Inspiring Goodness

Shining a Light on Goodness. The Empty Tomb: Easter with Mary Magdalene and Elizabeth Ann Seton

With St. Mary Magdalene, let us accept Christ’s ‘Do not touch me’ with the certainty that His words give us a new mission, and a new way to be with Him, just as St. Elizabeth Ann Seton met the hardships of her life with renewed faith and strength. Written by Lisa Lickona from the Seton Reflection published last year.  

Christ’s Appearance to Mary Magdalene after the Resurrection, Alexander Andreyevich Ivanov (1806 – 1858)

This year we celebrate our great and holy Feast, the Resurrection of Our Lord, in the most unexpected circumstances, most of us separated from physical participation in the Mass and the opportunity to receive Communion.

We are cut off from our family and friends and our parish communities. And we wonder: how can we live in this new situation, separated from the Body of God—both in the Eucharist and the living Church?

Continue reading “Shining a Light on Goodness. The Empty Tomb: Easter with Mary Magdalene and Elizabeth Ann Seton”
Inspiring Goodness

Shining a Light on Goodness: We Adore You, O Christ, and We Praise You

One of the drawings created by the children
of the “Mater Divini Amoris” Family Home and the “Tetto Casal Fattoria” Family Home

As was the case last year during the beginning of the pandemic closures, this year’s Stations of the Cross (or Via Crucis) presided over by Pope Francis were held in the quiet and virtually empty St. Peter’s Square.  This year, though, the mediations and prayers for each Station were prepared and read by children from Rome and other Italian cities.  The faith and hope expressed by these children are profound and moving and are worthy of further reflection during this Easter season.  As a complement to the text of the meditations and prayers provided here, you can watch a video of the Stations and hear the children’s sweet voices, as well as see several of the children greet Pope Francis with hugs after the Stations concluded. 

Continue reading “Shining a Light on Goodness: We Adore You, O Christ, and We Praise You”
Inspiring Goodness

New Life and Consolation Our Easter Celebration Continues

Amid the many hardships we are enduring, let us never forget that we have been healed by the wounds of Christ. In the light of the Risen Lord, our sufferings are now transfigured. Where there was death, now there is life. Where there was mourning, now there is consolation.

Pope Francis
Continue reading “New Life and Consolation Our Easter Celebration Continues”
Inspiring Goodness

Celebrating Happiness

Each day that begins, if welcomed in prayer, is accompanied by courage, so that the problems we have to face no longer seem to be obstacles to our happiness, but rather appeals from God, opportunities for our encounter with him.

Sharing wisdom from Pope Francis and wishing you hope and happiness on this WorldHappinessDay!

May you be smitten with goodness,

Cynthia

Inspiring Goodness

Inspiring Goodness: St. Joseph

As I am in the remaining few weeks of Lent where he is purifying my heart, I want to honor St. Joseph, my saint buddy who is helping me see God’s goodness working in my life.  I am in awe with his surrender to God’s will and his trust and confidence in what he heard.  Today is the Solemnity of St. Joseph, spouse of Mary during this Year of St. Joseph designated by Pope Francis.

I was fortunate growing up that I had a father who was my knight in shining armor.  It makes me sad that other daughters do not have this type of relationship with their earthly fathers.

Despite the circumstances in which I was conceived, my father was a man of integrity and did the right thing by marrying my mother when she became pregnant with me.  I can only imagine how St. Joseph felt, trying to decide if he should marry his fiancé Mary who became pregnant through the Immaculate Conception.  After his internal struggle and receiving God’s assurance, he was confident he was called to marry Mary and became foster father of Jesus.

My parents’ marriage did not last long because of my mother’s drinking.  It was fortunate that she was able to stop actively drinking when she was pregnant with me, but the disease took over again after I was born.    While parts of my early years are still a mystery, I am sure I felt confused and abandoned at times, along with feeling secure and loved at other times.  Although my mother was not able to care for me, my grandparents stepped in and my father was there until he was able to get custody of me.  He stood by in love.  Steady like St. Joseph. 

My father was a star defensive tackle at Notre Dame who could have gone pro until he injured his knee.  Instead, he worked hard digging ditches and owning a janitorial cleaning service while learning the oil business, his ultimate career.  He was a smart, hard worker and a good provider, just like St. Joseph.

Although not actively religious, my father was a man of deep faith.  He instilled in me the one true Catholic faith.  He defended the pope when my protestant stepmother accused him of not being Christian.  He bore fruits of the spirit like kindness and generosity.  He built up my faith by his words and his actions just like St. Joseph. 

My earthly father was far from perfect, but I know he did his best with the cards he was dealt and came from a place of love. 

