Our Hunger and Thirst for Righteousness

Our Hunger and Thirst for Righteousness

Our Hunger and Thirst for Righteousness

“Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness for they will be satisfied.” Matthew 5:6.

What does it mean to hunger and thirst for righteousness? The hunger and thirst for righteousness suggests that we are aware that the world around us is not always fair, right or always just. When we are moved by our encounter with the unmet needs of others, we become aware of our hunger and thirst for righteousness. The ability to empathize with other human beings is a part of being human. Our Lady of Hope parishioners consistently demonstrate their empathy and compassion through:

• buying Christmas presents for those listed on our giving trees,
• donating food to the food pantry,
• donating clothes to the St. Vincent de Paul Society,
• buying toiletries for refugees who have arrived in Maine,
• giving money to Catholic relief efforts for areas devastated by hurricanes, and
• expressing solidarity with those experiencing war or violence

And, in many, many other ways.

Responding to Those in Need
Throughout its history, the Catholic Church has sought to respond to those in need. In his book, “Living Justice: Catholic Social Teaching in Action,” Fr. Tom Massaro SJ points to a new perspective. He writes, “The difference is that today, according to the newer model of church activity that emphasizes justice in addition to charity, more church efforts consist of indirect attempts to change social structures (including civil laws and government budget priorities) so that all people may have a better and fairer chance of living a good life.”

In our compassionate and empathic response to those in need around us, we can find common ground, even when otherwise divided by differences of ideology or philosophy. We can move beyond these disagreements to put a common love of neighbor into action. Catholic social teachings over the last century have invited us to look at both addressing the immediate needs we see before us and to begin to address the underlying structures that create and sustain the unfairness in our world, nation, and region.

An Invitation to Notice
Last week, I invited us to use the archeologist’s tools to begin to notice patterns in our lives and society. This week, I’m inviting us to notice specific patterns, the pattern of unfairness and injustice in our society, whether experienced by us personally or experienced by others. To notice our movement to empathy and compassion resulting in a move to action. Finally, beginning to notice whether we feel a call to respond to the immediate need (charity) or the underlying root causes (justice) of the unfairness or injustice.

Fr. Brian Conley, SJ

The Light of Christ in Ordinary Time

The Light of Christ in Ordinary Time

The Light of Christ in Ordinary Time

“The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; upon those who dwelt in the land of gloom, a light has shown. You have brought them abundant joy and great rejoicing. Isaiah 9:1-3”

We will hear these words as part of the first reading this Sunday – the Third Sunday in Ordinary time. We also heard them at our Christmas Masses this year. This repetition of the passage reminds me that God’s light is not confined to a political crisis eight centuries before the birth of Jesus; or to a manger in Bethlehem; or to Jesus’ lifetime. This light is present with us at all times and in all places.

In this week’s readings, Jesus is now an adult beginning his public ministry and is calling his first disciples. He has been baptized by John the Baptist, been tempted in the desert, left his hometown of Nazareth and moved to Capernaum.

Perhaps Christ’s light is calling us on similar paths – a call to repent from John the Baptist; familiar temptations to care for oneself and not others, or a temptation to the use of power over and against others. Perhaps the light of Christ is calling us to follow Jesus more closely as he calls Peter, Andrew, James and John today.

On this Third Sunday of Ordinary time, we are about halfway between our celebration of the Christmas season and the start of Lent on Ash Wednesday.

As the light of Christ illuminates our ordinary lives – what does it show?  Has the joy of Christmas carried forward (if we experienced joy this Christmas) or have we returned to a land of doom? Or perhaps somewhere between a land of joy and a land of gloom?  Have we left the yoke that burdened us or the rod of our taskmasters broken and smashed in the Christmas season? Or, have we taken that yoke – that rod – back on as we have returned to ordinary time.

This brief reflection is not a call to action… Nor is intended to be a criticism of anyone’s life… It is simply an invitation to begin to notice: A reminder that we have carried the light of Christ with us out of the Christmas season and an invitation to take a gentle, compassionate look at our lives in the light of Christ.

