Friday, October 8, 2010

Please enjoy the music while we transfer you to charisministries.org...


For right now, we're putting the blog on hold as we experiment with posting news, resources, and reflections on our new website! Visit charisministries.org to check out the fresh new look and find content that once landed on this blog.

Blog junkies, don't fret. We are considering continuing with the blog later on once we rethink it's mission and goals. But for now, enjoy charisministries.org!

Peace,
Mary Ellen

Monday, August 30, 2010

12 Ways to Pray on the Go: Apps for Your Smartphone


U.S. Catholic has compiled a list of smartphone apps that can foster your spiritual life on the go. From iConfess, an app that has a list of prayers and tips for examining your conscience, to Loyola Press's 3-minute daily retreat, you can carve time out of your day to pray! Check it out.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

The Spiritual Life is About Making Connections


An excerpt from the new book for young adults in their 20s and 30s, Already There: Letting God Find You, by Mark Mossa, S.J.

“My spiritual life has never come in neat little packages. No, the packages usually come somewhat damaged, despite the handle-with-care warning labels. And the contents are often not what I expected, maybe a chipped, algae green colored ceramic frog instead of that colorful tapestry of the Madonna and child I had ordered. Or some other sort of cosmic mishap that forces me to think, as cliché as it sounds, “outside the box.” Thus, the need to make connections. It takes some work to figure out why I’ve received the frog with the yellow underbelly instead of that intricately woven Blessed Mother and child. There is some spiritual lesson in this awkward amphibian that I’m meant to discover!

But to do so I need to see things in a different way.

This book will help you discover this new way of seeing. It’s not meant to instruct you how to see the way that I see. You have your own unique way of making spiritual connections and it is my hope that something, perhaps many things in this book will put you in touch with that. Therefore, what you will not find here is a step-by-step formula for spiritual success. That’s not to say my book has no structure. It’s just that instead of steps you’ll find that the book is organized around one key recognition: Whether we like it or not, each of us has a past, present and future. And that, as you might have guessed, they’re connected.

Steps don’t work for me because, if anything, my spiritual life has progressed in missteps, and not without stepping on a few toes—unfortunately, not just my own—along the way. Indeed, if I told you my life story, I expect you would say, ‘Boy, that was random,’ or, if you were less kind, you might cringe and say, ‘Boy, that was messy.’ But, perhaps you can relate to life being messy. And, perhaps like me, you are convinced (or want to be) that there is some meaning to all that messiness, some reason why I keep running into frogs instead of the Mother of God . . .”

--from the preface, "Boxes of Frogs, Mother of God."

read the whole preface here.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

"First Comes Love"


How do young adults come to marriage? The feature article of this month's U.S. Catholic explores the many ways that young adults today are in relationship and how, if ever, they come to the decision of marriage. A lot of my friends have really enjoyed this article, especially because of the many perspectives that it includes. Click here to read on!

-Mary Ellen

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Exercising with St. Ignatius

Parishioners at Old St. Pat's have been working through the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius since last November. You know it's going to be a down to earth retreat when the organizer admits that he used to think: "give me a treadmill or the weight room any day over the exercise program St. Ignatius had laid out."

Check out Al Gustafson's reflections on journeying through the Exercises here.

~Lauren

Thursday, August 12, 2010

What will the "What Next?" Transitions Retreat be like?

The Charis Transitions retreat was certainly a memorable one for me. The retreat team was so Spirit-filled, humble, and dedicated to making the retreat be as sincere and effective as possible. And who can argue with an ice cream eating contest? J The friends I made on that retreat – both from the retreat team and the retreatants – are priceless. I encourage anyone who’s seeking an authentic weekend, who wants to put away their “stuff” and cut through the clutter, if even for a couple days, to attend this retreat. It’s both reflective and inspiring, as well as a touchpoint for someone on the spiritual path and wants to journey with others.

-Crystal C.

For more info on the upcoming "What Next?" Transitions Retreat, click here!

Monday, August 9, 2010

Reflections of a What Next? Retreat

A retreat is a time to "retreat" from everyday life (i.e. routines, work, parish life, friends and family). It is a time to retreat to a different place, a place of reflection and renewal. In the end, it turns out to be a "treat" for oneself. I had the opportunity to attend a summer retreat sponsored by Charis Ministries a couple of years ago that turned out to be life-changing.

The retreat was co-led by peers. The environment was set up to be a safe place to share and explore your faith in the company of others, or if one chose, in solitude. Whether it was during small group, or during free time as we gathered to eat together or share in an ice cream social, the opportunities were provided to explore your relationship with God, each other, and the world. There is also time to be challenged, maybe in what you believe or how you behave.

The time spent provided me an opportunity to remember God's unconditional love that is always present to receive. I highly recommend considering a Charis retreat to anyone seeking time to be away and being renewed.

-Brian M.

Click here to find out more about the upcoming What Next? Retreat!

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Ignatian Spirituality: A How-To Guide

Per usual, IgnatianSpiritulity.com has some great new resources, particularly on its blog, dotMagis. (Boy do I love when those Jesuits get hip. What's next? Ignatian Aps for my iPad?! Oh wait, Loyola Press already HAS those! Unbelievable.) ANYwho - if you're like yours truly, you always appreciate new perspectives on praying the Examen. Check out dotMagis for new perspectives and tips on this age-old prayer, including an audio guide!

-Mary Ellen

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Jesus was a great eater

On Sunday evening, I attended a Theology on Tap talk at Old St. Pat's. Fr. Ed Foley, a Capuchin priest and professor at CTU gave a great talk called Which Jesus Table? Starting Points Make a Difference. In it, he invited us to look at the Eucharist from the perspective of Jesus' table ministry rather than simply by beginning with the Last Supper. In that light, the Last Supper, and the Eucharistic liturgy that we celebrate today, are a continuation of Jesus' building up of community by eating and drinking with all sorts of people.

