Don’t Let it Go!

By Dana Doyle

We have done our extra prayers, sacrifices and good deeds in preparation for the greatest celebration of the year – the resurrection of Jesus at Easter. Easter Sunday has come and gone. DON’T LET GO of the Easter Joy for which you’ve spent so much time preparing yourself! Remember that the Easter season lasts for 50 days – until we celebrate the birth of the Church on Pentecost.

Here are 12 suggestions for extending and fully living the Easter Joy in your families:

  1. As a family, pray each day for the 360 people in our Archdiocese who just entered the Church. This is a reason for great rejoicing!
  2. Make an “Alleluia” banner for your home, or have the kids make an Alleluia sign – complete with sparkles and “bling” for your refrigerator door.
  3. Write a thank you note to your parish priest for the beautiful Easter Mass and all he does for the parish.
  4. Adorn any crucifixes in your home with white drapes made out of small scraps of fabric as a visual reminder that we are still in the Easter season.
  5. Look up the baptism dates for each family member. Post them on the refrigerator, and celebrate those as well as birthdays!
  6. Purchase a holy water font for your home for use as a daily reminder of how we renewed our baptismal promises at the Easter mass.
  7. Plant a resurrection garden as a family, complete with flowers and a cross or religious statue. (If you use a Mary statue, you can have a May Crowning next month.)
  8. Have a family picnic to enjoy springtime and all of the beautiful gifts that God has given us in nature. Talk about how springtime reminds us of the Resurrection.
  9. Make resurrection rolls or cookies.
  10. Celebrate Holy Days together! Celebrate Divine Mercy Sunday as a family, then go home and have Divine Mercy ice cream sundaes! On Ascension Thursday, choose a family intention. As a family, pray the Holy Spirit Novena for that intention until Pentecost.
  11. Celebrate Saints feast days by learning about them and choosing a virtue to imitate – like simplicity, perseverance, or a prayer habit. Research the saint’s culture and try a dish from their country of origin. There’s St. Mark on April 25th, St. Zita on the 27th, Blessed Gianna on the 28th, and St. Catherine of Siena on the 29th.   On May 1st, there’s St. Joseph the Worker. I like to use the “Saint of the Day” audio at American Catholic.org.
  12. The World Day of Prayer for Vocations is May 11. As a family, pray for vocations. Perhaps you might even plan to attend the priestly ordination at St. Louis Cathedral on June 6th!

These are just a few ideas. Hopefully, I’ve gotten your creative juices flowing! I pray that you and your families enjoy a very blessed Easter Season!

Dana Doyle is a teacher and religion coordinator at Lady of the Lake School in Mandeville, a wife, a mother of three, an author and an avid blogger. Visit her blog, “Catholic Working Mom” at www.danardoyle.wordpress.com. Read more about this blogger here.

Completing the race and keeping the faith!

By Karen Baker

“I have competed well; I have finished the race; I have kept the faith.” (2 Tm 4:7)

I was a little sick, it was a little chilly, and the misty rain had me thinking of a warm cab ride back to my car at City Park.

But I worked up the nerve to walk the 6.2-mile Crescent City Classic on Holy Saturday. Along the way, I considered how to extract some theological significance from this journey. So here’s what I came up with:

The incarnation. God came to dwell among us, and we find God in our midst when we are together. The Classic brought out the best in humanity, it seemed to me. How else can you explain more than 20,000 people taking a walk in the park with little evidence of trouble? There was a sense of joy and shared purpose. Just look at the pictures.

Our upward calling. It is a sense of shared purpose that gives the Christian story life. We are all on this divine journey together, bound together through baptism as the Body of Christ. What if we could be as devoted and dedicated to our Christian journey each day as those of us who ran/walked the CCC? When I started to get a little weary toward the end, I kept thinking of St. Paul:  Just one thing: forgetting what lies behind but straining forward to what lies ahead, I continue my pursuit toward the goal, the prize of God’s upward calling, in Christ Jesus (Phil 3:13-14).