One of my great spiritual teachers reminded me that we don’t use dynamite, pick axes, or shovels as we examine our lives – we use the archaeologist’s tools. A small brush to brush away a layer of dirt or dust, a small scaler to scrape away a layer. We notice patterns in our lives and the choices we make.

Over the next few weeks, I’ll be sharing a few other blogs in this space to introduce some programs or events that we will hold during Lent – hopefully some of these programs and events will fit with a space we have discovered in gently looking at our lives in Ordinary Time.

Fr. Brian Conley, SJ

The Importance of Sleep and How to Achieve It

The Importance of Sleep and How to Achieve It

The Importance of Sleep and How to Achieve It

In addition to the pandemic of COVID19, there is another global epidemic of sleeplessness, with about 2 out of 3 adults sleeping less than 8 hours a night. How much sleep is recommended for young adults and seniors?

The Mayo Clinic recommends 7 or more hours a night. Older adults need about the same amount of sleep as younger adults. As you get older, however, your sleeping patterns might change. Older adults tend to sleep more lightly, take longer to start sleeping and sleep for shorter time spans than do younger adults. Older adults also tend to wake up multiple times during the night, for bathroom visits (God, why am I being punished for getting old?).

Sleep quality is just as important as the amount of sleep (a topic for another column). Teenagers (13-19) need 8-10 hours per 24 hour period. Achieving this is linked with better attention, learning, memory, mental and physical health. For adults, getting less than seven hours of sleep on a regular basis has been linked to poor health, including weight gain, diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, and depression.

The wake/sleep cycle very dependent on your circadian clock. This is a master regulator for when a variety of your biological functions are active or suppressed. The Circadian (24h) clock for sleep is governed by the light/dark cycle. The best thing you can do to “set” your circadian clock in the morning is to get outside and look indirectly at the sunrise for at least 5 minutes. The blue light is powerful and will stimulate the release of melatonin 12-16 hours later. This will help you to be more alert and thus more productive when you are awake. At night, when you start to get sleepy, avoid looking at overhead lights and shut down your TV, computer, and cell phone. They all emit blue light which causes breakdown of melatonin.

In general seniors produce less melatonin than younger individuals. So, if you are having trouble falling asleep you might ask your physician whether it would be ok to try melatonin supplements. Also, try spirituality  – using a brief meditation with God thinking about what went well today and how that might strengthen your relationship with the Lord.

This along with some deep breathing (inhale through your nose, hold for 3-4 seconds and exhale through pursed lips for a longer time than it took you to breathe in). This technique will cause the release of serotonin, a hormone associated with calmness which will relax you and help induce sleep.

Naps during the day are ok as long as they do not exceed 90 minutes.

So, in summary your light anchors are sunrise and sunset and no artificial light late at night, especially devices that emit blue light. One suggestion is to shut all devices down 30 min before your bedtime and do some reading (books or magazines, NOT iPads or Kindles) using a floor lamp. Of course, if none of this works and you have chronic insomnia, then you should schedule an appointment with your primary care physician for help.

The intent of these columns is to provide information about how to improve your life by addressing physical and spiritual situations that might be impeding your peace, happiness and sense of fulfillment. Also, there will be useful tips on achieving academic success for undergrads and grad students at our local Universities. If you find these columns useful, please let me know through my email address listed below. Perhaps if enough people are interested we might form a self-help group to meet once a month as a start.

Dick

Richard M Niles, PhD
Emeritus Professor and former Associate Dean of Biomedical Sciences
Joan C Edwards School of Medicine
Marshall University
Email: niles@marshall.edu

November: Giving Thanks for All Saints, All Souls

November: Giving Thanks for All Saints, All Souls

November: Giving Thanks for All Saints, All Souls

November begins with the celebration of All Saints and All Souls and ends with the celebration of the fulfillment of God’s dream and the celebration of all things coming together in Christ, the feast of Christ the King.

