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Listen for the Gentle Whisper of God

“Rebuild my Church.” That was the call and will of God as St. Francis first “heard” those three powerful words. He would hear that request more than once, as he prayed in a worse-for-wear battered old chapel. So Francis took to repairing the chapel, and did so with great care and prayer.
 
But in his heart, Francis began to understand those haunting words were more than a literal “fix it” job. God was inviting him to fix what was wrong with the society and spirituality of the times.
 
From those three little words, came a revolution in the form of what would be a new kind of religious order and indeed, a new kind of Church.
 
Our Lenten and Easter Days, blossoming into 50 Days of Easter, touch us too in the 21st Century. As St. Francis discovered, the doors of the heart open if we spend some time listening and opening those doors.
 
What better time to do so than throughout the solemn days of Lent, the Triduum
of Holy Thursday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday and the glories of Eastertime.
 
The key is to carve out some quiet time with the Lord. Why not try to arrive at church 15 minutes early. That might provide some “listening” time to seek God’s will.
 
And during the liturgy, we need to listen attentively to the readings and Gospel for the day, for listening to God’s Holy Word is indeed a powerful prayer.
 
Also, listen throughout the day, listening with courtesy to others – in our home, in our family and at work. We need to listen closely because the Lord answers in His own way.
 
With St. Francis, we come to the Lord in the silence of our hearts, sweeping out the cobwebs of our own excess and selfishness. Ask God what is right for you. Many people seek the help of a spiritual director. But as Francis found, we must pray silently: “Have mercy on us” (in Lent) – and “Alleluia” (in the Easter Season).
 
Perhaps then, even arriving just 15 minutes before Mass will afford time to kneel or sit quietly, leaving behind all the hectic moments of our charged lives, the better to ask God for His will in our particular lives. Ask God to help you know what “mission” is needed in the new life of grace showered on us in this holy season.
 
Father Campagna is provincial of the Province of the Immaculate Conception and director of Franciscan Mission Associates.
 
For more information, go to www.franciscanmissionassoc.org.
 

Rules of engagement

“No road is long with good company.” Turkish proverb
 
Every great relationship needs someone to initiate the conversation to get things going.
 
Great personal advice? Certainly, but on the website where I found this quote, “start the conversation” was the first of several tips on how to improve your social media engagement.
 
Be attentive, spark intrigue, know your audience, have a sense of humor, share compelling data – translate those into rules to improve personal relationships and your friends and loved ones will be happy.
 
If we followed the rules of engagement for social media marketing in our personal relationships, whether with family, friends, or even with God, we would be making real relationship headway.
 
But our culture has become such that we are more comfortable engaging with technology than we are with other people.
 
Recently I came across a video of a popular Italian-American comedian, Sebastian Maniscalco. He was new to me, but the topic of his act caught my eye -- The doorbell rings: then verses now.
 
He described how when the doorbell rang 20 or more years ago, the whole family jumped up and went to the door, delighted they were to have company. Mom brought out a store bought cake she was saving for just such an occasion. A pot of coffee was made and life was good.
 
Today, he demonstrated, when the doorbell rings, everyone drops to the floor and is shushed by parents into silence. Dad mouths the words, “Did you invite anyone over? Who invited someone over?” He commands somebody to grab the sword from under the couch and instructs mom to do the army crawl out of the kitchen so whoever is at the door won’t see movement and know someone is home.
 
The performance loses a lot in a simple text translation, but I had tears from laughing. All comedy is an exaggeration of some kind, but for me this skit rang true. When I was young we didn’t hesitate to open the door when the bell rang.
 
We didn’t have store-bought cake but my mom always had a box of Jiffy muffin mix ready to pop into the oven. The white and blue Corelle Ware percolator was ready on the counter for the unexpected guest and we often had family and friends popping in just to visit.
 
Today, when the doorbell rings we know instinctively it’s not a visitor. Everyone is too busy, and you just don’t drop in on people in this day and age. You make an appointment. If there’s someone at the door, it is probably someone proselytizing, a salesman, a utility company coming to turn off your service, or the mailperson needing a signature on a certified letter, which is never good.
 
Because we live in an age of fear, we now have security systems built into our doorbells just in case a visitor is really a criminal casing the house. I mean, who else would be stopping by without calling first?
 
Social isolation, including isolation from God, has become a reality for us in a time of increased social media use. While technology is speeding ahead in light years and employees are required to stay abreast of the latest and greatest, our real honest-to- goodness facetime with the people in our lives is being tossed aside like yesterday’s android phone.
 
The truth is we cannot have healthy relationships without investing time and presence. We need both for our loved ones and for God.
 
A friend of mine shared some of her dad’s wisdom as he reached the end of his life. He said it was important to get your priorities straight – God, family and work, in that order.
 
The great thing about God is you don’t need to call ahead and He loves company.

--Mary Morrell
 
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