Jesus ate and drank with sinners and outcasts, with Jews and Gentiles, with men, women and children, with the rich and the poor. Meals for Jesus were a time to welcome people and to bring them together to be with him and one another.

We often go to Mass as a time for personal prayer and to be left alone. We may go in not knowing anyone else, and leave knowing the same number. But if we are to truly embrace Jesus' idea of Eucharist, and the importance of gathering together as a community around the table, what must we do to create and be part of a welcoming community. How are we called to be part of this Body of Christ?

~Lauren

Friday, July 30, 2010

Live the Magis

Tomorrow, July 31, is the feast day of St. Ignatius of Loyola, founder of the Jesuits. There are lots of great resources on Ignatian Spirituality and info on St. Ignatius, but one that you may not have run across is the dotMagis blog. St. Ignatius always strove for the magis in everything he did. Magis literally means "more" and refers to the ways that we can serve and follow Jesus more deeply. Ignatianspirituality.com has a blog inspired by this desire for excellence: dotMagis.

In honor of St. Ignatius, check out the blog, and ask yourself where you can live out the magis in your life.

~Lauren

A Look at Film & TV through a Jesuit Lens

Charis board member, Jake Martin, SJ, is a contributing writer for America Magazine. As a young adult Jesuit, Jake always offers an insightful and relevant opinion informed by Ignatian values. Check out his latest articles reviewing the film "Breathless" and the sitcom "Community"!

-Mary Ellen

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

31 days of St. Ignatius

Friday is the Feast day of St. Ignatius. Check out Loyola Press' resource: 31 Days of St. Ignatius.
It is full of ideas for prayer, for reading, and for reflection.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Shrimp Boats

Two weekends ago we went to Tybee Island. As we sat on the beach, we were blessed with the gift of watching shrimp boats about 50 yards away from us. The boats would be out there as soon as we woke up, and they would be out there long after we left the beach in the late afternoon. For two days, I sat and watched not only the boats but the crews of these shrimping boats. It is in rare moments like this, where I get a brief glimpse into someone's life, that I cannot help but pause and reflect on what I had the opportunity to witness.

First of all, it made me thankful, for the shrimpers who were out there catching the shrimp. I rarely give a second thought to where the shrimp I eat came from or who caught it. After watching the long hours of shrimpers and after watching them stay put when the rest of us hurried inside during a severe thunderstorm, I have a new appreciation for the shrimp I love to eat. Little do those men and women know that the work of their typical day helps provide for my family an ingredient to meals that are often celebratory--finishing a project, an anniversary meal, a birthday. Finding fresh seafood where we live now is hard, and we relish the seafood from Louisiana in our freezer. I am thankful for their work!

During the severe thunderstorm, I watched these boats get rocked and tossed around from the comfort of my condo. The wind gusts were so strong and lightening so bad that I found my nerves on edge. I could not help but offer a silent prayer to protect them. My mind turned also to the wives, husbands, and children back home, who knew there mom or dad was out on that boat in that storm. I kept thinking...all of that for shrimp? Why? It is the same reason we all do our work...to make a living, to provide for our families. I am thankful for the risk they take to survive.

Finally, my mind continued to turn to the Gulf Coast right now and the oil spill. I know there are so many people that cannot get out on their boats right now and make a living for their families. They posses the same heart, the same drive, and the same perseverance that these shrimpers showed me this weekend. I am saddened for them, for their loss, and for the worry they must be carrying trying to figure out how to provide for their families. We must continue to pray for them and offer them support.

I am left in awe. In awe of the beauty of the surroundings where these men and women work. In awe of the fact that there is no "rain-delay" for their work. In awe of how long it takes for their days work. In awe of how they use their God given talent and their education. In awe of how I can take something as simple as shrimp for granted.

There are men and women all over this world doing jobs where we reap the benefits. Do we ever stop and slow down enough to really see them and acknowledge their hard work?
How many pieces of our days and our lives are affected because of someone's work?
How does stopping to realize that our lives are daily touched by someone we do now know make us feel?

~Becky Eldredge, Everything Is Holy Now

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Spiritual Health

The below list of questions comes from Kathy Hendricks's book: A Parent's Guide to Prayer. Kathy suggests that we need to take our pulse on a daily basis by posing questions that test our spiritual health:



1 Am I snapping at those closest to me?
2. Am I growing resentful about all I have to do at home, in the workplace, at church, or with my child's school?
3. When was the last time I was still?
4. Am I letting my spiritual needs go unmet while taking care of other details in my life and my home?
5. What effort have I put into praying?
6. Do I still have the heart for my faith? my family? my life?

I find that these questions are challenging and thought-provoking. When we neglect our spiritual needs, we often find our lives off balance. As we answer and reflect on these questions, we may find that our spiritual health is in need of some attention. It may mean needing some alone time to just be or pray. We may need time to rest and play so that our spirits can be renewed. We may need to engage in a period of discernment to see if our "yeses" need to change. Are we saying "yes" to too many things? Are we not saying "yes" to the things that matter most? Maybe, we just need to spend some daily time in prayer. Perhaps, we may find that we are in need of our own retreat-- a few days of quiet, prayer, and reflection- to feed our spiritual life.

The answers to why our spiritual health may be off are necessary and sometimes challenging questions. All of these questions are questions that we can take to prayer. We can ask the Holy Spirit for guidance in discerning why we feel "off".

What is the current health of our spiritual life? Thriving, barely surviving, non-exisitent?
What are we feeling nudged to pay attention to right now in terms of our spiritual health?
What do we need to feed our spiritual life?

~Becky Eldredge

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Oil Spill

Today, I read an article in the newspaper about how the oil spill had affected the owner of BP gas station in my city. The owner said his sales were down 60%. His quote was, "I never thought I would see this day, that after working as hard as I have, that I would be facing an imminent possibility of going out of business." The story went on to tell about how this man owned this gas station to provide for his family. His connection to the oil company was "strictly for the rights to the logo and a contract to buy gas."