The Feast of All Saints on November 1, is a Holy Day when we give thanks, and celebrate the lives of saints known and unknown to us – saints who have walked among us, leading us on paths of goodness. This day gives us the wonderful reminder that there have been others who have faced great challenges of their time and stayed true to their mission on earth. We can find much inspiration in the lives of the saints.

The month of November is also traditionally a time in which the Catholic community remembers those who have died and holds them in a special place of prayer. It is related to the fact that the end of November is the end of the Liturgical Year, with a new year starting the First Sunday of Advent – the four-week period of preparation before Christmas. The Church then uses this end of the year period as a time to think of the end of life and the end of all things and the great hope that our earthly end is transition into a new life in God’s heavenly reality.

We give thanks for those who have gone before us and we look with prayer and hope to their new life in heaven and our desire to join them there one day. At each Mass in both churches this month we are specially remembering people whose names you have given us and have been placed on the altars at St. Joseph and St. Pius. In addition, we invite you to write the names of your loved ones in our memorial books. These can be found in the foyer at St. Pius X and at the head of the aisle (Stevens Ave door) at St. Joseph. These books will be carried forward at all weekend Masses and placed on the altar.

And, perhaps at your Thanksgiving table you might include stories of remembrance of joyful times – and give thanks for God’s Grace that has carried you through.

Listening in Prayer

Listening in Prayer

Listening in Prayer

“What is God’s love? It is not something vague, some generic feeling. God’s love has a name and a face: Jesus Christ.” – Pope Francis

THE MISSION CONTINUES –  If you, or someone you know, has ever considered serving God’s people, the Church, as a Jesuit, then the Society of Jesus invites you to pray and discern if your passions and desires may lead you to a life with us.
For almost 500 years Jesuits have been serving the Church as “men on mission.”  Through prayer, we aim to orient our own passions and desires with God’s desires for the Church and the world.
To explore if God is calling you to serve in Christ’s mission as a Jesuit brother or priest, please visit our Vocation Website BeAJesuit.org. We are ready to help you to discern our Jesuit life, AMDG Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam (“to the Greater Glory of God”).

Eucharistic Adoration and Prayer
The USA East Province of the Society of Jesus (the Jesuits) are uniting in prayer in the Real Presence of Jesus on the weekend of November 5th and 6th – up and down the East Coast. Here, on Sunday evening November 6th, following the Sunday 5:00 PM Mass, Fr Brian Conley, SJ will lead a half hour of Eucharistic Adoration and prayer at St. Joseph Church. This is a good time to bring to the Lord any concern or joy you may have in your heart.

Along with our personal prayers, we will be asking the Holy Spirit to guide those men and woman who may be discerning a call to serve the Church as priests religious or pastoral leaders. We especially invite prayers for those whom God may be drawing to consider the Society of Jesus (Jesuits) as a vocation. Is the Lord inviting you, a member of our parish, to follow Him in one of these ways? 
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Navigating Grief – An Evening Reflection

Navigating Grief – An Evening Reflection

Navigating Grief – An Evening Reflection

As human beings, we experience a range of losses throughout our lives. As we work our way back from being together at school, work, play – and Mass – we may identify common themes related to loss that we can consider. Grief includes a range of emotions that arise during loss, which we most often associate with the death of a loved one.

Grief is a normal human process that allows us to reintegrate our lives after a significant loss. There are many roads through grief, with some common markers of progress in healing.

On November 3rd at 7pm in the Parish Hall, Fr. Brian Conley, S.J. will lead an evening reflection that explores the experience of grief.  There will be time to share different experiences that participants have had navigating these journeys in their lives. The question,  “Why does is hurt so much?” was the most common question Fr. Brian was asked as a hospital chaplain. We’re delighted to have him help us grapple with that question.

Please join us by registering through the parish office, or online using this contact us link.

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