Reminders

To be saints is not a privilege for the few, but a vocation for everyone, Pope Francis, Karen May, Amayzing Graces

Photo: S Sniderman

I want to leave you with a little something to help you with this life of holiness that we strive for. Click on the picture for a link to print the verses I’ve used over the last couple weeks.

Cut them out.

Put them on your mirror, in your car, as a bookmark, anywhere.

Whenever you see them, remember who you are called to be. Remember that you are most fully alive when you are fully in Christ.

God bless each and every one of you.

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Best life ever

Every challenge provides a greater opportunity, Karen May, Amayzing Graces, called to holiness

Photo: S Sniderman

Do not be afraid of holiness. It will take away none of your energy, vitality, or joy. On the contrary, you will become what the Father had in mind when he created you, and you will be faithful to your deepest self. To depend on God sets us free from every form of enslavement and leads us to recognize our great dignity.

Do not be afraid to set your sights higher, to allow yourself to be loved and liberated by God. Do not be afraid to let yourself be guided by the Holy Spirit. Holiness does not make you less human, since it is an encounter between your weakness and the power of God’s grace. For in the words of León Bloy, when all is said and done, “the only great tragedy in life is not to become a saint.”

Pope Francis, Gaudate et Excultate 32, 34

I think this wraps up our call to holiness pretty well. You can do this. You should do this. Nothing can make us feel as fulfilled, happy, and peaceful as a life lived in holiness. Why would we want to live any other way?

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Don’t just sit there…

Whoever wishes to be great among you shall be your servant, Matthew 20_26, Karen May, Amayzing Graces

Photo: B Pedretti

Now that we know we were made for holiness, that we live most fully when we let our light shine, and have some tools to help us stay connected to that light, we will finish with a call to action.

This faith you have, the faith you are developing was never meant for you alone. If we are made in the image of God, then we were made for others. We were made to give of ourselves just as Jesus did. We were made to inspire others as the Holy Spirit does.

What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister has nothing to wear and has no food for the day, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, keep warm, and eat well,” but you do not give them the necessities of the body, what good is it? So also faith of itself, if it does not have works, is dead. (James 2:14-17)

Pretty tough love from James, isn’t it? Faith is dead if you aren’t doing anything with it, and you can’t tell him otherwise.

That’s the thing though, isn’t it? When you truly love someone, it comes out in actions. Telling someone you love them is meaningless if you never act as if you love them.

It’s the same in our faith. If you take off the bushel basket and let your light shine, it isn’t so that people see how great you are. It’s so they see how great they are in the eyes of God. If you treat others with love and peace, seeing all that is beautiful, true, and just within them, you will act differently towards them. If you see the value of the people God has placed in your life, you have to act. Not because you are made to, but because you want to. There’s really not much of a choice in it.

This faith we have is too big to be held inside and kept to ourselves. It’s calling us out of ourselves and into the world.

Go.

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What do you think?

Always keep lifting your foot to climb the ladder of holiness, and do not imagine that you can mount even the first step. All God asks of you is good will. St. Therese of Liseux, Karen May

Now, all of this holy living is great that we’ve been talking about the last couple weeks is great, but it doesn’t just happen. Not normally.

There are plenty of times when we just can’t “put on compassion, kindness, or humility.” Times when I know the Lord is near, but we just can’t feel Him there.

What do we do then?

Let’s go back to the manual: Philippians 4:8-9

I’ve definitely had times when I had to read this passage to myself several times in a day. Each time, it eventually gets through and resets my mind and soul in the right direction. It’s pretty simple really.

Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.

I have teenage daughters. I won’t go into the gory details, but suffice it to say that there are days that I really need to remember this verse. When I can “think on these things,” I discover that I find truth, honor, justice, and purity in my daughters. There is plenty that is commendable and worthy of praise no matter what struggle we are going through.

When I can see all of these things, I can go into a stressful or negative situation and work on it with a much more peaceful and generous spirit. I don’t ignore the negative, but it changes much more quickly than it did without my being centered in holiness.

How can that be?

I think it has something to do with our focus. We are told to think of these things because they are filled with light. As we stand in the darkness of anger, frustration, or fear it is hard to see anything else. When we turn our gaze away from what we don’t want and turn it towards what we do, the path we are to follow is so much clearer.

When I think this way, it reminds me that the person in front of me is a child of God, fearfully and wonderfully made. They are trying to be the best they can be just as I am.

I wonder what our world would look like if this was how we treated each other in the social and political arenas. I think it would be a much better place. Don’t you?

