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Faith 101

  • Living Word: The POWER of YES: Reflections on the incarnation and the free will of Mary

    Sep 17, 2014

    By Jeanne Grammens Hidalgo

    I was recently co-facilitating a retreat for student leaders who want to be involved in ministry at Marian University. John Shelton (Campus Minister) was presenting on tenets of effective Christian leadership, and the final point was how vital it is to a relationship with Mary, the mother of Jesus.  I was to "bring it home," by offering an activity regarding this idea.  As John spoke, I felt that warm sensation, which I have come to recognize as the Holy Spirit, which lead me to ask the students this question:  “What do you and Mary have in common?" As they threw out a wide variety of responses, I cut to the chase, stating two simple, yet profoundly powerful words, "Free Will."  This is not something we often reflect upon, in regards to Mary and her unbelievable response to God’s invitation.  It is easy to assume that the conception of Jesus was a done deal and tend to disregard the power of Mary’s YES. The students were silent. Yes, Mary had free will.  She was free to say Yes or No to the offer to carry the savior of the world in her womb!! 

    In my own humanity, I have often wrested with free will and in my less inspired moments, questioned the value of my “YES.” I have been greatly formed by the spirituality of an amazing Christian artist, Amy Grant.  In fact, I have been known to joke that if she only knew me, we would be best friends.  She has seriously impacted my faith journey over the past 30 years and I have been privileged to hear her sing in person on several occasions.  At one of her concerts, years ago, I Iooked upon Amy in all her talent, her beauty and her incredible ability to impact the spiritual lives of what I believed to be millions of people.  I marveled at her gifts and her willingness to use them for God’s glory.  Yes, I was COMPARING myself and my value with Amy Grant’s!  And what I was doing in that moment, was also questioning God's ability to use whatever has been planted in me, for fruitful completion (Paul's letter to the Philippians).  It was a low moment for me, but what followed was a conviction, (yes, again the Holy Spirit) that my YES, my willingness to offer whatever I have been given for the good of all,  was just as important as Amy Grants. As Mary says in her magnificat, “my soul magnifies the Lord…” God can and does magnify all that we willingly offer, no matter how humble the offerings. 

    This reminds me of my favorite Christmas story rendition in clay mation; (very popular back in the 1960s—to date myself); the Little Drummer Boy.  An angry, resentful young lad, living in first century Palestine, has lost his home, family and now, one of his beloved animals.  He approaches one of the wise men, at the scene of the birth of Christ, and asks for help.  The very wise man redirects the lad to the stable where Jesus is lying in the manger.  The boy hesitates, saying, “I have not gift to bring,” and suddenly, he realizes that he can offer what he has, the gift of a song played on his crude instrument.   He is told that Jesus favors this gift and alas, his pet donkey is restored.  The point for me? Be willing to say YES to utilizing what we have, no matter how seemingly insignificant. God can and does magnify our gifts.  It will be done!

    So the lesson of Mary's "Yes"? In a chapel in Italy at La Verna, Italy, is a rendition of the Annunciation, when the angel Gabriel appeared to Mary in order to invite her to allow the incarnation.  God is up above her with his ear inclined, waiting to hear her response! This is what I shared that day with the students.  Mary had free will. She had a choice!  This is a stunning concept for us to consider! We are all glad that she said yes.  And it is humbling to remember that we have a choice as well, to say Yes or No to blessed with the power of free will.  We can say Yes or No to God’s invitation.  Either way, He will never give up on us and will keep offering opportunities for us to respond in the affirmative, to allow God to live and move and have his being within us.....in our own "small" way, to allow the incarnation to have a home within us! It is our choice and I believe our free will makes our Yes (es) all the more valuable!

  • Crossroads: It Was Never Good Enough

    Sep 12, 2014

    By:  Kristin Hauser, Sophomore
    Given at Connections: A First Year Gathering (08.23.14)

    So, you know that “ah-ha!” moment that a lot of people have when they finally kind of “get” life? Well, mine happened in 8th grade just around the time I was about ready to be confirmed. Now, I’ll spare you the details because it’s kind of a weird story, but what’s actually important to know is the result of this conversion moment. Because, you see, after this point I was totally on fire for God. I can’t even explain it, but all I wanted was to be closer to Him and so that yearning that I had in me gave me such a heart for service. I wanted to work at every soup kitchen, feed every homeless person, and donate to every one of those commercials with the little kids that you see on TV. And honestly, I pretty much did. Throughout high school I managed to go on 11 different mission trips, racking up countless hours of service in my own community and all over the country.