I was struck by this man's story. He, like all of us, is trying to provide for his family. This oilspill, which he did not cause is affecting his livelihood. I am from Louisiana, and I am frustrated and saddened at the impact this oilspill is having on the people in my home state. Many, like the owner of the gas station in Georgia, will not be able to remain in business due to the affects of the oil spill. Back home, the impact on wildlife is devastating.

As we all process this devastation, I feel we are left with some daunting questions, "What can we do to help? What is our responsibility in all of this? " As I continue to pray for all of those impacted and I discern the answers to these questions, I pray:

Take, Lord, and receive all my liberty, my memory, my understanding, my entire will.
All that I am and call my own. You have given it all to me.
To you, Lord, I return it. It is yours.
Do with it what you will.
Give me only your love and your grace.
That is enough for me.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Grad at Grad--What makes it Jesuit?

"What makes your Jesuit school Jesuit?"

I have the privilege of spending 48 hours with a group of people working at Jesuit schools in the Chicago-Detroit Province reflecting on this question. Gathered here are more than 50 teachers, administrators, and staff members from Chicago Jesuit Academy, Christ the King, Cristo Rey, St. Ignatius and Loyola Academy (in the Chicago area) and Brebeuf Jesuit (in Indianapolis). These dedicated people have spent at least a year working at their school and have come together to grow in their understanding of St. Ignatius, the Spiritual Exercises, and the mission of Jesuit schools.

They have a variety of reasons for why they chose to work at a Jesuit school. Some were Jesuit educated through high school or college and want to be at a school that upholds those values. Some were looking for a Catholic school where they could integrate their faith into their work lives. Some were simply looking for a job, and this is where they landed. Despite the variety of reasons, they all share a love of, and a dedication to, the mission of the school to form "men and women for others."

At Jesuit schools, there are 5 characteristics of their graduates that they want to see at graduation (known as "Grad at Grad"). Briefly, these graduates should be:
1. Open to growth
2. Intellectually competent
3. Religious
4. Loving
5. Committed to doing justice

For me, as someone who wasn't Jesuit educated, I strive to embody these five criteria now in my life, let alone when I was 17 and graduating from high school. These are the marks of people who are growing in their relationship with God and trying to live their lives as God is calling them to live.

At this point in my life, years after my high school graduation, can I say I am living out these ideals? How am I measuring up to these Grad at Grad goals?

~Lauren

Thursday, June 24, 2010

"The Revolution of the Heart Begins in Community"

My friend Jake wrote this thoughtful and challenging reflection that was published in Sojourners last week. He reflects on the oil spill in the Gulf through the lens of Dorothy Day's belief that "what is needed is a revolution of the heart". Day co-founded the Catholic Worker, a movement which strives to create a new society in the shell of the old through non-violent resistance and advocacy along with houses of hospitality. Furthering the movement, Jake is a co-founder and member of the White Rose Catholic Worker community in Chicago. Hope you enjoy the piece!

-Mary Ellen

Thursday, June 17, 2010

"Adrift in the Gulf"

"The deep ocean is not merely a difficult site from which to extract resources; it is part of a beautiful, breathtaking gift for all generations to share, preserve and pass on. We have failed in our responsibility as its stewards."

This is a thought-provoking piece on the maddening and dismal situation of the Deepwater Horizon explosion and oil spill. The editors of America Magazine challenge us to move deeper in our criticism of the spill, to look not only to oil executives for accountability, but to ourselves as consumers who are called to be good stewards of our resources, but who, oftentimes, are reckless and unintentional in our consumption. It certainly makes me examine how I must change my own habits to preserve these resources which are meant for all the world, and generations to come, to share responsibly.

-Mary Ellen

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Small bumps in the road

My greatest hope is to incorporate my faith in my daily life. I hope for this in my marriage, in my parenting, in my daily interactions with people, and in my work. I feel capable of doing this when all is well-- when there are no disagreements in my marriage, when my children are engaged and playing happily, when there is no tension in relationships, and when work moves along smoothly. The tougher question for me: "How do I live my faith in the small bumps that we daily deal with?"

How am I incorporating my faith in disagreements? in disciplining and teaching my child? in working out problems? How does my faith come into play when my three year old has a melt down because his piece of sausage broke in half at breakfast and my patience is very thin because this melt down has occurred three times during meals this week? What do I do when the same challenging problem arises again with a person I love? What do I do when I am a placed in a situation that requires me making a difficult decision? What do I do when I am tired and cranky because I was up all night with a child, and it is coming out in my interactions with my family?

My hope and prayer is that the roots of my faith will guide me through these small bumpy moments. How often, though, I fall short. With all my strength, I pray the prayer below:


God be in my head
and in my understanding.
God be in my eyes
and in my looking.
God be in my mouth
and in my speaking.
God be in my heart
and in my thinking.
God be at my end
and at my departing.
— Sarum Primer

Thankfully, when I do fall short, I know the same place I turn to for guidance, God, will give me the courage to reconcile, to apologize, and to try again with a heart and head rooted in faith.

How do I live my faith during the small bumpy times in daily life?
~Becky Eldredge, Everything is Holy Now

Thursday, June 10, 2010

What a difference a year makes

June 10 last year was my due date for my first child. One year ago, I had no idea who was going to make his/her entrance into the world, nor did I have any idea of when he/she planned to do so. Three days later, I met the little man who has changed the way I look at everything. It's hard to believe that a year ago, I didn't even know the gender of the little guy who now cracks me up when he smiles his six-toothed grin and tries to drink from any cup-shaped object he can get his hands on.

My son turns one this weekend and I can't believe all that has happened in just a year. Birthdays offer the chance to look back at a year and see how we have grown. As I take stock of my own life and habits, I find myself asking how I have grown spiritually? How is my faith stronger this year than it was a year ago? How am I more connected to God now than I was a year ago? What does my prayer life look like now compared to a year ago?