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Instruction Manual

You are God's Chosen one Holy and Beloved, Amayzing Graces, Karen May

I love using Colossians 3:12-17 as a blueprint for life in Christ. The Philippians passage from Wednesday about always rejoicing can be a little hard sometimes. I know there have been times when rejoicing has been about the last thing I felt like doing.

We know we should rejoice in all things, but we have to figure out how to get there in the first place.

Paul’s letter to the Colossians gives us specific actions we can take in building our lives in holiness.

The first thing he does is remind us who we are:

Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, bearing with one another and forgiving one another, if one has a grievance against another, as the Lord has forgiven you, so you must also do. (Colossians 3:12-13)

Holy and beloved. That’s what we are. We get lost sometimes in a very different view of ourselves. I’m sure you’ve realized that it’s very hard to build up very much on a foundation that isn’t centered on this understanding of who we are.

When you truly know that you are holy and beloved, all the rest follows. We have been forgiven – for no reason other than we are loved. We are treated with compassion and patience. Oh, the patience God has with me! I’m sure if you thought about it for half a second you could say the same.

If we are loved so deeply, and we truly understand that love, then it has to spill out of us. If we can’t seem to feel or own that love, then we can access it by living it out toward others in our own lives.

And over all these put on love, that is, the bond of perfection. And let the peace of Christ control your hearts, the peace into which you were also called in one body. (Colossians 3:14-15)

This is not the compassion and forgiveness of someone who lets others take advantage of her. This is not the patience of someone who allows himself to be mistreated and abused. This is the compassion and kindness that doesn’t allow harm to others because love sees through it all and refuses to let the evil overcome. It is a compassion that is controlled by the peace of Christ and not by our fears and hurts.

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, as in all wisdom you teach and admonish one another, singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. (Colossians 3: 16)

All of this is possible if we know God. It is so much easier if we listen to the word of Christ and let it dwell in our hearts. We have the manual. Why do we keep trying to live without it?

I don’t think we should.

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Rejoice

It is with the smallest brush that the artist paints the most exquisitely beautiful pictures, St. Andre Bessette, Karen May, Amayzing Graces

Photo: B Pedretti

We know we were made for holiness. We know that we need to shine our light. But what if we don’t have any light to shine? What if we can’t find our light at all?

Not to worry – we’ve been given directions. Some of them are challenging, some of them may seem out of reach at times, but all of them are there to help us get where we need to go.

Today’s verses reminds us what our attitude should be. No matter what.

Rejoice in the Lord always. I shall say it again: rejoice! (Phil 4:4)

This one is easy when we have something to celebrate, but that’s not what it says is it? It says “Always”. In the good times and the bad. In the comfort and in the struggle. Rejoice because God is doing wondrous things.

Or He can if we will let Him.

It’s hard as you are battling an illness, dealing with a difficult child, struggling in your marriage, or insecure about your future. What is there to rejoice about in that?

If we follow the rest of the passage we can see:

The Lord is near. Have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God. Then the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. (Phil 4:5-8)

We have someone to go to in those moments. We can let go of the worry and stress that makes all those things so much worse. When we are filled with Christ’s peace, we can more easily see the path that is laid before us.

Let go. Let God. It’s a thing, and it works.

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You are the light of the world

This little light of mine, I'm going to let it shine, Karen May, Amayzing Graces

As we move to a life of holiness, it can be a little scary.

We think it will be too hard, that it will demand too much of us, and that we will have no place in the life we want to live.

I beg to differ.

The hard part is the hiding it, don’t you think? How intimidated are we when there is a chance to talk about our faith?

You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid. No one after lighting a lamp puts it under a bushel basket, but on the lamp stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven. (Matthew 5:14-15)

The topic of religion comes up often with me. As soon as someone asks what I do, I have to tell them that I am an inspirational writer. The questions always lead to me telling them I’m Catholic, which is a little daunting given all that has been happening the last few months. I never know if someone is going to lambast me for staying in the Church or if they will have questions, concerns, or anger and will have just found a place to unload them.

Yet, every time they ask, I answer, because I know that each conversation can be a moment of healing, comfort, and grace if I let it. If I hide who I am and what I know, that opportunity is completely missed.

Most of the time, though, I am surprised. Lately, I am the one given support for the trials that my Church is going through. I am the one who is comforted and encouraged by the support and sympathy of people on the outside.

In shining my light, I have allowed them to shine theirs.