    But here’s the thing: it was never good enough. No matter how much I served or did or tried to do, I could never do everything. I mean, nobody can. But that’s not what I told myself. Because I had it in my head that the way I proved I loved God was by doing (and succeeding) at the things I did for Him. Well, that didn’t work out so well because I’m human and so I mess up all the time. And every time I would try so hard to take that to the Lord in reconciliation and every time, I just kept making the same mistakes over and over again. I just kept failing over and over and over and I couldn’t figure out why until one day, I was reading in the book of Matthew. And in the gospel Jesus says that we’re supposed to love our neighbors as ourselves. And I’m thinking, “okay, I love my neighbor.” but then the as yourself part kind of jumps out at me. So I read it again, “love your neighbor as yourself.” It was in that moment that I think I realized I have to know my own worth before I can even begin to understand how to respect someone else’s. All those good things that I was doing were great, but they didn’t define me. And all the times that I messed up, that I turned away from God and turned towards sin, well those instances didn’t define me either, but I was totally living as if they did. I kept making the same mistakes over and over again because I thought that those mistakes were who I was. And even though I knew God forgave me every time, I couldn’t forgive myself enough to accept His mercy and work for change in my life.

    Forgiving others is so incredibly important, but the struggle that’s always been on my heart in regard to reconciliation is forgiving myself. It’s always been a fight and I know that it probably always will be, but I think the take-away point and the thing that I learn out of all of this. All of these unrealistic expectations and over-commitment and days of anxiety and guilt, I think what I learned is that when we sin, when we mess up and we think that there is no reason for God to ever take us back (but He does, because He’s awesome and beautiful and merciful and loves us ridiculously), instead of dwelling on our mistakes, instead of laying on the ground and wallowing in how dumb we are, we get up. We get up and we run towards Christ. And let’s face it, we’re going to fall again. We’re going to mess up sometimes, but the hope and the redemption in the story is that God will always take us back, if we let Him. So my encouragement to you today is simply that: to get up. To get up from wherever you are and simply seek the Lord today. Because our worth is not in what we say or what we do or what we don’t do: our worth is in Him, and He will always take us back if we let Him.  

  • Living Word: Francis and the Leper

    Sep 10, 2014

    By: John Shelton, Campus Minister

    Leprosy is a disease that is still “alive and kicking” in our world- with thousands of leprous people living in poorer lands with unclean health conditions. St. Francis’ death, as recorded by his companions, was gruesome.  He suffered physically, and was blind at his death. In his adult –stage, life long association with serving lepers, he became one of them. Just as Christ became one of us.

    Let’s take a moment and place ourselves in our own imagination.

    You are Francis.

    You reflect, "For I, being in sin, thought it bitter to look at lepers, and the Lord himself led me among them, and I worked mercy with them."

     Your recall that first meeting:

    • I, Francis do not wish to be a cloth merchant like my father
    • My dream of knighthood has been crushed through war and by my prolonged illness
    • I  am walking along a road on the outskirts of Assisi with my friend Leo, I hear a bell-  a coarse, flat, pedestrian clank something like a cowbell
    • "Let's get out of here, Francis," Leo cries. But I, not knowing exactly why, stood my ground
    • Over the hill just ahead, there appears a deformed figure with a clanging bell around the neck- a leper
    • The figure waves me off to the side of the road, but I did not move
    • I have always been repulsed by the sight of lepers! How much I fear their dread contagion!
    • "Have you not heard my bell?" asks the leper. "Do you not know that I am forced to wear this bell to warn you that a leper is approaching?"
    • I remained motionless, tasting my fear as I swallow
    • Suddenly, filled with a strength which came I knew not from where, I run toward the leper
    • I embrace the Leper, kissing him on his festering cheek
    • Weeping aloud, "Brother Leper, forgive me for neglecting you”
    • Then, for a moment, the Leper's appearance is transformed
    • He seems to wear a crown of thorns and to bleed from wounds in his hands, his feet, and his sides
    • He looks at me with love
    • Just as suddenly, the Leper vanishes from sight, leaving me weeping on the silent road
    • "Brother Leo, don't you see? Don't you see? The lepers, they all turn into Christ! “
    • I have found my vocation, my life call from God. 1

    I believe that in many cases, I have done the same.  Now, I am excited!!  When the next opportunity arises, when I hear the bell, I will not look the other direction, or move onto the other side of the road.  For Christ will be there ahead, waiting to meet me, waiting to embrace me. 

