God’s Love for Us

A Message from Andrew Schueller

I love Christmas time! Yes, partially because my birthday is Christmas Eve and usually kicks off the Christmas festivities for my family, but also because the Church takes this time after Christmas to reflect on the true meaning of Christmas – God’s love for us.

No other deity that has ever been worshipped has desired a relationship with humanity. No other deity that has ever been thought of has desired eternity with humanity. This is at the heart of our faith—that we have a God who loves us, desires to have a relationship with us, and hopes to spend eternity with us. So much so that God sent the Word to become man: to walk this earth, eat with us, cry with us, laugh with us, and to show us how to get to heaven. He loved us to the point of becoming vulnerable with us, even coming to us as an infant.

I am a relatively new parent. I think of everything my son needs me to do for him daily: feed him, change his diapers, get him dressed, and snuggle him when he gets hurt. As much as he is growing and learning, he is still dependent on us.

Jesus allowed for Mary and Joseph to care for Him. We are capable of loving God. As in any relationship, to love someone is a commitment. God shows His commitment to us by giving us free will, and by becoming man even while knowing that we would still face temptation and sin. He instituted the sacraments to right our relationship with him and fall more in love with him.

My hope is that this Christmas season, you encounter God’s love anew in the infant Jesus and make a commitment to grow in your love for Him.

 

Andrew Schueller is the Director of Formation at St. Dominic Catholic Parish.

 

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A Magical Night

A Message from Fr. Dennis Saran, Pastor St. Dominic Catholic Parish

The walk from the church of my childhood to home was exactly thirteen minutes. In Illinois, because of the crowds, you don’t count distances in miles, but by how long it takes to get there. I know it was thirteen minutes because we had to come home for lunch each school day and we had exactly forty-five minutes. That gave us nineteen minutes to eat. It also helped for the many times I attended Mass or served at Mass to know exactly when I would have to leave.

But there was this one night—this one late night when the walk was different—when it was magical, when it was a special night, when the walk home lasted forever. Christmas Eve, the first year I had returned from college.

It was snowing as we left to go to the still then, Mass at midnight. The snow was eight inches deep by the end of Mass. I helped a few people clean off their cars before my two sisters and I headed home, the only brave souls of my large family that chose to attend.

The streets were abandoned, so we walked down the middle of the road. The moon was full so the new snow shimmered like diamonds as we passed darkened houses. All was quiet. We three spontaneously began to sing the Christmas hymn which is now my favorite, O Holy Night, the stars are brightly shining, it is the night of our dear Savior’s birth. We walked into a scene of joy and laughter as my relatives were all gathered around the table for the after midnight feast. It is what was done back then.

There was no more pleasant a Christmas Eve I remember, nor a more sacred and silent night.

As you gather family for this feast of the Nativity of Our Lord, share with each other your favorite Christmas story, the time you really felt the presence of Jesus and really knew that God is watching over you.

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

Our Workout Plans

My friend Zoey is a personal trainer. She works with clients every day and creates routines to help them live a healthy life.

It’s not easy. She has to really get to know each person, really study who each person is and  understand what drives them. Only then can she make recommendations on exercises and diet.

“Here’s the thing,” Zoey told me. “I can have the best plans in the world, but if my client doesn’t put these plans into action, then my work means nothing. Sometimes people want easy answers. They want instant results. There is no magic pill, no secret to success.”

Zoey says it all comes down to two simple things: Work hard and dedicate yourself. If you do these two things, you will succeed.

“Faith in action is love. Love in action is service. By transforming that faith into living acts of love, we put ourselves in contact with God Himself, with Jesus our Lord.” – Mother Teresa

God has created a spiritual workout plan for each one of us. He knows who we are and understands what drives us. He makes recommendations on what we can do to grow in our faith.

It’s time to stretch and warm up. There is no magic pill, no secret to success. It’s time to put in the hard work. It’s time to truly dedicate ourselves.

Do you know your plan? It’s time we put our faith into action.

