Holding Hands

There is a couple who live a few houses east of me who go for a long walk every single morning. Rain or shine, snow or sleet, they make their way past my house and disappear several blocks away.

What’s interesting about this couple is that they walk the entire distance of their journey holding hands.

When I saw them the other morning, I started thinking about hand holding.

  • We can’t wait to hold a newborn’s hand; in fact we love it when they wrap their tiny fingers around ours.
  • If you ever spend time on a school playground, you will see grade school girls all playing together, often holding hands.
  • When we first start dating, we can’t get enough hand holding. In fact, it’s odd when you see a very young couple not holding hands.
  • We hold hands at our wedding to profess our vows and exchange rings.
  • And then…we stop. As we climb the ladder of age, we simply stop holding hands.
  • That is, until we encounter someone very sick and close to death. We once again reach out and gently wrap our fingers around theirs.

God is reaching out to us every single day, asking us to hold his hand. Come, follow me. Let me lead you. Do you reach back? Do you happily wrap your fingers around His?

Are you extending your hand to others?

Rain or shine, snow or sleet, we are all on this journey together. Wouldn’t it be nice to hold someone’s hand along the way?

 

Dan Herda is an editor of theROCK

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Built Solid and Strong

 

It was a black Brimnes wardrobe with 3 doors. It had a mirror mounted in the front and lots of shelves inside for storage. I was so excited to make my purchase at Ikea, deliver it to my house and prepare to put the entire wardrobe together.

I opened the box, laid out all of the pieces and began the assembly process. Not too bad, I thought. I can look at the final photo and figure everything out. I mean, how tough could it be to put together?

Yeah, right. It took me three minutes to get confused. Was “A” a left side panel or right? Which screws was I supposed to use for the top? Did I attach the shelves first or last?

I knew I was in over my head and reached for the instructions.

That made me think about how I assemble the days of my life. Am I simply laying out all my pieces and randomly trying to put things together? Do I know my priorities ? Do I know the steps I should follow to get things accomplished?

If only life came with instructions.

Ah…but they do. God has given us two simple instructions:

  1. Love the Lord Your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind and all your strength.
  2. Love your neighbor as yourself.

That’s it. The instructions are clear and easy to understand…IF we take the time to read them. So often we think we can do everything on our own. I don’t need God’s help. I can figure this out on my own. I have all the answers.

But there always comes a moment when we realize that our lives are made up of lots of screws and lots of shelves, each with different uses.

If we take the time to ask for help and follow God’s instructions, there is no doubt that our lives will be built solid and strong.

 

 

Dan Herda is an editor of theROCK

 

Circle of Love

Every now and then I am struck with how totally awesome our Church is. When I reflect upon the Communion of Saints, I can’t help but think this concept is genius!

First introduced in the Book of Maccabees in the Old Testament, our faith tradition has since built upon a rich tradition that can bring such peace and hope for all the living and those who are dying. The Saints, those canonized by the Church, and the saints, the faithful departed, create a full circle of love through intercessory prayer.The Saints will have your back, you only need to ask. How lovely that our Church honors this family and roots it in our creed. Knowing that at any time you can shout out to a loved one or an icon of faith and bring them close to work with you and beside you to gain the graces to stand strong through any situation is AMAZING! We are truly never alone between our angels and our Saints/saints not to mention through our Blessed Mother and our Holy Trinity. With all that love and support, how can we not have love, joy, hope, and peace. One need only pray and believe.

But wait, there’s more. While they are there to help us, we are also here to help them. An often forgotten teaching of the Catholic faith is the belief in purgatory. The Catechism of the Catholic Church defines purgatory as a “purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven,” which is experienced by those “who die in God’s grace and friendship, but still imperfectly purified” (CCC 1030).

How can we help our departed loved ones? Prayer! When we offer up Mass or our prayers for them, we assist them in gaining the glory of heaven. They in turn are praying for us. The full circle of love!

 

Jill Fischer is the Principal of St. Dominic Catholic School

Every Minute of Every Day

I could tell that something was wrong with my friend Shawn.

His handshake didn’t have the usual firmness. He was having a hard time maintaining eye contact. His voice was a bit softer and a lot sadder.

“I relapsed,” he finally said, looking down at his feet. “A few months ago.”

There was a pause as Shawn thought about what his next words would be. In that pause, I thought about how hard Shawn had worked to stop drinking. He moved to Wisconsin to go to rehab. He started a new job. He developed routines and habits that could help him grow as a person.