The beginning and the end. As I marked each mile (while my daughter the runner waited patiently at the finish line), it occurred to me that I was on the way back to my beginning. We had parked at City Park, took a bus to the starting line, and now I was walking back to the park, where I started. It reminded me that God is our beginning and our end, our alpha and our omega. We are always headed back to Him.

So after almost two hours, I crossed the finish line. I can’t say I competed well, but I kept the faith, I finished the race, and I went home to rest up for the Easter Vigil. I was a little tired, it was a little late, but neither height nor depth nor any other thing could keep me away from the love of God in Christ Jesus.

karenbakerKaren Baker is a freelance writer with a Masters in Pastoral Studies from the Loyola Institute for Ministry. She works in the Office of Catholic Schools for the Archdiocese of New Orleans and in ministry at Mary, Queen of Peace Catholic Church in Mandeville.

Risen to play

By Dr. Tom Neal

Resurrection (Noli me tangere) by Giotto, 1304 Taken from http://vultus.stblogs.org

Resurrection (Noli me tangere) by Giotto, 1304 Taken from http://vultus.stblogs.org

As I read the Resurrection narratives in the liturgies of these days of Easter Octave, and especially in yesterday’s “hide and seek” interchange between Mary Magdalene and Jesus, I cannot help but see in them all a beautiful and playful innocence. The sheer surprise and joy, spontaneous expressions of affection and astounded amazement, or the sometimes disoriented fear that springs alive during the Resurrection appearances makes me think that somehow God enjoys the childlike wonder that His deed of surpassing love has awakened in a world grown old and jaded in sin.

Playing Jesus?

The other day just before Mass, my youngest daughter was looking at the Triduum readings and asked me why Jesus is always so solemn in the Gospels, so seemingly grave. “Like,” she said, “why does he always begin sentences with, ‘Amen, Amen’? Who speaks like that?” I replied very confidently, explaining as best I could the “Amen, Amen” comment and then relied on some of Fr. James Martin’s examples in Between Heaven and Mirth, arguing that of course Jesus had a lighter, more playful side and had a sense of humor. But my brief argument, bolstered by a few examples of first century Semitic humor in the Gospels, did not convince her. She said,

Ya, sure. But I mean, you don’t hear that Jesus had fun — except of course when he was a kid. And you just never hear anything like, “And Jesus went out and played with his disciples.”

It took all my power to not burst out laughing. Not because I thought her point was silly, but because it was so deep and jarring. She said it with such sincerity that it struck my heart and formed a new and surprising insight in my mind about what a “playful Jesus” would even mean in the Gospels.

Then, as I was reflecting on all of these Resurrection Gospels, I got a vivid sense that the Risen Jesus — and so the whole New Creation he has prepared for us — must be filled to overflowing with the innocent joy of God’s eternal childhood that has been restored to humanity in Jesus. God’s desire to joyfully play with man again dawned on Easter morning, even before sunrise. Think here of Proverbs 8:30-31. What a whimsical view of God’s creative Wisdom!

I was with him forming all things: and was delighted every day, playing before him at all times. Playing in the world: and my delights were to be with the children of men.

Returning to today’s Gospel. Mary Magdalene, like a child, tries to wrap her arms tightly around Jesus, as if to say: “Don’t leave!” But Jesus at once tell her to stop holding on to him because he has not yet ascended to the Father. Here I don’t hear in his voice a kill-joy scold. Rather, I hear a laughing voice saying, “Not yet! Just wait till you get to the New Garden I’ve made for you. There we can play and dance and laugh in sheer joy for unending ages!”

That’s an interpretation I would never have come to without my daughter having first taught me. I, who have grown old in sin, am graced again and again through my children to see the world again through a child’s eyes.