 

Dan Herda is an editor of theROCK

 

A Wonderful Life

“It’s not knowing what to do, it’s doing what you know.” -Tony Robbins

In the movie It’s a Wonderful Life, George Bailey, a man who lives in the small town of Bedford Falls, wishes that he never existed. He’s encountered a series of bad incidents, and the pressures and consequences of these incidents are too big for him to handle. So he wishes he was never born.

Then he meets Clarence, an angel sent from Heaven, and Clarence gives George his wish. George now lives in a world in which he never existed. He has a chance to see how others live their lives without his influence.

At some point, we all wonder about our purpose on this planet. Why are we here? What influence do we have on the people around us?

Writer Caryll Houselander wrote, “Sometimes it may seem to us that there is no purpose to our lives, that going day after day for years to this office or that school or factory is nothing else but waste and weariness. But it may be that God has sent us there because but for us, Christ would not be there. That alone makes it worthwhile.”

Often, many of us underestimate our influence on the world. We don’t think we add value. We don’t have any gifts to share. We don’t realize the impact we have on the people we encounter.

Just as George Bailey soon discovered in the movie, our influence travels far and wide in each of our lives. Kind words lead to acts of love. Acts of love lead to compassion and caring. Compassion and caring leads to change in the world.

“Your love for one another,” writes Houselander, “will be stronger, deeper, and more enduring when it is rooted in the One who is the source of all love.”

If we open our eyes and realize that what we do and what we say can make an impact in our world, then we begin to understand that we are truly living a wonderful life.

 

Dan Herda is an editor of theROCK

 

 

Who Am I?

When Jesus went into the region of Caesarea Philippi he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” They replied, “Some say John the Baptist, others Elijah, still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”

He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” -Matthew 16: 13-15

If one of your close friends or a family member was asked to honestly describe you, what do you think they would say?

That you’re generous? Kind? Forgiving? Would they say you’re caring, loving, and in control of your life?

Or would they say you’re stubborn, quick to anger, and extremely impatient?

Who are you? What are the traits that make you YOU?

Are you the person that you imagine that you are?

Now ask yourself, who do you say Jesus is?

Is He at the center of your life? Is He the reason for everything you say and do in your life?

Or is He a person that you pray to on Sunday, but don’t think much about the rest of the week?

Once you answer this question, all of the other answers will all fall into place.

 

Dan Herda is an editor of theROCK

 

The Canvas of Life

My friend Joyce is a very talented painter. She focuses on abstracts and has the ability to combine unique colors and patterns in an emotional way on the canvas.

Her art is hard for me to explain. It’s really just a bunch of shapes and lines put together on a canvas. But Joyce is really good at what she does. She knows how to combine the right colors and right brush strokes and the right placement…and the right amount of love with each of her paintings.

Her secret is simple. Years ago she decided who she wanted to be as a painter. She thought about it long and hard, and even wrote down a mission statement for her work. She was clear and concise in her definition.

It was only after she had something that she felt truly passionate about did she actually begin her work. She couldn’t really “live her art” without knowing who she was as an artist.

This philosophy shows up in every piece she creates. It’s complex, it’s exciting, and its full of life.

Who are you as an “artist” of your faith? Do you have a philosophy for how you live your days? Are you passionate about your mission? Are you willing to work hard, every day, to accomplish your plans?

Do the results of your daily actions demonstrate who you are? Are you complex, exciting and full of life?

They say art imitates life, but sometimes we learn our best life lessons from art…and from the artists who create the work.

 

 

Dan Herda is an editor of theROCK.

 

 

Surrounding Ourselves

A message from Kurt Peot.

We all share some common human characteristics. When things are tough, we tend to complain. When God led the Israelites out of slavery, they complained about how hungry they were. They even told Moses they were better off in slavery, at least their bellies were full.

But God God heard their prayer, if you can call it that, and provides manna and quail.

We also like to believe that we can manage or overcome anything on our own, if we try hard enough. Yet, that can-do attitude runs up against the reality that we are limited. And many of the things we seek and strive so hard for are really things that are temporary.