“It wasn’t that I got weak,” Shawn said. “I actually felt strong. Like I could handle one drink for a celebration. But I couldn’t.”

I didn’t know what to say, so I simply put my hand on his shoulder. Shawn smiled. “It’s not just a daily struggle, it’s an hourly struggle. It’s something I battle every single minute of every single day.”

We stand in silence for a few moments, each thinking of the right words to say next. I know that Shawn is a man of faith. I know that he trusts that God guides him. But sometimes he needs reassuring that he is on the right path.

“I’m praying for you, Shawn. Not as often as I should, but I am praying for you.”

“I know,” he responds. “People don’t realize how powerful their prayers are. They mean the world to me. I can feel them surround me and guide me. They also don’t realize that a word of encouragement can make the difference between staying sober and blacking out for two days.”

Think about the Shawns in your life. They may not be alcoholics, but they may be suffering. Have you let them know you’re praying for them? Have you let them know you support them? Have you let them know you care?

You never know when one simple sentence could be the difference in someone’s life.

 

Dan Herda is an editor of theROCK

 

What Would You Do?

In the Gospel of Mark, Chapter 10, we hear the story of the rich young man. This young man thought he had heaven in his grasp, a slam dunk! He had been following the Ten Commandments. He had been giving appropriately to the poor. He was being kind. In essence, he was talking the talk and walking the walk in a manner he thought fit the expectation. He was thinking much like many of us do.

But then Jesus throws him a curve ball. He reminds us that Heaven is not a given. I like to imagine that Jesus scanned his soul, as only a divine human could do, and landed on that one trouble spot He knew the rich young man had. That sore spot. That chink in his armor.

Jesus told the rich young man to give away everything he had and follow Him.

This gives the rich young man pause as he had worked hard to acquire his wealth. To give it all away was too much of an ask. Ultimately, he couldn’t do it. He passes up a lifetime with Jesus because he couldn’t get rid of his worldly possessions.

I don’t know about you, but I often play with this in my head: would I be able to drop everything and follow Jesus? What would be the spot on my soul that Jesus would press upon?

Personally, in my head, I know that everything I have is a gift from God. It was never really mine to begin with. As a student of the Bible, I know that Jesus always came back “home,” so while the disciples had to drop everything and go, they were never fully disconnected.

As a friend of the Saints, I know that abandonment leads to great joy. Jesus doesn’t want us to suffer, but He does want us to connect completely to Him so all distractions have to go away. He wants us to trust Him. He’d never lead us into something He wouldn’t be there to help us with.

So when I wonder if I could just drop it all, I’d like to think I could. Could you? What is that thing that would trip you up?

 

Jill Fischer is the Principal of St. Dominic Catholic School

 

 

The Intern

Next week I’m going to introduce you to Sandra. Sandra will be your new personal intern.

Sandra is going to be with you for the next three months, and she’s going to learn
everything she can from you on how to live a life of faith. She’ll watch what you do, she’ll listen to what you say, and she’ll see how you interact with the people you encounter throughout the day.

While most of the activity you will have with Sandra will be day-to-day living, I’d like you to start the first day with a simple, straight-forward conversation. I’d like you to tell Sandra about the three most important things you do to demonstrate to the world that you are a Christian. Keep it simple. Start taking notes now.

After that, it’s all about you—what you do, what you say and how you live.

I know that having a personal intern is a great responsibility, but so is being a Christian. You never really have a “day off.” You never have a chance to have a “cheat day.” You need to be your best, 525,600 minutes each year.

Good luck. We wouldn’t have selected you if we didn’t think you were up to the challenge. Sandra has a lot to learn.

 

Dan Herda is an editor of theROCK.

 

They Belonged

These past two weeks I’ve been touring the state, taking photos of health care centers for the elderly (what we used to call nursing homes). I was hired to capture both the exteriors and interiors for marketing purposes, and to take a few photos of the staff and residents for social media.

Last Thursday, I stopped at a center in western Wisconsin. When I entered the building, the hallways were empty. Most of the residents were in the activity room finishing up a late afternoon game of bingo. The group of 80-somethings were all munching on cookies and drinking juice when I showed up with my camera. All eyes were on me, wondering why I was there and what I was doing.

As I said hello and introduced myself, a small, frail woman came up to me and asked if I would take her picture.

“Of course,” I replied. “ I sat her at a table, and lined up my shot to capture her thin smile.

