Posts Tagged With: Catholic Church

Finding Iggy: Going to the Frontiers

Love deed IgnatiusDear Pope Francis,

Happy feast day!

I’ve been following lots of the social media updates on Twitter and Facebook about the Feast of St. Ignatius. There have been lots of cool quotes, well wishes to the Jesuits, and funny pictures with the cartoon Iggy to celebrate St. Ignatius’ legacy and the contributions of the order he founded.

What has been popping up for me all day is Ignatius’ idea of being sent to the frontiers; going to those places where other people either can’t go or don’t want to go. The frontier may be a literal place, like a remote mission territory. It could be working with a marginalized population in a very populated city. It could even be spending time with a single person who is feeling like they are at the edge of society.

I’m thrilled to see social media feeds full of pictures and thoughts about spiritual things, especially when they have to do with such a cool saint, but being called to the frontiers issues me a challenge.

I am challenged to go beyond myself, and the safety of posting my thoughts and reflections online. I am challenged to go, to act, to do something to serve my neighbour. One of the quotes floating around today illustrates this: “Love ought to show itself in deeds more than words.” Being called to frontiers, wherever that may be, is to be done with love, and that requires actions. Tangible things that, with God’s grace, I do to share the Gospel with the people around me, even if I don’t explicit talk about Jesus-stuff.

At its heart, this is about following St. Ignatius’ oft quoted maxim: find God in all things. In order to go to the frontiers, in order to serve people or situations with love, I need to genuinely believe that God is there. I need to be willing to find the grace in the hardest moments, and open myself up to allow God’s love to flow through me.

And I can’t think of a better way to celebrate the spiritual contributions of St. Ignatius all year round!

Embracing my inner Iggy,

Lauren

Go Forth Ignatius

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A Year Later

Dear Pope Francis,

Meredith and I have been writing letters to you for a whole year. It was exactly one year ago today that Meredith published our joint letter. I have to admit, I’m a little surprised that we’re still going.

It’s hard to say who was more nervous about this blogging endeavour, Meredith or I. I was shocked when I had seriously suggested starting a joint blog to Meredith in January 2014, and more than a little relieved when she didn’t mention it for a few weeks. When it did come up again, I was surprised and worried about writing letters to you every week. I didn’t actually think I’d be able to find things to write a letter about every week.

But, a year later, I’ve found tons of things to write letters about (I’ve included links to some of my favourites throughout this letter). And the ideas keep on coming.

By no means have we been perfect about getting our letters posted on time. There have been typos and grammar errors along the way. But I have learned a lot by writing these letters. Sometimes it has been cathartic; other times, it helped me to figure out what I think about big issues. It gave me something concrete to focus on when I felt like I was losing my grip on life. Most surprising it helped me get comfortable with the idea of other people reading my thoughts and words. Finally, and most importantly, this blog is a fun project between friends that has brought us closer together.

Where will the next year take Meredith and I? Quite literally, God only knows. A lot has already changed for each of us, and I suspect the next year will be no different. My hope is that the letters will continue, that we can continue sharing our thoughts on being young, independent Catholic women in this fast-paced world, and that our thoughts and ideas will trigger conversations with our readers (either online or in person). Personally, I hope that this blog continues to be an opportunity for growth, development, and something to keep me writing even when I’m swamped with other things.

As we set out on our second year, Pope Francis, pray for us, for wisdom, clarity and courage to follow the narrow path that God calls us to walk.

Praying for you,

Lauren

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Conservative and Liberal: Arbitrary Labels

Dear Pope Francis,

Over the years, I’ve had the opportunity to talk to many other Christians, and people of other faiths. Sometimes these conversations were a little tense, especially around areas of the papacy, saints and the role of scripture, but most of them were enlightening. Oddly enough, I don’t find these conversations the most challenging. The hardest conversations I have are typically with other Catholics.

These are the conversations that I find the most challenging because every person has their own idea about what it means to be Catholic. This creates many definitions of what who a Catholic is, and in some instances, it creates deep divides between people which can be difficult to overcome. Most often these divides are called ‘conservative’ and ‘liberal’.

The most frustrating part of these terms is that they are completely arbitrary. I’ve been told that I’m a liberal Catholic because I study at a Jesuit school, and I’ve been told that I’m conservative because I observe the teachings of the Church. In reality, I’m a Catholic trying to follow Jesus’ example, who happens to love studying theology so I can understand what the Church teaches, and also happens to have an affinity for Ignatian spirituality. I think it’s safe to say, that for the most part other Catholics are also trying to follow Jesus in the best way that they know how, even when those practices are different from my own.

All too often these labels are used as an excuse for one group to avoid working with another group. Instead of focusing on our differences, we should be focusing on those places where our goals overlap. We should be striving for unity in diversity, acknowledging that we are different but that there are common elements, like the Sacraments, or belief Jesus’ death and resurrection. When we can focus on these core beliefs, and agree to discuss our differences in ways that are helpful, then maybe we can start to bridge the gap between the ‘conservatives’ and ‘liberals’, and focus on building the body of Christ.

Faithfully yours,

Lauren

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A lot can happen in a year

Pope-Francis-Dove-3x2-555x370Dear Pope Francis

It’s hard to believe it’s been almost a year since you were elected Pope. The Catholics around me all went nuts from the day Benedict XVI stepped down. Some of them calmed down shortly after you were elected, others never did.