The crowd that Jesus fed with the loaves and fishes see a great sign, and they misunderstand it completely. They see Jesus as their warrior King who will lead them in triumphant battle against the Romans. Jesus explains to them they should be seeking something much more permanent, eternal life. To find that eternal life they need do nothing more than come to Him, believe in Him, and they will receive this amazing gift.

So, it is for us. Rather than complaining, or “grabbing the bull by the horns,” how about we rearrange our priorities, pray for Jesus’ help, and surrender ourselves into His loving arms, expecting we will find eternal life as a reward.

 

Kurt Peot, parishioner and diaconate candidate

Beetlejuice

In June of 2017, I had the pleasure of photographing a wedding with two very special people, Sheila and Mark. It was during this wedding that I learned an important life lesson.

We got an early start that morning. The women spent the morning at the salon, while the men played a round of golf. By mid-afternoon, we all arrived at the church two hours before the ceremony was set to begin. The women were in one room, the men in another.

While there was lots of laughing and hugging being shared, underneath it all was a touch of nervousness. Sheila struggled with anxiety in her life; it was something she had been battling for years. Recently she had two small episodes, minor panic attacks that left her breathless with a racing heart.

As the big day approached, Sheila worried that the emotions of the day would get the best of her. She worried that she would encounter another attack. And worse, that the attack would stop the wedding.

Sheila took a deep breath and began her calming techniques as her bridesmaids buttoned and tied her wedding dress. She could feel the pressure building in her chest.

It was at that moment that she heard a sound, a “ping-ping” coming from the doorway.

She turned and saw Adam, the Best Man, standing at the doorway with his phone in his hand. He looked up and smiled, then slowly walked into the room.

Sheila went into panic mode. What was going on? What was wrong? Why was he here?

Adam looked up and smiled. “Beetlejuice.”

Sheila laughed a nervous laugh. “I don’t get it?”

“It’s a gift from your soon-to-be husband,” said Adam.

Sheila was still confused.

“Mark asked me to set the timer on my phone every hour. When the timer goes off, I’m going to look at you and say ‘Beetlejuice.’”

“Beetlejuice” was the first movie Sheila and Mark saw together at an outdoor film festival. It was their third date, and it was the night that Sheila and Mark realized that this relationship had a chance to be something very special.

“When you hear these words,” Adam continued, “Mark wants you to take a breath and realize that you are surrounded by people who love you and want to celebrate you. These people want you to be happy for the rest of your life. When you hear the words, take a moment to savor. Take a moment to enjoy. And take a moment to say a short prayer and thank God for this spectacular day.”

Sheila instantly teared up and embraced Adam. It was the best wedding gift she could have possibly received.

______________

Today, over one year later, I’m sitting with my family on a pontoon boat in the middle of a lake, watching a spectacular sunset fill the sky. One word comes to my mind: “Beetlejuice.”

What are you savoring in life? How often are you actually doing it?

Are you remembering to thank God for your spectacular day?

 

Dan Herda is an editor of theROCK.

 

Feeding Those in Need

A Message from Mary Lestina

When you drive down any major thoroughfare in our country, you find an enormous variety of restaurants that can quickly satisfy your hunger. You can find drive-through restaurants to elegant dining places with cloth napkins. Food is essential to our lives.

Large crowds of people followed Jesus during his ministry. They were drawn to Him because of his many signs of healing. They came, each with their history, seeking Him for the healing of illness, of anxiety, or of a personal matter. Jesus knows they are searching for love and to be close to him.

In the Gospel story of the loaves and fishes, in his compassion, Jesus asks his disciples, Phillip and Andrew, to approach a young boy who had in his possession his lunch of 5 barley loaves and 2 fish. Barley loaves were more like the size of a pancake, not a full loaf of bread, as we would imagine. Jesus uses the little portions in the hands of a child to work his miracle of feeding the crowds. God also wants to use us, as limited as we are, to feed those in need. There are opportunities through food pantries, meal programs and other charities.

Every time we eat at one of our favorite restaurants, let us keep in mind those who are less fortunate than us and ask God to use us to feed those in need.

 Become Christ, each one for the sake of all…

 

Mary Lestina is the Pastoral Associate at St. Dominic Catholic Church.