I am blessed to have had such a father who modeled for me on earth what our heavenly Father might look like.  He always aimed for goodness but often missed the mark as we all do, twisted by our sin.  He was human, but regularly pointed toward Jesus as the bridge, to our divine Father in heaven.

As I sit with St Joseph this year, I am learning.  Learning things like how he was the guardian of the Virgin Mary, a foster father to the Son of God, a diligent protector, most just, chaste, prudent, strong, obedient, faithful, patient, pillar of the family, and a terror of demons to name a few.  As we walk through this year of St. Joseph, I invite you to let him inspire the goodness in you and want to share a few ideas to help in your journey:

Glorious Saint Joseph, spouse of the Immaculate Virgin, pray for me to have a pure, humble, charitable mind, and perfect resignation to the divine will. Be my guide, my father, and my model through life that I may die as you did in the arms of Jesus and Mary.

As we honor St. Joseph today, I hope you get to know him in a deeper way and allow him to point you towards God’s goodness.

Cynthia

Prayer

Feel Like Something is Missing? Pray….

“Through prayer, the Word of God comes to abide in us and we abide in it. The Word inspires good intentions and sustains action; it gives us strength and serenity, and even when it challenges us, it gives us peace. On “bad” and confusing days, it guarantees to the heart a core of confidence and of love that protects it from the attacks of the evil one. Christian life is at the same time a work of obedience and of creativity. Good Christians must be obedient, but they must be creative. Obedient, because they listen to the Word of God; creative, because they have the Holy Spirit within who drives them to be so, to lead them forward.”


Pope Francis
GENERAL AUDIENCE JANUARY 27, 2021

Inspiration

Growing In Good Works

I hope this post finds you settling into your word of the year as well as having a plan mapped out to get to know your Saint buddy. My prayer time this week included a plea for guidance on how to best get to know mine, St. Joseph. The next day, I was listening to the Godsplaining podcast and low and behold, they were discussing the Year of St. Joseph. This conversation gave me a good starting point for my plan. I love how God works! Do you have a plan to nourish your mind this year? Another practice I wanted to share that supports my growth is identifying twelve books that will challenge my thinking. Getting through this stack feels good when I complete in December.

Have you started thinking about Lent? 

Lent is early this year beginning on Ash Wednesday February 17, 2021. Just as Jesus suffered and was tempted by Satan, during Lent we are also called to enter the desert of our own lives. Through the good works of prayer, fasting and almsgiving, God prunes our hearts as we are united to Christ and his suffering. These practices give us the strength to resist sin and follow His counter cultural path of love. If we open our heart and hear His word, we learn how Jesus, exposed in his humanity, rejects sin when confronted with temptations and seeks solace in God the Father. This serves as an example for us in our own personal deserts. We will take the opportunity to unpack each topic of prayer, service and almsgiving over the next few weeks. The 40 days of Lent is a good time to solidify and root these practices in our life.

We must consider how to rouse one another to love and good works. 

Focus on His truth, Hebrews 10:24

There are many great resources out there to help guide your Lenten journey. Here are a few to explore to begin preparing your heart in what is best for you:

Blessed is She has a new Lent devotional Set a Fire which I will be using in addition to my Magnificat Lenten Journey and Word on Fire reflections.

Walking with Purpose helps to prepare your heart for the triumph of resurrection through several short, powerful bible studies:

Looking to feel revived and refreshed as you grow in the knowledge that you are loved? Choose Living In The Father’s Love.

Need to be awakened to the reality of who you are in Christ? Choose Fearless and Free.   

Desire to learn how all Scripture points to Jesus, and recognize and appreciate God’s plan for your own life? Choose Beholding His Glory.   

Want to counter feeling weighed down by a culture that all too often leaves us feeling empty and dissatisfied? Choose Beholding Your King.   

Dynamic Catholic continues their Best Lent Ever series and you can sign up for free. This year the topic is feeding your soul with prayer. Nothing will transform your life so completely, absolutely, and forever like really learning how to pray. It is not what you give up for lent, it is who you become.

To be Christian is to imitate Christ. Good Catholic and Fr. Ken Geraci are taking a journey through The Life of Christ that promises Christ will become more real to you, in His humanity and His divinity. You can learn more here.

Pope Francis says, the word of God consoles and encourages us. At the same time, it summons us to conversion, challenges us, and frees us from the bondage of our selfishness. For His word has the power to change our lives and to lead us out of darkness into the light.

Let’s use this Lent to walk through the darkness and further into the light being Smitten with His Goodness!

Cynthia

Guide to Goodness

Awakening My Soul To Goodness

The beautiful nativity gifted to us for Christmas by my sister and brother in law!

