desire to seek fulfillment: whether it is achieving some sort of excellence, wanting to battle what we perceive as an injustice, or seeking a relationship to fill an inner need to connect on an intimate level with another. In each of these situations, the individual is searching for what he or she thinks is good, but in the end, comes up empty.

In Augustine’s case, it was even worse! He steals a measly pear not because he needed it, or he thought it was better than the fruit he had. He stole it simply for the sheer desire of the sin:

For no sooner had I picked them than I threw them away, and tasted nothing in them but my own sin, which I relished and enjoyed. If any part of one of those pears passed my lips, it was the sin that gave its flavor.


Pear blossoms from my native California. Who knew fruit could be so much trouble? Well, there was Eden…

Makes you feel a bit better, doesn’t it, knowing that even a Church Father, one of the greatest theologians and leaders in human history, was a lowly sinful person like the rest of us, huh?

St. Augustine was, in reality, seeking happiness, even if it was in a disordered way. This does not excuse the action, of course, don’t get me wrong, but he comes to the realization, praise God to the benefit of Western Civilization, that while the “soul defiles itself with unchaste love when it turns away” from God, it finds a true love “that is pure and unsullied” available only by returning back to the Lord.

We fall, we sin, we seek happiness in all the wrong places. As Augustine shows us, however, true happiness resides in keeping Him at the center of our lives, living the full meaning of the Good, the True, and the Beautiful; we just need to respond to His prompting and take that first step towards true happiness and lasting joy. Praise God, when we fall, His love still waits for us, ready to meet us, and draw us into something greater than we can possibly imagine, for even in the darkest moments, “there is no place whatever where man may hide away” from God and His love.

For reflection:

  1. How do you seek happiness?
  2. Does the way in which you seek happiness lead you towards, or away, from God?

Up Next Wednesday: Confessions I.7-12

This is part of a continuing series, Companions on the Journey. You can take a look at previous posts in the series or read the introduction.

On the Journey: Encountering Mystery

Augustine’s Confessions I.2-4

For all things find in you their origin, their impulse, the center of their being.

What is God? Who is God? Where do we find God? Even Saint Augustine wrestles with these questions, questions that we continue to ask centuries later. Of course, if there was anyone in history that was capable of answering these questions, it was Saint Augustine! He would become one of the most prolific and lucid theologians of all time. So what does he say?

Detail of

Detail of “The Creation of Adam” by Michelangelo [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Augustine tells us that God is merciful yet just. Never new, never old. Varied yet one. Never in need yet glad to gain. He is never covetous yet exacts a return for His gifts.

Still not helpful?

How about this: Augustine states it all in one short sentence, “For even those who are most gifted with speech cannot find words to describe you.”

From the very outset of his journey, Augustine unequivocally states that we cannot know Him. Sure, we may know some things about Him, but in the end, we are really quite clueless. You know what? That’s perfectly OK. That’s how it’s supposed to be. When we encounter Him, not only do we encounter Love, Mercy, and Hope, we also encounter Mystery.

We are always looking for answers. Especially in a society that is so focused on progress, science, technology, and the next “big thing,” not having the answers can be a difficult proposition to accept.

But to truly know God, we have to accept that we can never fully know Him in this life. Mystery.

In the search for God, when we encounter His mystery, we also encounter inexplicable beauty. Volumes have been written about this mystery and beauty, this Person for whom every human being seeks, but yet not all the books of the world would be able to contain Him (cf. John 21.25). We must learn to be at peace with this tension of not knowing and yet moving forward, of encountering the mystery while we allow the beauty of the Triune God penetrate our souls.

It’s OK to not know, to be a bit clueless, or a lot clueless. We all are on this journey together, from the most normal person to the brightest theologian.

The first step is embracing the mystery, taking a leap of faith. Let us open our hearts, allow ourselves to be drawn to Him. Let us encounter the beauty and mystery of God, and be at peace.

For reflection:

  1. What are some unanswered questions you have about God?
  2. Where do you encounter beauty and mystery?

Up next week: Confessions Book 1, Sections 5-6

This is part of a continuing series, Companions on the Journey. You can take a look at previous posts in the series or read the introduction.