Amen, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. — Matthew 18:3

TomNeal-HSDr. Tom Neal is originally from Rhode Island. He has lived over the years in Massachusetts, Connecticut, Maryland, Florida, Iowa and is now proud to be a NOLA Catholic! His wife and four children live in Metairie, LA and they love being called to be saints among Saints.  Dr. Tom Neal presently serves as Academic Dean and Professor of Spiritual Theology at Notre Dame Seminary in New Orleans, Louisiana and has a particular passion for exposing the unlimited potential of theology to offer the faithful a deeper sharing in the mind and heart of Jesus

Peace in our Streets

By Tom Costanza, Director of the Office of Justice and Peace, Catholic Charities Archdiocese of New Orleans

The last Tuesday of every month, people from all walks of life gather to walk for peace in New Orleans communities affected by violence. Tom Costanza from Catholic Charities offers a reflection from the Peace Prayer Walk held on March 31, 2015 through the Corpus Christi-Epiphany neighborhood in New Orleans. 

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Our March Peace Prayer Walk group

There was a calm among us as we walked through a neighborhood of paradox on our monthly Peace Prayer Walk. Kristina Gibson, Director of Isaiah 43 Parenting and Mentoring Program, read from the NOPD “Hot Spot” sheet that mentioned numerous acts of violence that occurred in this historic neighborhood where we walked that evening.

Walking past a gutted, defunct library right next to the new Corpus Christi – Epiphany Community Center was a juxtaposition of both hope and despair.

As we continued our walk, a man walked by holding a baby and smiled at us… a good sign. Another man, curious on a bike, came up and engaged in conversation.

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Tom at the Peace Prayer Walk

We were 43 strong; the largest group ever since we began this monthly walk at the beginning of this year! Our walks have started to resonate with those joining us. The reflections by the group after the walk were the most affirming… this is truly the right place for the Church – in the streets encountering the community and in dialogue. They shared a theology of lived experience and were hungry for a peace built through immersion, prayer and action.

Let PEACE begin with me! Yes and Amen!

The monthly Peace Prayer walks will continue the last Tuesday of each month. All are welcome! For more information or to receive notifications on the Prayer Walks, please contact Kristina Gibson at kgibson@ccano.org. The Peace Prayer Walks are an initiative of Catholic Charities Archdiocese of New Orleans Office of Justice and Peace, Isaiah 43 Parenting and Mentoring Program and Archdiocese of New Orleans Office of Racial Harmony.

Even Jesus had a belly button…

By Cory J. Howat

Although it seems that many of my posts read like a transcript of the old show Kids Say the Darndest Things, my children certainly offer unique insights that cause me to reflect. This time, enter my four-year-old son. Recently, toward the end of Mass, I had to hit the eject button from the pew in order to calm our newborn. My four-year-old was a little restless, so he joined us in the vestibule or lobby of our church. In our parish, we have a beautiful and fairly large Pietà in the vestibule… child-level. While I was bouncing the baby back to sleep, my four-year-old calls me over to the Pietà.With his finger depressed into Jesus’ stomach, he proclaimed that “even Jesus has a belly button!” With a slight chuckle, I affirmed this and added that Jesus was human just like us. My son’s naval findings brought on a deeper reflection this Lent that I often overlook – the humanity of Jesus.

pietaExplaining to my son that Jesus had a belly button and was born to Mary was easy. I love sharing that Jesus was connected to his mother Mary the first nine months of his life. I often find it easy to see his humanity as an infant, but why was it so easy to forget this humanity when Jesus was about to face his own death?

In my Christian journey, I sometimes struggle to understand the final reward of sacrifice. Sacrifice is not easy and sometimes leads to embarrassment or unworthiness. Sacrifice is often framed with failure and weakness. So, how can we be okay with all of our human shortcomings? Well, the answer is the life of Jesus. Jesus showed us how in his humanity. Yes, we are human! Yes, we are weak. We do fail. In all of this humanity of ours, the Lord loves us intimately. This coming weekend, the Gospel of John touches on the fear and trepidation of Jesus before his suffering.