As I reflect on these questions, I am challenged to look at what I can do moving forward so that I will be have a stronger faith, a deeper prayer life, and a closer relationship to God next year than I do now.

~Lauren G

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Lord, Save Me

Life continues to unfold in directions I never imagined happening. I find myself being called to new aspects of ministry, to new or different relationships with people, and to engage in life in a deeper way.

A couple of weeks ago, I found myself asking, "How do I do all of this? How do I do what God is asking? How do Chris and I make everything work?" I felt unsure and afraid. Its not like I was called to mission work in a far off land or to anything extreme. Rather, opportunities were presenting themselves that pushed me out of my comfort zone a bit and at the same time were causing Chris and I to, once again, look at our priorities and determine if anything needed realigning.

As we moved through the period of discernment, I kept thinking about the scripture where Jesus and Peter walk on water (Matthew 14:22-33). The disciples' boat is rocking in the storm, when suddenly they look up and see a man, Jesus, walking towards them on water. Peter (oh, how I love cocky little Peter!!!)...asks, "Lord, if it is you, command me to come on the water." Jesus tells Peter, "Come." Peter began walking on water until,suddenly, he got afraid, and says, "Lord, save me". Immediately, Jesus stretched out his hand and caught him.

I think I saw myself a bit in ole Peter. On one hand, I trust God whole-heartily. On the other hand, sometimes when I begin to fill a bit unsure of unfamiliar territory, I become afraid. Peter, while a bit zealous at times, did have the common sense to cry out, "Lord, save me." As I discerned stressed about stepping into unfamiliar territory, that phrase did not come to my lips quite as quick as Peter's. I flailed around a bit. When it finally did come when I decided praying about it might be a good idea, I realized that just like Peter, Jesus came to help me. While I did not feel the physical outstretched hand of Jesus, I felt peace provided by Jesus' great advocate, the Holy Spirit, about the new directions after taking it to prayer over and over again.

Do we have the common sense of Peter to cry out, "Lord, save me"?

~Becky Eldredge, Everything is Holy Now

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Doubt

Have you ever been trucking along doing what you are called to do and then be overwhelmed by doubt? I know I have. I always hate it when this happens. I suddenly find myself questioning every decision I have ever made. I know, Chris, my hubby, will read this and laugh because sometimes when I have moments of doubt they can get rather extreme-- I doubt my abilities as a mom, as a wife, as a lay minister in the church, as a blogger, as a gardener, as a friend, and on and on.

These moments of doubt sometimes sweep into our lives from out of nowhere. We suddenly find ourselves overwhelmed with questions and fears. We question is this doubt from God? Or is this doubt not from God? There have been many times in my life when a moment of doubt came that I started trying to change decisions I have made or make new decisions. This never tends to work in my favor though. When I try to make decisions in a period of doubt they are never sound decisions! They are typically emotional decisions I have made out of fear or uncertainty.

When doubt comes these days, I have learned to do two things. First, wait it out and make no decisions. This period of doubt always passes. Second, and most importantly, I bring all of my doubts to prayer. I find through prayer, consolation will eventually come. Through prayer, I will be reaffirmed as to the direction I am heading in or I will be nudged into a new direction. This is one of the great tools I have learned from Ignatian Spirituality.

Prayer roots our discernment in God and frees us from our doubts so we can be the beloved daughters and sons of God we already are. Prayer reminds us that we are undoubtedly loved by God, and that, rather than doubt, is something worth clinging too!

How do we overcome doubt in our lives?
Do we allow God to help us overcome our doubt?
Do we need to sit with God and be reminded of God's unconditional love for us?

~Becky E.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Finding God in All Things. Really?

Join Charis tonight for our final Living Ignatian Speaker of the year! Lee Hubbell will guide us through an evening of reflection about finding God in the 'non-obvious' times of our lives. Come for some thoughtful reflection and meet or reconnect with other young adults! Tonight, 7:30pm, Holy Name Cathedral. Hope to see you there!

-Mary Ellen

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

"I happen to have a Ph.D. in scandal..."

As we move through the Easter season, our Scripture readings tell about the early Church leaders and the growth of the early Christian community. In the news, we continue to hear about how the failings of a few of our Church leaders, past or present, have caused suffering for so many.

Archbishop Timothy Dolan of New York points out the connection between the early apostles--who were far from perfect--and present day leadership. We aren't perfect now, but we weren't perfect then. "If the survival of the Church depended upon the brightness, the virtue, the courage, the holiness of her bishops and priests," he says, "the Church would have collapsed only hours after the ordination of her first ones, the apostles."

By far my favorite line from this article (which is highly worth a read!) is the archbishop's response to a reporter asking if he was shocked and scandalized by the latest reports on abuse. He responds: "Well, yes. But I happen to have a Ph.D. in scandal, so it doesn't shake my faith. I have my doctorate in Church history, which is one long tale of sin, scandal and shock, always redeemed by the grace and mercy of God."

As we continue to hear about the failings of some of the leaders of our Church, let us pray for them, for the victims, and for our own faith. After all, our faith is not in an institution, it is in Jesus.

~Lauren G

Monday, May 17, 2010

Transitions

The last couple weeks, I’ve found myself at some different graduation ceremonies and parties for people in my graduate program at Loyola University. For my JVC Magis community, this means we are just a short time away from saying goodbye to a couple of our members who are graduating. So it is a celebration, but one with some sadness.

Looking back at this time if year since high school, this has often be a time of bittersweet transition for me. I’ve been blessed to know many friends and neighbors during this time, but moving from place to place and having others do the same, a lot of these relationships have been temporary. So it can be difficult at times, but it also reminds me of the importance of making the most out of the relationships I have.

Now as (hopefully) we can finally get into the summer, I hope people find ways to enjoy some quality time with those around them.