Please note: this post was written prior to the attacks in Paris, which I spoke about earlier. I decided to delay it from when it was schedule because it didn’t seem appropriate to post the new installment first thing the morning following that horrific tragedy. Please keep the French people in your prayers. May peace, mercy, and justice triumph over all.

Our Lady of Lourdes, pray for us. St. Joan of Arc, pray for us.

On Paris

By Kriti Shankar (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Interior of Notre Dame de Paris cathedral, by Kriti Shankar (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

My heart hurts for the people of Paris today. I cannot begin to fathom what they are going through. I think of the two exchange students our school hosted last year; they were both from France. I wonder what they are going through right now. I remember the french man I met on a train in New Zealand, and I consider whether or not he is in Paris, and what he and his family must be thinking right now.

What are we to do in times such as these?

Pray. Hope. Trust in God. Meet violence with peace, ugliness with beauty and falsehoods with truth.

It has become clear since the attacks last night that they were perpetrated by terrorists from ISIS. When we pray for the repose of the souls who died last night, we must keep those responsible in our prayers as well. When we pray for the victims, we need to pray for the perpetrators of these horrible acts. For our own part, we must also educate ourselves, know what is going on in the world, do what we can to spread Truth, and leave the rest to God.

Pope Francis called last night’s events part of a “piecemeal World War III.” Is he right? I don’t know. But what I do know is that we must stand together with our French brothers and sisters, and all those who come under the shadow of terrorism, of evil, and proclaim the Light that banishes all darkness.

Pray for the victims. Pray for those responsible. Pray for each other, and never lose hope.

Our Lady of Lourdes

Our Lady of Lourdes

Nous vous saluons, Reine, Mere de misericorde, notre vie, notre joie, notre esperance, salut. Enfants d’Eve, nous crions vers vous de fond de notre exil. Nous soupirons vers vous, gemissant et pleurant dans cette vallee de larmes. O vous notre advocate, tournez vers nous vos regards misericordieux. Et apres l’exil de cette vie, montrez nous Jesus, le fruit beni de vos entrailles, tendre, aimante, douce vierge Marie. Priez pour nous, sainte Mere de Dieu. Afin que nous devenions dignes des promesses de Jesus Christ. Amen.

Kokeshi, Rope-making, and Creativity

“Write it. Shoot it. Publish it. Crochet it, sauté it, whatever. MAKE.”
― Joss Whedon

I recently ran into a video of a Japanese doll maker, courtesy of ; it was a fascinating look at one man’s craft and the intricate work in which he engages with his hands. Take a look (and listen):Mental Floss

You can learn more about the Kokeshi dolls here at the original article.

This reminded me of a field trip I had with some of my students last year, when I had the privilege of accompanying several classes for an overnight excursion to Sutter’s Fort in Sacramento. While at the Fort, we all role-played particular roles: the students were assigned specific backgrounds and identities, and had the chance to learn various trades that were prevalent at the time of John Sutter. The teachers and parents taught these trades, and for our part, we had various identities too: I was a Catholic (go figure!) immigrant from a large family who barely made it over Donnor Pass. In addition to my role, I was also a rope-maker, and taught the students how to make good (or not so good) quality rope. Somehow, I imagine my 19th century counterpart had just a little bit more skill than I did after my 30 minutes of instruction.

In any case, while we were there, I was talking with a dear friend, a fellow teacher, about the various trades in which we were employed at the Fort, and she made an astute observation: we were not made for sitting behind a desk; as human beings we need to be doing something. As teachers, we were blessed in the fact that we had active days, interacting with many people, even though there were certainly times that we had to sit at a desk and grade papers, but we both agreed that it would be very difficult to have a typical desk job.

The point, however, was this: no matter what our occupation, we must still be allowed to create in order to be truly fulfilled. Human beings are naturally creative creatures, whether we are participating in the creative aspect of procreation in union with our spouse and in concert with God, or if we are “creating” in terms of physical trade or crafts, or even more abstract ventures such as writing or art. to flourish, we must be allowed, and seek, to participate in the creative nature given to us by God.