That’s the thing. The more we allow our light to shine, the more comfortable others are in sharing theirs. We long to shine. It’s what we were made for, remember? I see it every day. People flock to those who are holy because of it. Mother Teresa had thousands who came to help with her work. It was dirty, it was hard, but it was life-changing and they knew it. Most people didn’t expect to become holy, they just wanted to be near her holiness. But in being a part of it, they were transformed as well. So many lives were changed from small interactions with her. Not because she told them they had to change, but because they experienced the difference that a life of holiness brings to even the worst of circumstances and they couldn’t live without it.

Shine your light. Don’t be afraid. Then watch as others start to shine around you. It’s such a beautiful sight.

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Made for holiness

For you created my inmost being, You knit me together in my mother's womb, Psalm 139, Karen May, Amayzing Graces

What were we created for? Our souls know it, every part of us knows it. We were designed for holiness. We were actually made for it. Nothing else can fulfill us the way that holiness can.

Imagine taking a chair and riding it to work or school. You could do it, I guess. It would be a little easier if it had wheels, but it would be really difficult and not efficient at all. On the other had, sitting in a chair is easy. There’s really no effort, no thinking about what to do on it, you just sit, because that’s what it was made for.

It’s the same with us. We can live lives that are directed towards fame, riches, success, distraction, and spectacular experiences, but these will never be enough. They will never fit like a life of holiness does.

Now, most of us think that a life of holiness means giving up anything fun or interesting, and I would beg to differ. Many of the things that bring us joy in our lives are only enhanced when we are centered in who we were meant to be.

Being holy doesn’t mean selling everything and moving to Africa or India. At least not for everyone. For most of us, being holy means bringing God into the lives that we are already living. Oh, our lives will change, but in ways that are filled with joy, love, peace, gentleness, kindness, and mercy.

How do we get there? Well, this is step one. Once you know what you were designed for, then you  can start living in that reality.  In the next several days, we’ll be going through steps to help us get there. I hope you join me.

Psalm 139: 13-16

For it was you who formed my inmost being; you who knit me together in my mother’s womb.

I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.

My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.

Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.

 

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Called to Holiness

Every saint has a past and every sinner has a future, Oscar Wilde, Karen May, Amayzing Graces

Photo: B Pedretti

I asked a group of middle school girls, “Who wants to be a saint?” Tentatively two of the ten raised their hands, and the rest were very clearly shaking their heads “no.”

The reasons were all about the same – Sainthood is for people who are really holy, who do a lot for others, and who are pretty perfect.  An eighty-year-old Mother Theresa would never fit into the middle school social scene, and they had no interest in living that way.

Don’t we see sainthood in a similar way? For so many of us, it’s intimidating and totally out of reach.

The problem is that we’re looking at it all wrong. A saint is someone who is in heaven. The ones we hear about are the ones that we have know are in heaven because they have passed certain tests that help us trust that it is true.

When I asked how many of the middle schoolers would like to go to heaven, they all raised their hands with confidence. No one wanted to be left out of that.

We need to live a life of holiness, and it doesn’t always look like the superstars. For most of us, it’s much more simple and gets a lot less press.

The next few days, I’m going to lead you through a few simple steps to get you walking on that road to holiness. It’s not as hard as you would think.

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The Perfect Fit

The reward of faith is to believe what you see, St. Augustine, Karen May, Amayzing Graces

Photo: B Pedretti

On Friday, I talked about how humans are the only creatures who seek God. Throughout human history, we have looked beyond ourselves and felt that there was something more.

However, as I work my way through the book of Genesis, it is clear that we take that need to find God and turn around it all kinds of different ways. It doesn’t take long at all to get started. Only three chapters. Creation is finished, God is resting, we are looking for trouble.

Eve stands at the tree talking to the snake (with Adam beside her by the way), and the way the serpent tempts her is very telling. It doesn’t start with outright rebellion. In fact, it never really is about rebelling against God. It’s about wanting to be like God. It’s about wanting to do what we want instead of what someone else says is best for us.

Jump to Genesis 11, and we’re at the Tower of Babel. The tower to the heavens. We don’t just want to be like God, we want to BE God.

That’s the thing. When we take out what truly fills the space designed for God, something takes its place. It has to. So we find a god. A lot of times that god is us. Whatever we want is what is best. We are the final authority. Sometimes it is money, or career, or something more positive like service but it is service to forward our agendas not God’s.

None of these things can truly fill that God-space. None of these fill us with peace, meaning, and love, no matter how much we try. But we will keep trying and trying and trying because we can’t leave it empty.

It’s incredible how hard we can fight against the one thing that will fit perfectly, isn’t it? Maybe it’s time to stop.

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