-Jesse K

Monday, May 10, 2010

For the Least of our Brothers and Sisters

This weekend, I had the privilege of being on the For the Least retreat with three dozen young adults who are passionate about promoting peace and justice. Our team gave some wonderful reflections on their experiences of working toward justice. Kyle talked about his growing concern for the environment as God's creation and the choices that he, and we, can make to be better stewards of the earth. Steve told of the ways that God has been knocking at his heart throughout his life and how he was finally able to answer the call to become a social worker for those with mental illnesses. Kate spoke about her work with refugees from Bhutan, Burma and Iraq and the challenges that come with resettling these groups. Megan talked about her experiences working with abandoned children in India and teaching kids in rural North Carolina and sent us forth to answer the question "What are we doing in God's name?". Our keynote presenter, Jonathan Currie, spoke about his job at Interfaith Worker Justice and the work that the organization does to prevent wage theft and other injustices against workers.

In listening to these inspiring young adults share their passions and gifts, I found myself reflecting on my own "growing edge" (as Kyle put it). I will probably never go to India like Megan. I know that I am not called to work in refugee resettlement. But what is it that I can do in my life that brings me more into solidarity with the least of my brothers and sisters? What is it that you can do?

Thursday, May 6, 2010

"Who Can Mock This Church?"

New York Times op-ed columnist Nicholas Kristof offers a reflection on his experiences with the humble priests and nuns he has encountered in Sudan. They have shown him the heart of the true Catholic Church at a time when the sinfulness of the hierarchy has tempted him to disregard the institutional church. A great piece that left me with a sense of renewed hopefulness that we, as the community of believers, can be the true heart of the Church.

-Mary Ellen

Thursday, April 29, 2010

How are we living the Paschal Mytery?

Next weekend, May 7-9, More than 35 young adults will gather at the For the Least retreat to share their experiences working toward a more peaceful and just world.

One of our team members, Megan Sherrier, took part in the Catholics on Call program a few years ago and wrote a great reflection on the Paschal Mystery: From Discernment to Action. To hear more from Megan, all you have to do is sign up for the retreat! Hurry, registration closes on Monday.

~Lauren G.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Happy Earth Day

Care for and the stewardship of God's creation are important aspects of Catholic Social Teaching. As we celebrate the 40th anniversary of Earth Day today, here are a few reflections on the environment from a Catholic perspective.

The Integrity of Creation by Phil Fox Rose on bustedhalo.com
A New Climate for Theology by Sally McFague via NCR
Catholic Conference on Climate Change of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB)

~Lauren G


Monday, April 19, 2010

The "Other" Catholic Church?

In the past couple years, I have probably found out about more current events than I should admit from Facebook. The first place I saw the news of Michael Jackson's death was Facebook. The news that Chicago didn't get the 2016 Olympics was on Facebook a good 10 minutes before I saw it on any of the major news outlets.

The majority of the time that friends post links to articles, I take a cursory look at the headlines, but rarely take the time to read the entire article. In the last 24 hours or so, multiple people all posted a link to the same article so I had to read it to see what was causing such a stir. I'm glad I did.

Nicholas Kristof, an op-ed columnist in the New York Times, wrote the article "A Church Mary Can Love." In light of the way a lot of major news outlets have been treating the Church lately, I was a little wary, but as I read his description of the "other" Catholic Church, I so appreciated his description of the people who are on the ground every day working for faith and justice.

Obviously, we aren't two Catholic Churches, but one Body of Christ. And we must celebrate our triumphs even as we grieve our failings. There isn't one church of those "in charge" and another of those in the trenches, we are all part of the Church and need to do whatever we can to bring about the Kingdom of God here on earth. That left me with the question: what am I doing today as part of the Body of Christ to bring about the Kingdom?

~Lauren G

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Transitions: Living My Paschal Mystery

Below is a beautiful reflection on "Living the Paschal Mystery" given by a team member, Liz at University of Georgia's Transitions Retreat. Her talk was moving, insightful, and inspiring!

"I am the daughter of immigrants, firmly Catholic and Portuguese in my upbringing, and I find myself reflecting back now on all that built my faith, my sense of the world. I think maybe, that by reflecting on my path, I can make sense of what happens to me in the now, and meet it with the same kind of faith, struggle, renewal, joy and trepidation I have always met life’s challenges with. I find myself later in life experiencing the Paschal mystery over and over, and the hope I share with you today is rooted in where I find myself now: unpacking the box of God’s surprises and both delighting in His ways and in awe of the long line of experiences that bring me here before you today.

I moved to Georgia from Massachusetts 13 years ago, seeking a Master’s degree and following who I then thought was the love of my life--only to find myself in six months with the promise of marriage dashed, alone with my thoughts and degree work, and, happily, suddenly surrounded by friends and community that became like the family support I longed for but was so far away. It was a difficult few years of adjustment and striving, and I did achieve my degree proudly--but not without finding out something about the nature of friendship and community along the way. The many different experiences of faith that surrounded me in the faces and spirits of the people I had come to know in some ways had influenced and transformed my view of life as I matured through my single years.

Many trials later--piecing together job opportunities, trying different angles on my hoped-for careers of teaching and writing, meeting new people and hoping for love as well as friendship along the way, I found myself strong in my identity as a woman who knew she wanted to change the world one word at a time. I found a place teaching literature and culture; found a forum to write; helped create numerous educational tools for others; and best of all, found a place in my church community, sharing and learning with others my age, and growing even stronger in the faith I had feared once perhaps I was only following to please my parents. I was firmly on a spiritual path, and there was no mistakening it for a prescribed path. I was--and am--living my faith journey.

Perhaps what I did not understand in 2003 was that God had a little something else in mind for me. I thought that I would remain single, that my hopes about marriage and parenthood would be set aside. Imagine my surprise then, when my husband--a tried and true Southerner who I would never have imagined for myself--walked into my life.

I at first did not want to accept he could be a part of my life--we were not this or that enough, I reasoned--and yet, slowly, God brought us together--of this I am sure, since I resisted the idea of getting together with him for awhile--and, long story short, we began that long talk that led to a belief, a hope, for creating something much different than what I had created, with God’s help, until then. On July 26, 2008, after nearly 5 years of courtship, Tra and I married in a joyful, weeklong celebration that encompassed all our friends and family, spanned 2000 miles and was a true jump start to what we knew would be a real adventure.