Do you need more time like I do to bask in the spirit and joy of Christmas? To invite Christ to be your center and North star?  After the year we have had, I really want this gift of goodness to continue, especially to influence the new year.  Goodness is about tapping into Christ born in us.  It is created by God’s grace and my response to it.  When I respond with tears of gratitude for His love and mercy, that is goodness.  He is always inviting us forward and I can accept that invitation or not.  When I focus on the things that feed my soul, I can see the pathway to holiness a little clearer each year and be Smitten with Goodness.

Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.

Focus on His truth, Matthew 5:16

Our Christmas journey continues until February 2, we can reclaim daily the Christmas miracle to feed our hearts with joy.   Now that the hustle and bustle of the holiday baking and gift giving has come to an end, the rhythm of my normal routine beckons me.  This includes prioritizing my daily spiritual readings, scheduling more prayer time – the soul food that satisfies much better than the sugar and wine I overindulged in for the past few weeks!  Here are my current goals for the new year:

First, I plan to keep my nativity up through the Feast of the Presentation since it points us toward Jesus’ birth.  The Presentation is celebrated February 2, 40 days after the birth of Jesus.  The Presentation of Jesus is also called Candlemas, since the mini epiphany expresses the Jesus is the Light of the World.  I am praying that I might be able to attend mass in person and take my candles that I will use in my home on the Sabbath or feast days and have them blessed.   

Second, having found that structured prayer time has catapulted my spiritual growth this year, I commit to the following:

  • Continue praying my daily rosary with Many Hail Mary’s at a Time.  There are immeasurable spiritual benefits in praying the rosary.  The Blessed Mother was my 2020 Saint Buddy – she has become a spiritual mother, friend, and all-time role model for me! She prepares our hearts to accept grace!
  • Dedicate time to my Centering Prayer practice.  This is a receptive method of Christian silent prayer in which we experience God’s presence within us, closer than breathing, thinking and consciousness itself.
  • Participate in the By Their Fruits Prayer Pledge.  Every January the Blessed is She community comes together to dedicate the first 31 days of the year to prayer to begin, or reenforce the daily habit of prayer for the rest of the year and hopefully our lives.  This year the theme dives into the fruits of the Mysteries of the Rosary. 

Third, I am excited about Richard Rohr’s daily meditation theme of A Time of Unveiling.  This series is an opportunity to awaken to deeper transformation, love, and hope.  Accepting reality offers us an invitation to depth and to discover what is lasting and what matters. 

Fourth, I love the practice of having a saint buddy each year.  My Saint Buddy for the new year will be St. Joseph.  St. Joseph has been speaking to me throughout this past year but when Pope Francis proclaimed 2021 as the “Year of St. Joseph” that sealed my decision!

Finally, I will continue the path of simplicity.  My tolerance for chaos and clutter has lessened over the years.  Simplifying my life helps me focus on the things important and establishing priorities like my relationships, with my creator, myself, my husband, family, and friends – doing what matters most first is the key to living a busy life with inner calm.  If you are up for taking a Simplicity Challenge, Emily Ley has a great one when you feel you need a little bit of simplicity in your life.  Physical clutter = mental clutter so both are addressed through the challenge and most tasks can be completed in 20 minutes or less. 

Hopefully, my goals might provide some inspiration for you.  Let me know when you finalize yours and how you plan to be Smitten with Goodness.

Cynthia

Uncategorized

I’m Choosing Joy!

Photo from http://www.strengthenmyheart.com

Happy Third Sunday of Advent. Today is Gaudete Sunday which means rejoice! Besides lighting the rose-colored candle on the Advent wreath, we celebrate that our hopeful anticipation for the coming of Christ at Christmas is almost over. This beautiful liturgical color signifies joy. 

Color is a powerful tool, evoking certain emotions.  For me, rose is a happy and pretty color and prompts me to feel calm – joyous, especially during this busy time of year when I put undue pressure on myself.  It has been an especially tough year with my husband’s fragile health condition on top of living through my first pandemic.  Choosing simplicity and connection facilitates my joy which includes taking care of my body, mind, and soul.  When I get stressed out it is hard for me to acknowledge my limitations and surrender to my savior.   It helps to get back to the basics like offering my mind, my mouth, and heart to God as I wake up in the morning asking the Spirit to use me and drive my agenda to accomplish His will. 

Rejoice always. Pray without ceasing. In all circumstances give thanks, for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus.

Focus on His truth, 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

I think a lot of us are struggling to find joy in our hearts right now.  Dreaming and joy are intrinsically linked It weighs on us to dream since we do not know when all the heaviness of this year will end.  It was interesting to read this woman’s perspective on how hope can be tangled up in expectant joy, and yet somehow manage to prod at sorrow and those parts of ourselves where we dare not dream for fear of disappointment. 

Do you need encouragement to live joy right now? If so, check out this free mini retreat to ignite hope in your heart.  I’ve been inspired when I can fit the video’s into my day.