“I am troubled now. Yet what should I say?
‘Father, save me from this hour’?
But it was for this purpose that I came to this hour.
Father, glorify your name.”   – JN 12:27-28

Jesus was troubled, even perhaps terrified of what was to come, even unsure of God’s plan for his life. He pleads to his Father in Mark 14:36 to “take this cup away from me.” I feel that sometimes while living as disciples of Jesus Christ, we tend to hold up that a Christian life is a pristine journey by someone who has all the answers all the time. But really, Jesus shows us in his own humanity that it is o.k. when life’s path is not so clear-cut and when sometimes there is doubt in our hearts.

Through Jesus’ Passion, we receive an example of the human challenges that we face in living out God’s plan. As disciples of Jesus, we need to allow ourselves and each other the room to fear, the room to have trepidation, the room to doubt. We are human. In that same spirit, we ask God that any suffering we do face becomes part of our purpose here on earth. We also pray that during suffering, we can glorify His name, just as Jesus did in the Gospel.

Take a moment this weekend to take the Gospel to heart. Can we think of areas of our own humanity that we often fight instead of embrace? Do we sometimes suppress our heartfelt questions to God thinking they may not be appropriate? Try to pause and ask yourself instead, what is God trying to reveal to you? Can we recognize just as Jesus did, that there are times of fear, but with that moment, God’s grace can help us carry through to fulfill the plan God has lovingly provided.

God sent His son to be as human as we are, to show us the way. Let us reflect this Lent on the humanity of Jesus and let it influence how we plead to God from our hearts. After all, we need to remind ourselves that we are human, broken and fallen. Just look down at your belly button to be reminded.

C Howat Headshot 8-12Cory J. Howat is the Director of Stewardship for the Archdiocese of New Orleans.  His love for traveling, culture and adventure provide a unique perspective on life and the universal Church. For more about this blogger, click here.

St. Joseph, most chaste

By Fr. Kyle Sanders

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St. Joseph’s Day Altar of St. Louis Cathedral at St. Mary’s Italian Church in the French Quarter.

Tomorrow is St. Joseph’s Day. In New Orleans, what comes to mind are the many beautiful St. Joseph altars lovingly built by parishes, pious families, and Sicilians (sometimes those are the same). Fava bean, blessed bread, and spaghetti with meatless red sauce are a staple. We learned in grammar school about the famine in Sicily and how the Sicilians prayer for help from St. Joseph, who sent rain and consequently food. When the Sicilians arrived here in New Orleans in the late 19th and early 20th Century, they set up altars on his feast day in yearly thanksgiving for that gift.

St. Joseph is often forgotten and in the background, due to the large (and rightly so) devotion to his Immaculate wife. Joseph sits in the background even in the gospel of Matthew, the only gospel in which he appears. His story is in relation to Mary and Jesus, primarily in a protecting role (a good fatherly thing indeed).

st-joseph-childWhen mentioned in the Divine Praises used at the end of Eucharistic Adoration, the phrase is “and blessed Joseph, her most chaste spouse.” The Church, especially in the liturgy, doesn’t use superlatives lightly. It’s of great note, then, that Joseph is ‘most chaste.’ In chastity, we (when I say we, I mean me, but you’ll understand) think of saint like Agnes or Lucy or Maria Goretti or Thomas Aquinas who had great and virtuous stories of preservation of chastity. Above all those though, is St. Joseph, the most chaste.

Chastity “provides for the successful integration of sexuality within the person leading to inner unity of the bodily and spiritual being.” It is no secret that in our current age, chastity is in great need. Too often, sexuality is set apart from morality, from personhood, and is seen only in the fulfillment of pleasure. This then effects our ability to reason, which then creates a vicious cycle. Disregarding chastity, in my opinion, is the root of many of the moral and intellectual evils of the 21st Century, precisely because it clouds reason, and therefore, debilitates the person from living a fully human life.