Human beings are made in the image and likeness of God, and what is He? He is the creator, the one who brought our entire cosmos into being. If, then, we are made in His image and likeness, then we are naturally creative beings. Does this mean we create like God ex nihilo, out of nothing? No, of course not. But in some way, we still share in that creative nature: at fundamental levels such as procreation, or in more abstract forms such as art, music, writing, hobbies, and even in mundane everyday work. We are driven to creativity, in whatever form the Lord has blessed us. All throughout my life, I have seen evidence of this drive towards creativity: my dad was a florist, my grandfather was a frame-maker and craftsman. I myself enjoy writing, even if I am a bit verbose. Creativity is present in occupations and skills that one would not normally expect to be considered “creative”: my sister, a physical therapist, must examine patients and using her knowledge, form treatment plans that best allow her patients to thrive. A friend who is a massage therapist does the same, as does a close friend who is a nurse in the Navy. Teachers create all the time with their students. Priests must grapple with the mysteries of God, discerning how to present them to their people, begetting spiritual children, and  helping their communities grow closer to Him.

File:Milky Way from France.jpg

I think He did a pretty good job… By BlaiseThirard (Own work) Creative Commons BY-SA 3.0

Some people find this share in the creative outside of their jobs. Hobbies are an excellent example, even some hobbies that some may consider more far-flung: my own interest in astronomy allows me to participate in the creative aspect of God both through observation and the consideration of particular astronomical questions. My grandfather continues to cultivate bonsai plants, and many of my friends create through music. Even at a more basic level, our primary vocations, whether single, married, ordained, or consecrated, draw us into the life of the Trinity, sharing in God’s love and in His creative force.

In whatever way we are called to be creative, we must take joy in our work, seeing the action of the Father, at the prompting of the Holy Spirit, through the grace of the Son, present in our lives and vocation. How are you called to create?

On the Journey: Restless Hearts

Confessions I.1

You have made us for Yourself, Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in You.

About twelve years ago, I was driving around one rainy evening, not following any particular route. The music was playing loud (I don’t remember what), and I was ruminating over recent events in my life. I had just been hired at a new job working with at-risk youth, and was doing well in school, which had not always been the case. But something was missing. I was restless.

West Virginia Winding Country Road - Licensed under Creative Commons Share Alike 3.0

West Virginia Winding Country Road – CC BY-SA 3.0

My grandmother had recently passed away and I had attended her funeral Mass with the rest of my family. I was not Catholic yet, but I recognized something in that moment – even though we were grieving her loss, there was also a sense of expectation and joy. She had lived a faithful life and was loved by her family and her community. A pillar of the town she lived in, she was known for her generosity and, especially to us grandkids, her love and good humor. At her funeral Mass, even though our family grieved, I also vividly remembered words of hope spoken by the priest, hope that she would join the Father, a hope that was available to all of us, a hope that invited our hearts to rest in Him. It was at this time in my life that I had started to wonder, “Is there more? Why am I restless? What am I seeking?”

Here among St. Augustine’s first words in the Confessions, he seeks to find how this hope works, how a person comes to faith in the Lord. Does he pray and discover the Lord, or does the Lord make Himself known to the person, drawing the individual to prayer? In the end, Augustine exclaims, “It is my faith that calls to you Lord, the faith which you gave me.” We will not find rest until we reach out to Him, but He invites us, draws us into that same rest which we seek. In other words, we have to respond, but He always starts the conversation.

The important question today, for all of us, is thus: where do we seek our rest? Where is our hope? To be quite frank, my friends, our hope and rest comes from only one place, one Person: our Lord. For some, those may be hard words to hear. For others, they may make perfect sense. At one point in my life, I thought they were sheer lunacy. The more I have studied, prayed, and searched in my life, however, I have found that this is the only answer: our hearts will only find rest when they rest in the Father, guided by the Spirit, redeemed through the Son.

We can all get distracted, seeking rest in things of this world. Some of these things are even very good too! Some of them, well, are not so good. Do we seek rest in all the wrong places? And if we do, how do we find the way back?

I believe this is the walk we will take with our first companion on the journey, St. Augustine: to discover how to still our restless hearts. No person, no thing, no matter how good, will satisfy this ultimate longing that resides in the depths of the human heart. Only until our hearts rest in His heart will they be at peace. May we all seek Him with open hearts, may we find the One who waits for us, who has been waiting for us all along…


Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and rest. -Mark 6.31

For reflection:

1. Where do you seek rest?

2. Is your heart still restless?

Part of an ongoing series, Companions on the Journey

Up next: Confessions Book I, Sections 2-4