Fr. Jacques Philippe, from his teachings on Interior Freedom, says “The most important and most fruitful acts of our freedom are not those by which we transform the outside world as those by which we change our inner attitude in light of the faith that God can bring good out of everything without exception. He is a never-failing source of unlimited riches. Our lives no longer have in them anything negative, ordinary, or indifferent. Positive things become a reason for gratitude and joy, negative things an opportunity for abandonment, faith, and offering everything becomes a grace.”  It took me a long while, but I think I am understanding what he is talking about. 

God comes every day to visit His people, to visit every man and woman who receives Him in the Word, in the Sacraments, in their brothers and sisters Pope Francis says.  Jesus, the Bible tells us, is at the door and knocks… Do you know how to listen to the Lord who knocks, who has come today to visit you, who knocks at your heart restlessly, with an idea, with inspiration?… Be careful, look at what you feel in your heart when the Lord knocks.”

What is tugging at your heart as we wait in anticipation for Christmas? 

The need for rejoicing is stirring in mine. I choose joy and to be Smitten with Goodness,

Cynthia

Uncategorized

How Much Simple Love is in Your Heart?

Image by Joy! Digital

A few years ago, I realized that I had a divided heart.  I was being drawn closer to spiritual love and less satisfied with the worldly things that took up much of my time and attention.  During this time of discerning and yearning, I contemplated what love means and its transforming power and goodness.  Love is a superpower each of us holds within us. It is the true essence of who we are and how we are called to treat each other yet we have strayed away from love.   It is an action we are called to perform.  Love, for even our enemies, is the key to the solution of the problems of our world.  This radical philosophy, so much of what Martin Luther King, Jr.’s advocated for in his platform of nonviolence and love of our enemies, resonates for me as I contemplate love.

Behold, there are only three things that will last: faith, hope, and love; and the greatest of these is love.

Focus on His truth, 1 Corinthians 13:13

Love is our deepest identity.  As Richard Rohr synthesizes from his book Essential Teachings on Love:

When we live out of the truth of love, instead of the lie and human emotion of fear, we will at last begin to live. To talk about love is to talk about what Plato calls “holy madness.” Jung even refused to include love in any of his classic categories—it finally defied his psychological descriptions. Perhaps that is why love has so many false meanings in our minds and emotions. Perhaps that is why Jesus never defined love, but instead made it a command. We must love, each of us absolutely must enter this unnamable mystery if we are to know God and know our own self!

Love alone is sufficient unto itself. It is its own end, its own merit, its own satisfaction. It seeks no cause beyond itself and needs no fruit outside of itself. Its fruit is its use. Love is our deepest identity and what we are created in and for. To love someone “in God” is to love them for their own sake and not for what they do for us. Only a transformed consciousness sees another person as another self, as one who is also loved by Christ, and not as an object separate from ourselves on which we generously bestow favors. If we have not yet loved or if love wears us out, is it partly because other people are tasks or commitments or threats, instead of as extensions of our own suffering and loneliness? Are they not in truth extensions of the suffering and loneliness of God?

When we live out of this truth of love, instead of the lie and human emotion of fear, we will at last begin to live. Love is always letting go of a fear. In the world of modern psychologizing, we have become very proficient at justifying our fears and avoiding simple love. The world will always teach us fear. Jesus will always command us to love. And when we seek the spiritual good of another, we at last forget our fears and ourselves.

Divine love or charity has nothing to do with feelings of “liking” one another. One key biblical word for love, agape, is not based on the myth of romantic love or good feelings about one another. It is a love grounded in God that allows us to honestly desire and seek the other’s spiritual growth. This faith, this love, this Holy Mystery—of which we are only a small part—can only be awakened and absorbed by the silent gaze of prayer. Those who contemplate who they are in God’s ecstatic love will be transformed as they look and listen and find and share. This God, like a Seductress, does not allow Herself to be known apart from love. We know God by loving God. And I think that it is more important to know that we love God than to know that God loves us, although the two movements are finally the same.

During this second Sunday of Advent, we contemplate love, and we wait for the most beautiful love story in history to unfold.  How cool is it that our divine Creator devised a rescue plan to become human so we can be fully alive and free?  He loved us, the world, His creation so much that He gave His only son.  Such goodness and the true meaning of Christmas.

In a recent homily Pope Francis gives us the secret of life, remember this because it is true: the beauty of our choices depends on love. Jesus knows that if we are self-absorbed and indifferent, we remain paralyzed, but if we give ourselves to others, we become free. The Lord of life wants us to be full of life, and He tells us the secret of life: we come to possess it only by giving it away. This is a rule of life: we come to possess life, now and in eternity, only by giving it away.”

Stay Smitten With Goodness,

Cynthia