Then I heard a buzz start to travel throughout the room. While at first a bit shy, one-by-one, all of the residents at the bingo game asked if I would also take their photo. I moved from table to table, meeting the various residents, then capturing the sometime smiling and sometimes stoic faces of these proud people.

As I lined up my last photo and focused my camera, it struck me what was going on. Here was a group of people who understand who they are. They understand where they live and why they live there.

Their lives have changed. They are no longer able to move around with swiftness and ease. It’s difficult for them to see, and even more difficult for them to hear. They’re watching their bodies slowly betray them.

Yet…they still want the world to see them. They want to have their image captured and to be recognized. They want to matter. They want to belong.

“Do not cast me aside in my old age; as my strength fails, do not forsake me.” Psalm 71:9

For one simple moment, on one rainy Thursday afternoon, I had the privilege to capture the faces and the spirit of these wonderful men and women. And once again, they belonged.

 

Dan Herda is an editor of theROCK.

 

 

Own and Grow

In the Gospel of Luke (6:39-42), St. Luke shares how Jesus encourages us to stop the blame game and own our behaviors.

“First take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your neighbor’s eye.”

When we make a mistake or a bad choice, own it and learn from it. Don’t pass the buck. Don’t make excuses. Don’t point to someone else. Own and grow! Own it and then help others to be better versions of themselves.

This is what the sacrament of reconciliation is all about. Admitting our errors in order to be forgiven and be a better person for it. We are in it to win it – not a prize but the satisfaction of living a life worthy of God.

 

Jill Fischer if the Principal of St. Dominic  Catholic School.

 

Jesus Wept

Yesterday I read a trivia question: What’s the shortest verse in the King James version of the Bible? Of course the answer is “Jesus wept.” Two simple, yet very powerful words. I’ve read those words hundreds of times, yet I’ve never truly embraced what they mean.

Jesus wept. His emotions were so strong that they overtook his body.

”Crying is a natural emotional response to certain feelings, usually sadness and hurt,” said Stephen Sideroff, PhD, a staff psychologist at Santa Monica–University of California Los Angeles & Orthopaedic Hospital. “People also cry under other circumstances or occasions. They are letting go of their guard, their defenses, tapping into a place deep inside themselves.”

I often have to remind myself that while Jesus is the Son of God, he was also human. His emotions were part of his everyday life. Just like you and me.

The verse “Jesus wept” is found in John, Chapter 11. As I read this chapter, I also read the chapter before and the chapter after. I imagined what Jesus was going through and the reasons behind His emotions.

  • In Chapter 10, Jesus is telling a gathering of people: “I am the good shepherd, and I know mine and mine know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I will lay down my life for the sheep.” Strong words to express to a crowd. He has a great deal of responsibility.
  • In Chapter 12, it is the coming of Jesus’s Hour: “Now is the time of judgment on this world; now the ruler of this world will be driven out.” He knows that His death is coming soon.
  • Chapter 11 is the death of his friend Lazarus. While Jesus knows he will raise Lazarus from the dead, the emotion of the moment with Martha and Mary overtakes Him.

The human side of Jesus has a lot to experience in a very short period of time, He has a lot to digest. So what does he do? He lets Himself be human and He cries.

Then He immediately trusts that His Father will guide Him.

I always feel vulnerable when I cry. I feel like I’ve lost control. But in reality, it’s my body releasing the emotions that have built up inside of me for so long. The struggles, the pain, the anxiety…the unknown, they all come out in my tears.

Those are the moments when I am reminded to calm my body, close my eyes and pray one simple prayer, “Guide me, God.”

And He does.

 

Dan Herda is an editor of theROCK.

 

The Road to Holiness

The way to live a life of holiness is found in the gospels. Embedded in all the wonders and teachings of Jesus lies the key. The life of holiness is a life rooted in the beatitudes. To be holy is to be poor in spirit, meek, empathetic, just, merciful, simple and pure, peaceful, and courageous in faith. In other words, to be holy is to be unaffected by the worries of the world because of a dependence on the will of the Father.

Is that easy? Not at all. This is why a “holy” person depends on prayer, a tight relationship with God that goes beyond formal words to conversations with Him. Conversations where you are not just talking, but also listening. Listening for what God is saying to you through Scripture, through others, through the events of your life. “Holy” people depend on their relationship with God. They trust in God. “Holy” people don’t take life too seriously, but they are serious about loving and serving God and others.

“It takes effort to always do good…The road to holiness is not for the lazy!

Pope Francis tweet on 9/17/2018

 

Jill Fischer is the Principal of St. Dominic Catholic School.