Adventure it was--so much adjusting after so much time single, and slow and careful planning. We wanted children, we had already talked about it, theorized about the ways our lives would change.

Then, finally, one day--I was pregnant.

God yet had other plans for me--and I think, aside from some of the struggles I had experienced before, I found myself in the deepest Good Friday I could ever have imagined. Just before Christmas of 2008, I miscarried.

I had always thought words could describe almost anything in almost any way, but there is no describing this--and the grief Tra and I shared created unexpectedly in us a bond forged in sadness and in support, in mutual understanding. We grew as a couple through this, and I found myself learning again: about the depth of my husband’s love for me; about the extent to which we would rely on the faith that had brought us together ; about the ways again family and friends would help me to see through the pain and guilt I felt, thinking somehow I could be at fault, thinking maybe I was not worthy enough to be a parent.

I felt my sister’s compassion, having herself experienced miscarriage--she helped me see that acknowledging our loss, naming our child, crying for him, commemorating him--these were all normal, all good things to do. Fr. Tom helped us acknowledge in the same way through a prayer service, helping us to begin to let go of what we had lost--what could have been. Sr. Margarita, during a time much later when I felt despair again at the thought of not being able to have children, reminded me that I should talk to and pray for my lost child--that there was beauty in doing so, in acknowledging that little possible life as a gift that would teach us in ways we could not now understand.

This dark hour in our lives created a new opportunity for us to wait in hope--somewhere along the line, after many compassionate discussions and sharing, after praying, after realizing we might need centering in our lives--Tra started and I followed in practicing Centering Prayer, a meditation focused strictly on God. Perhaps that perspective led us to a new place with God-- I felt like it had for me. I spent time sharing with friends at the Catholic Center Thomas Merton’s words in Thoughts in Solitude. I slowly shared my experience of faith during this Good Friday. Somewhere along the line, waiting in what had become my Holy Saturday moment, I started to see and feel things in a new way, even as I began to fear the possibility that we might not be able to have a child. My husband, always straightforward, no-hold-barred, set me straight one day with something that he said, something I knew inside but did not want to acknowledge: “You know, Liz, either we will or won’t have a child. It’s up to God what he wants for us. We have to accept that.” I knew he was right as soon as he said it, even though I did not want to believe it. Parenthood would be a gift God would either bestow us with or not, and it was upon us to choose to accept either possibility.

An answer came after what felt like a long time--nearly a year later. I am pregnant again--22 weeks along--and through the many trials of the first few weeks, concerns about health, and the frenzy of doctor visits and preparation of our home, I find myself at an Easter Moment, with much more to come I cannot imagine or fathom. I have so many questions about the possibilities for our baby--yet I know, as my experience until now showed me, that in time God reveals what could have been and what will be. Until then I wait in joyful hope and in a firm awareness of God’s role in all of this. I see the many ways God leads us through our losses, the many things we come to learn about ourselves through the grief and sadness we experience, through wondering what could have been. I see that God led me to accept many different things in my life I did not think possible, and to have hope and courage in the face of the unknown. I have learned all this from my experience, but I think, most of all, in the moment, from this little child I have not met yet, I have learned about God’s capacity to love us in spite of all odds."

~Liz V., Athens, GA

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Looking for reflections this Easter season?

Now that Lent is over and we are well into the Easter season, it may seem like there are fewer spiritual resources available to help with our prayer and reflection. For those who enjoy praying with Scripture, you can always find the readings for the day here.

America magazine also has a blog with weekly Scripture reflections based on the Sunday readings. It's a great way to reflect on the readings more deeply than we might be able to during Mass. Check out the reflection for this coming Sunday and bookmark this page for future reflections.

~Lauren G

Thursday, April 8, 2010

"Why Do Catholics Stay?"

Last week was the most beautiful and enriching Holy Week that I've ever had. My family was visiting from Cleveland and they spent Triduum and Easter with my community at St. Gertrude Parish in Edgewater. I attended the Good Friday Walk for Justice sponsored by the good folks at 8th Day Center for Justice. I served as an RCIA sponsor for my friend and Chicago Jesuit Volunteer, Cathy. My friends and I also welcomed our friend Amy into the Church. It was an appropriately challenging Triduum and a glorious Easter. Amidst all this beauty and communion, however, I feel an internal tension due to the increasingly horrifying reports of the sinfulness of the Church's sexual abuse scandals. While my faith is often a source of great beauty, during times of such desolation, I can't help but ask why I stay.

Regina Brett is a journalist for The Plain Dealer, the newspaper of my hometown of Cleveland, Ohio. She also asked herself why she stays and responded with today's article, which I found to be quite eloquent. In addition to the current abuse scandals internationally, the Church in Cleveland has suffered much loss in the last year due to the city's extreme poverty and corrupt Church politics. However, as Regina mentions, there are some tremendous leaders who are beacons of the faith and service that Jesus calls us to in the Gospels. These beacons and the community of believers are what make her stay. They're what make me stay too.

-Mary Ellen

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Open Arms...