    How about you????????

    1 adapted from: The Healers Calling Daniel P. Sulmasy, O.F.M. M.D. Paulist Press, 1997.

    Image credit: http://franciscanpassages.org/yahoo_site_admin/assets/images/francis_and_leper_painted.8144113_std.jpg

  • Crossroads - What are my gifts?

    Sep 02, 2014

    By: Greg Konkle, Junior

    Everyone has difficulty in finding who they are who they want to be. The first step at finding who you are called to be is finding your gifts. This is not a suggestion. It is your responsibility to find your gifts and your calling. Sometimes people fall into the trap of thinking that this is based only on things that they are good at. I used to be good at soccer, I have always had interest in sports. But even though I really like sports, and I used to be an above average soccer player, I never considered that as a plausible career; even as a child. So how do we find the gifts that we have that will lead us to our calling, our vocations?

    This is not a question that can be answered with a list of steps to follow in order. No one is going to arrive at their vocation in the same exact way as anyone else, but it is helpful to look at other people’s lives so that through their example, others may gain insight and have hope that it is possible.

    As I grew up, I never really knew what I wanted to be, or what I wanted to do. I thought it would be nice to have a family someday, but it would also be cool to live in religious life. Elementary and High school was a breeze, so I was certainly not being held back from anything because of a lack of academic prowess. All I knew is that I wanted to make a difference. Was that through being a fireman –saving people’s lives from unfortunate events? A lawyer—fighting for people’s rights in the face of injustice? A Doctor—saving people from illness and injury? A Teacher—helping form youth to be well-rounded people? I had no clue coming out of high school what I wanted to be, and I had been praying about this more than anything else—to find direction somehow. I didn't hear the voice of God come down and command me, so I talked to my friends and family about what I should do. They start naming every profession they can think of, to which my response was almost exclusively a “maybe.” I really didn't know! I could be great at anything if I really set my mind to it. So I decided to look at the things that I was good at, and interested in. So the list of possibilities began to get smaller and smaller, and through a process of elimination, I chose Economics and Political Science, with the possibility of law school in the back of my mind, and a hopeful eye towards political positions. I went through my freshman year taking economics and political science classes, and they were interesting and I was good at them. But even through all of this, there was something that was just not right. I couldn't tell exactly what it was, and I still don’t know, but I just had the feeling that this wasn't what I was being called to. But I was doing well, and I didn't want to switch, since there’s a certain security in being part of something you’re good at, and I didn't know what I was going to switch to!

    The end of Freshman year came around, and Summer began. I still had the idea that Economics and Political science were not my true vocation, but more of an interest. Being bored and having free time, I began to take apart old machines we had around the house—watches, remotes, etc. just to see how they were put together. I didn't know how they worked and I wanted to learn more. Then our lawn mower broke, and I decided to take the motor apart and put it back together, and it worked! I had this working motor now (we had already bought a new lawn mower) and I didn't want it to go to waste. So I thought of all the things I could do with it, and decided I was going to build a mini bike with it. I found all the specifications for the motor and calculated out all the gear ratios in order to achieve a functioning and decently fast mini bike—I found that it was possible! So I welded a whole frame together from pieces of metal I found, mounted the motor, found some wheels at a neighbors I could use, and was happily working on that during the free time I had at night. I dreamed about all the things I could do to make this the coolest mini bike ever. I was not able to finish the bike that summer, and I have not been home for long enough periods of time to get work done on it (as well as gears costing much more than expected), but it was the best learning experience I had in my life. I found something completely unexpected that I loved doing. I would never had thought that building engines and bikes would be something fun to me—not only fun but fulfilling. I prayed more and more about it and felt much more at peace changing my major to mechanical engineering. My dream is to design, build, and implement alternative energy machines; and I keep that goal in sight in all of my studies and before I fall asleep every night.

    The most important thing I feel about discovering my gifts and my vocation is the sense of peace and confidence I have with my position. I am excited for the future, and excited to learn more and more that which will help me create machines that change people’s lives for the better, improve their lives, or save the planet we seem so keen on destroying. For me, the key was praying, opening up and talking to friends and family about it, praying, keeping my mind open, praying, and trying out new possibilities. I was finally able to find something that I was interested in and open to see as my vocation; I hope that everyone here also has an experience that will lead them to finding their path in life.

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