Here’s where St. Joseph comes in and here I want to draw an analogy. At least in New Orleans, when you’re Catholic and you loose something, your first though is to call on St. Anthony. “Good St. Anthony, look around, something’s lost and can’t be found.” We put our trust in his intercessory power. Why can’t we do the same for St. Joseph? Just like the prayer to St. Anthony, run to St. Joseph. Run into his shop filled with tools he can use to protect you. Run to him in prayer and abandon yourself to his intercession, the prayers of the most chaste, who is God’s grace, remained chaste throughout his life. Run into the arms of the man who protected Jesus from Herod, who sought to destroy him. Run into the protection of the man the Father entrusted to care for the spouse of the Holy Spirit and the Ark of the New Covenant. He will be our shield and shelter against temptation.

So I leave you with a prayer:

Prayer of St. Joseph for Purity
Guardian of virgins and holy father St. Joseph
To whose faithful custody Christ Jesus, innocence itself
And Mary, virgin of virgins was committed:
I pray and beseech you
By these dear pledges, Jesus and Mary,
That being preserved from all impurity
I may with spotless mind,
Pure heart,
And chaste body,
Ever most chastely serve Jesus and Mary
All the days of my life.
Amen.

photoFr. Kyle grew up in Kenner, graduated from Archbishop Rummel High School, and entered the seminary after graduation. He has been active in blogging since 2007 over at reverencedreading.com where he co-writes about seeing God in the mundane. He’s appeared as a guest on several other blogs and podcasts and is a part-time participant in the podcasts Steampunk Chesterton and SportsFathers. He was ordained a priest in 2012. He is the parochial vicar at St. RIta of Cascia in Harahan and is the chaplain at Cabrini High School. He loves to read, play music, write fiction, and collect fountain pens. You can contact him at ksanders@arch-no.org. Check out Fr. Kyle’s other projects at:

http://reverencedreading.com
http://www.steampunkchesterton.com/
http://thesportsfathers.com/

New on the Blog! Welcome Dumb Ox Ministries!

KatieSanders-blog - CopyWe’re sending out a warm welcome to the newest member of our blogging team, Katie Sanders of Dumb Ox Ministries! Today, here’s a little more about Katie and Dumb Ox Ministries….

Dumb Ox Ministries is a non-profit Catholic ministry that works with teens, young adults, and families; cultivating their authentic masculinity and femininity through the Theology of the Body, helping them to prepare for, discern, and pursue their unique vocations to love. Dumb Ox Ministries’ initiatives include Theology of the Body, Abbey Youth Fest and Ignite, just to name a few!

Katie is a native New Orleanian. She enjoys laughing, reading, and being with people! She currently works as the Director of Development for Dumb Ox Ministries. Dumb Ox has been working in the Archdiocese of New Orleans for over 15 years.

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Who is the “Dumb Ox”?

St. Thomas Aquinas, at the age of nineteen, felt the call to join a new and flourishing religious order called the Dominicans. However, because of his family’s nobility, the custom was to follow in his uncle’s footsteps into the local Benedictine Abbey. Nevertheless, Thomas was resolved to follow what he felt the Lord was calling him to. His family desperately tried to dissuade him from joining the Dominicans, and in a last stich effort, imprisoned him for two years in the local family castles. While he was imprisoned there, his brothers reportedly went as far as hiring a prostitute to lure him into sin and draw him away from his vocation. However, Thomas remained faithful and was strengthened in his resolve to remain celibate. After seeing that their efforts were futile, his family arranged for his escape and he was allowed to pursue his calling to join the Dominicans. During his formation, Thomas was noted for being a large man, but with a great, quiet humility. St. Albert the Great, a Dominican saint and scholar, reportedly said, “We call him the dumb ox, but in his teaching he will one day produce such a bellowing that it will one day be heard throughout the world.”

Dumb Ox Ministries affectionately takes on St. Thomas Aquinas, “The Dumb Ox” as a patron and model in our ministry because of his passion and desire to live out the virtue of chastity and pursue God’s call in his life. Because of his fidelity and cooperation with God’s grace, the Church has received one of the greatest saints and theologians who has ever lived.

We look forward to sharing your NOLA Catholic Experience, Katie!