In February of 2004, my parents, my brother, my sister, and myself headed off to the movies to see the Oscar nominated film Passion of the Christ. Knowing how the gory details and potrayal of the death Christ suffered caused many reviewers to find the movie sickening and treacherous, nervousness to see the film consumed me. Seeing the film for myself, I could feel nothing BUT the redemption Christ brought us. Thirteen at the time, I asked my father, "How is this movie any different from other passion films we've seen?" I wondered why so many people did not see the crucifixion the way I did.
Now almost 20 years old, I find my understanding of God's power over sin, pain, and suffering related to my reaction to Gibson's Passion. While some people saw Gibson's portrayal of the death of Christ horrendous, I saw love and reconciliation. The reality of the pain Christ suffered FOR ME was illustrated beautifully in the most real way. Christ loved ME and trusted in God's plan as he was crucified for MY sin...
Last night I attended a Reconciliation service at my university. My Act of Contrition included a daily personal promise to acknowledge Christ's love and trust in me in order to love and trust those I am currently struggling to do so with. Being reminded to ask Christ to walk with me, I remembered the scene from the Passion where one sees Jesus struggling as he carries his cross along the road. What are my crosses?
Since seeing the Passion, Reconciliation as become my favorite Sacrament. Knowing the pain and humiliation Jesus experienced as He journeyed to the cross and was crucified, I find the opportunity to attend Reconciliation a wonderful chance to get another chance. To be forgiven with Open Arms and given the chance to try again envigorates me.
With a daily reminder of God's love and trust in me, my love and trust for Him is slowly but surely helping me to love and trust others. The path Jesus walked, the pain he suffered, and the endless number of opportunities his death has given me to do what is love with his help makes Holy Week the most spiritually confirming weeks for me. As a friend said once to me, "It's so cool to be Catholic. We get so many chances and always welcomed back with open arms!"

Reflection from a Charis Retreat Team Member

Hi, my name is Devyn Scheuch and I am a second year at the University of Georgia in Athens, GA. As a Religion and German major my goal is to be a youth minister in the Catholic church and therefore find myself hanging out at the Catholic Center A LOT here at UGA. The fall semester of my freshman year I went on a Charis retreat and I absolutely loved it. I have been on three more Charis retreats and helped plan two of them, and every time my love for retreats and for God has deepened.


This past Saturday we ran the Transitions retreat and it was the best one yet. It worked out perfectly because we did it the day before Palm Sunday and talking about the Paschal Mystery was so relevant at this time in the liturgical year. Our speakers shared deeply about their transitions and it impacted every one of participants very personally. I remember one of the college students in my small group saying that she was going through the exact same type of transition as one of the speakers around the exact same time. She said she had only wished they knew what each other was going through so they could have been the support they needed. This brought on a wonderful discussion about how God is there for us always.


One of my favorite parts of the retreat is that a large portion of the RCIA group attended it. They will be transitioning into the Catholic faith in just a few days, andit was so nice having them all there with us! It was really cool thinking about the transition they will be making and how relevant it was to have this retreat topic. I know they all had a great time.


Everyone I talked to had such a great experience and it was wonderful seeing people working through their transitions. We had new college students, graduating students, newlyweds, two expecting mothers, and those preparing to become Catholic all in the same room discussing God’s role in their lives! It was so inspiring. I always have a wonderful experience planning retreats but this time was especially amazing. I know God was working through everyone this past Saturday and I love how Charis has showed me this.


I am so appreciative of all I have learned from the retreats I have been on and my new appreciation for Jesuit spirituality. I will continue to pray for Charis Ministries and everything that you guys do for the young Catholic population.


~Devyn Scheuch, University of Georgia, Athens, GA

Friday, March 26, 2010

I Choose...

As more information about sex abuse within the Church appear in the news, I find myself getting angry. I am angry at the priests who were capable of such horrible acts against children. I am angry at those in authority who knew about it and did nothing to stop it. I am angry that we live in a world where stories like this are the norm in the news, rather than the exception. Why do I choose to continue to be a part of a Church in which this kind of thing happens?

Mike Hayes, blogger extraordinaire at googlinggod.com, had a great post that really got me thinking today. Read the whole thing here, but here's an excerpt that hit home for me:

I refuse to let people hijack my faith, scapegoat others, or simply stop serving the needs of the poor and the spiritual needs of parishioners.

We are the church…together. And that means that things are often messy. I know I’ve made a bunch of mistakes that I wouldn’t want the Ny times to know about too. So I do my part and hope it’s enough.

I stay because I am part of a family. And at the Thanksgiving meal that happens each week that we call Eucharist, we are sure to find disagreement, horror stories and dysfunction. It’s who we are, warts and all.

We are part of a Church that has Christ at its head but human beings like you and me as its body. Like Mike, I choose to stay Catholic. I choose to continue to live out my faith in the best way I know how. I choose to look for and work for solutions and ways to make our Church a welcoming and loving community. I choose not to give in to the negative messages about the Church that I love and believe in, but I choose not to sweep the problems under the rug.

I find the lyrics to the song "I Will Choose Christ" running through my head:
I will choose Christ,
I will choose love,
I choose to serve.
I give my heart, I give my life,
I give my all to you.

What will happen if we all strive to choose Christ first and foremost in our lives?

~Lauren G

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

IPhone and the Other 6

Well, I finally bit the bullet and got an I-phone two weeks ago after my blackberry's syncing capabilities went nuts. I have thoroughly enjoyed it, and I wanted to share with you one of my newly discovered "apps". It is called Other 6.

This application for the i-phone is provided via Loyola Press, and it reminds me of a Jesuit version of Twitter or Facebook. Each day people answer two questions:
1. Where did you find God today?
2. Where do you need to find God today?

It is basically a short form of the Examen, and I have enjoyed reading where people find God and seek to find God in their days. It has also made me mindful of my own answers to those questions.

So, go check out the new i-phone application, Other 6, and begin the practice of the Examen today!

~Becky Eldredge

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Distracted by the screens

The most recent issue of America magazine has an article by Thomas Massaro describing a recent Kaiser Family Foundation study that shows that Americans between 8 and 18 are in front of a screen (TV, computer, smart phone, etc) for more than 7 1/2 hours a day. While this survey only focuses on kids, I would imagine that the numbers for adults are just as high, if not higher. Many of us use a computer most of the time that we are at work, check our Blackberries on the commute home, and then get home and turn on the TV to relax. I'm staring at a screen as I write this; you are staring at one as you read it. I have even started reading books on an e-reader!