I remember being totally thrown off by the news, because I had never heard of a pope resigning before. It ended up piquing my curiosity enough to start doing some research into the history of the Church.

Then there was the papal conclave. I didn’t really know who any of the cardinals eligible to become pope were beyond what I could find in the newspaper (I read everything The Globe and Mail published on the subject.) and I didn’t expect it to be over so quickly.

I was in class when the white smoke came. The girl behind me saw it on twitter and told me. I have no idea what we talked about for the rest of the class because I spent it googling your name and reading everything I could find.

Then I got excited. I read about how you welcomed in single mothers and baptized their children, and I smiled. I read about how cared for an elderly priest and took public transit, and I thought “this is a pope who knows people.”

Pope Francis I appears on the central balconyFriends who aren’t involved in the church were interested for a brief time. Friends baptized but not practicing were curious but didn’t want to deepen their relationship with the Church unless the Church fundamentally changed. Friends already involved in the Church didn’t seem to know quite how to respond. Some were really excited, others concerned. A lot of people warned me that one man can’t change thousands of years of tradition.

Jesus did. He didn’t reject the traditions, but his actions and words while he was here on earth did change them by giving birth to a whole new tradition. A tradition which has morphed over the years and continued to build on itself as it reacted to an ever changing world.

Pope Francis, people tell me that you’re not really changing anything with the way you talk about homosexuality and about women. They tell me the media is twisting everything you say to fit what they want it to say.

I have a hard time believing those people, because it seems to me the tone you speak in is what’s different. It might not change the teaching, but it is changing the focus by shifting the conversation back towards how much God loves the world. That’s not a small change.

The Vatican has a press office. I’m sure if there were an egregious error in the story the mainstream media has presented about you it would have been corrected by the press office.

pope-francis

St. Francis of Assisi, whose name you took when you became pope once said “Preach the gospel at all times, if necessary use words.” You do use words in your preaching, but it is your actions which have kept the world’s attention this year.

Thank you for reminding us of our duty to the poor, of the joy to be had in service to others. Thank you for being so different from every other pope I’ve seen in my admittedly short time on earth so far. Thank you for being a pastor to the whole church, because we need that care more than anything.

I can’t lie, there’s things about my Church I want to change. Things I want desperately for you to change. But if it comes down to big changes causing a schism, or little changes bringing more people to God and helping with the practical realities of life, I’ll pick the little changes every time.

Thanks Pope Francis. The way you pope makes me proud to be part of this.

Hoping to meet you somewhere between here and Paradise,

Meredith

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(Un)Answered Prayers

6 hands net ministries of canada

Dear Pope Francis,

I recently went on an interview retreat weekend with NET Ministries of Canada. I put the application in before Christmas and until the last couple of weeks I really wasn’t even sure applying was the right decision.

The last week or so I’ve been praying for an obvious sign pointing me in the right direction.

“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.” (Matthew 7:7)

There were two interviews to do, one over Skype before I left for Halifax and another in person after I arrived but before the retreat started. Going in to the retreat I was terrified the powers that be at NET would say yes and ask me to go, but coming out I was more worried they would find a reason to tell me no.

The readings for mass this weekend really mirrored where my relationship with God has been of late. First we heard from Isaiah 49:14-15 where the Israelites are feeling as though God has forgotten them, and the reassurance that this is not the case. Then Psalm 62, about waiting for God.

“Therefore do not pronounce judgement before the time, before the Lord comes, who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart.” (1 Corinthians 4:5)

And finally, in the Gospel reading, the reminder not to worry.

One of the themes in my relationship with God that I became aware of this weekend is fear. How it has both pulled me away from God at times and drawn me closer to him at others.

I’ve spent a lot of time being afraid and asking God to take away the things I was afraid of, to fix the situations that were stressing me out so much. Being afraid has helped me develop an absolute trust that whatever happens, it will work out eventually. Somehow, it had never occurred to me to ask God to take away the fear.

As any four year old will tell you, eventually is a long time. God choosing to eventually resolve a problem feels an awful lot like not answering my prayer for everything to be okay.

Going in to the interview retreat, I asked for a sign that this is something I’m called to do or not do – and I got one. When John talked about Les équipes NET, the French language teams working in Quebec I felt a strong pull on my heart. It was the same kind of pull I felt when I was applied for SERVE three years ago, and it’s similar to the tug I often feel during the Gloria and the Eucharistic prayer at mass.

summer exchange 2007The year I turned 17, I spent the summer in Quebec on a language exchange. Before I came to Fredericton, I wanted to become a translator. I’ve lost most of my French because I haven’t used it much since. But I never lost the desire to be in Quebec, and I still enjoy the cadence of French when I hear it in the grocery store or on the radio. I still want to be bilingual.

I want to go on NET. I want to share my story with young Catholics and develop a deeper understanding of what my church believes. I think I can do so much good on NET. But if this isn’t where God wants me to be, or if I need to apply again in a year or two I need to not be afraid of what that means and keep searching for what I’m supposed to be doing right now.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” (Jeremiah 29:11)

Trusting there’s a plan,

Meredith

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