I'm not making a social commentary on this phenomenon, but it did cause me to think about how I use my own time. When I have an extra half hour, what do I do? I usually turn on the TV, or surf the web. Then at the end of the day, I say that I didn't have enough time to devote to prayer, or to just quietly listening to God. Is it that I don't have the time, or that I surrounded myself with so many distractions that I didn't see the time?

As we move toward Holy Week and Easter, where are the opportunities during our day to spend a moment with God?
~Lauren G

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Teaching the Faith

Tomorrow, a group of teachers from Catholic schools in the Archdiocese of Chicago will gather for a retreat to share their experiences and renew their commitment to Catholic education. Planning for the retreat has given me an excuse to think about the importance of education and those who are passing on the faith.

For those who are interested in Catholic education, or learning more about some of the service teaching programs that are out there, here are a few sites that might be of interest. Most of these schools allow college graduates to earn a Master degree while teaching full time in a Catholic school.

LU-Choice (Loyola University Chicago Opportunities in Catholic Education)—Loyola sponsored program serving Catholic elementary schools in the Archdiocese of Chicago.

Magis Catholic Teacher Service Corps—program through Creighton University based on Ignatian spirituality.

Alliance for Catholic Education—University of Notre Dame sponsored service teaching program in under-resourced Catholic schools.

Pacific Alliance for Catholic EducationUniversity of Portland program in the Pacific Northwest.

Pray for the teachers on retreat on Friday and give thanks for those who have taught you the faith over the years.

~Lauren G.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Circles of Support

Last night, I found myself gathered around a table with ten other men and women in their 20's and 30's planning our upcoming Charis Retreat at the University of Georgia. While there were several items on our agenda that we had to take care of, we kept finding ourselves in fits of laughter or on a side-topic that somehow related to the work we were doing, which in its own way improved the retreat we were planning. The energy that was around the table last night was contagious! We were laughing, listening to two of our groups talks, sharing our lives with each other, and preparing to minister to others in two weeks.

Last night, though, was a ministry in itself. A much needed ministry- the ministry that feeds us as ministers! While all of us gathered around the table last night are involved in ministry in many forms, we, too, need to be fed. The community we have formed these past six weeks revitalizes us, energizes us, and supports us. The random outbursts of laughter and discussion reinforce the work we are doing.

No matter what we do in life, we need moments like last night--moments that feed us, renew us, and energize us. We need moments, as humans, to gather with our circles of support, which come in so many shapes and sizes, and to feed our spirits. This is what community is all about!

Where do we find our circles of support?
Do we realize the importance and value of gathering with them?
Do we need time with one of our circles of support right now?

~Becky Eldredge

Friday, March 12, 2010

Talking Me Down


One Jesuit I lived with, who is a close friend, would call me aside occasionally. “Talk me down from the ledge,” he would begin. Then he would proceed to tell me what he was thinking and ask, “Am I crazy to think that?” Sometimes I would say, “Yeah, that’s a little crazy,” but most of the time I found myself saying, “No, it’s not crazy to think that at all.” This way of “checking in” with people who know us well is a good practice, one that I try to practice myself.


In fact, I find this most helpful when someone accuses me of doing something wrong. Of course, my initial response is to be defensive (I didn’t do that! How could you think that!). But it helps me to put aside that initial defensiveness and go to someone I trust, asking them to tell me honestly whether I’m guilty of the thing of which I have been accused. For example, I might ask, “Have you seen me mistreat that person in the way he or she is saying that I did. “ If I have, and I just lack the objectivity to see it, I trust someone else to help me see the need for reconciliation, so that I can help bring that about.


When I tell people this, sometimes they think it’s kind of crazy. If what the other person is saying doesn’t ring true, why should you presume it’s your fault? But, I counter, what if it is? I know I’m not perfect or always in the right, even when I think I am. Another perspective can often help me see things more clearly. This is why having a spiritual director can be really important. This is someone to whom you reveal most intimate things about yourself and your relationship with God and others. And, hopefully, this is someone you can trust to be brutally honest with you, when necessary.


We are passionate people, and we all have times when it helps to have someone we can quickly call or go see, to talk us down from the ledge.


--Fr. Mark


Have you seen this scene from "Yes Man"?


Thursday, March 11, 2010

I'm so hip...Sort of.

So I recently decided that it's about time for me to fully enter into the 21st century and embrace the use of...wait for it...podcasts! in my daily life. I started with the usual NPR podcasts, and am excited to begin using pray-as-you-go.org as a guide for my daily spiritual life. I've heard everyone rave about it before, and I'm glad to finally be joining the ranks of hip people who use it regularly. Check it out if you want to be counted among the cool...

-Mary Ellen

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Wanna hang out with the Pope?

Want to go to Madrid? Want to meet up with young adults from around the world who share your faith? Want to go to Mass with Pope Benedict XVI?

Well, two of those three things can be yours if you go on the Young Adult Papal Pilgrimage in conjunction with World Youth Day. All young adults from college-age to thirty-somethings are invited to join your peers from around the globe. The trip leaves O'Hare on Saturday, August 13, 2011 and spends 10 days in a four-star hotel in Madrid, Spain to attend all the activities for World Youth Day. You'll return to Chicago on Monday, August 22, 2011. Most meals and registration for all activities is include.

If you are interested in joining, contact Paul Jarzembowski in the Young Adult Ministry Office for the Diocese of Joliet. A limited number of spots are still available.


A group from Charis went to the last World Youth Day in Sydney. Check out some of the reflections from this blog.

~Lauren G.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Jim Martin is at it again!

Fr. Jim Martin, SJ is a wonderful author, speaker, blogger and former Charis presenter who has appeared on the Colbert Report and other mainstream media. He has a new book out, The Jesuit Guide to (Almost) Everything: A Spirituality for Real Life. The book uses Jesuit principles to help us lead simpler lives.

In this 6 minute interview on NPR Weekend Edition, he talks about poverty, chastity and suffering and introduces some of the ideas in his book. Check it out! If it's anything like his other books, it'll be a great read.

FYI: He is also getting some press through USA Today.

~Lauren G.