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by Matthew Kelly
Ordinary Lives Extraordinary Mission
by Father Bob Sherry
Life on the road teaches me so much about myself and about human nature. One of the things that has always struck me is that we all have the same kind of empty feeling at different times. You see, it seems to me we all have a hole in us… and we are all, always, trying to fill that hole. When I was a child I thought the hole would be filled if Santa brought me just what I wanted or if I won enough soccer games and golf matches.
As I grew older I tried to fill that hole with other things. I think we all do.
We try to fill the hole with pleasure, but that doesn’t work. We tell ourselves, “Maybe I can fill it with stuff!” So we get a car, and a house, clothes, and a watch. Handbags, jewelry, shoes, and everything the material world has to offer. But that doesn’t work. The hole is still there. So we go off to see the world and find ourselves, but that doesn’t fill the hole. Next we chase accomplishment. “If I can just achieve enough, perhaps that will fill the hole.” We achieve great things, but the emptiness continues to reign.
We are slow learners so we usually cycle through several rounds of each of these attempts at filling the hole. More pleasure, more travel, more stuff, more accomplishments… but time and time again the hole remains.
We all experience the same kind of empty.
Why? The reason is, as always, disturbingly simple. We each have a God-sized hole in us. Only God can fill the hole. Try anything else you want, but it won’t work. It never has and it never will.
I wonder what God thinks about our futile attempts to find fulfillment and happiness in all the wrong places.
When are you going to allow God to reign in your life once and for all? Yes, reign as the King of the kingdom you think is yours… but is really his. This is the question I pose to myself and to you this month.
I am so inspired by the support and enthusiasm that is growing around the Dynamic Catholic mission. Thank you. You will never know how grateful I am.
The first step to winning the war is knowing you are in a war.
— From “Ordinary Lives Extraordinary Holiness” by Dr. John Wood
Step 3 of winning this war within is to free ourselves. I must warn you, this is a difficult step to accomplish. It is easy to see faults in others, but difficult to look within. It is easy to talk about problems in our culture, as we have done in the first two chapters, but difficult to act on solutions. We don’t like to see ourselves as slaves to anything, and the purpose of this step is not to make you feel guilty or imply you aren’t supposed to have any fun or enjoy life. The purpose of Step 3 is to encourage you to look within and be honest with yourself. Examine closely those things in this world you can’t seem to do without and ask, “Am I free from this?” The first step to solving any problem is admitting you have a problem, just as the first step to winning the war is knowing you are in a war. Step 3 of winning the war won’t mean much if you’re unwilling to admit to your destructive habits or tendencies.
I think you’ll agree one of the common qualities we share as human beings is that we all have our weaknesses—habits and tendencies that keep us from becoming saints. However, we all share the ability to improve ourselves throughout our journey. We can’t claim to have arrived on this side of heaven; it’s a lifelong struggle. As you begin to seek out your vices and obstacles in the journey, follow the advice from Step 1 and keep your mission ever present in your mind.
Now begins the celebrations we have come to package as THE HOLIDAY SEASON: Thanksgiving, Advent, Christmas, and New Year’s Day. Some would even top it off with The Super Bowl. As life itself is a mixture, so also do life and faith blend and intertwine.
What virtues will guide you the next 50 to 60 days? Patience? Generosity? Extravagance (virtue or vice)? Faith? Charity? Hope?
As I anticipate the canonization of Blessed John XXIII (Pope John XXIII), I am reminded of three virtues he emphasized during Vatican II and throughout his life.
No. 1: Come to my table. All are welcome.
Pope John valued charity above ego when it came to opposing views. In fact, he kept welcoming those who opposed his views to his table, encouraging dialogue and different perspectives.
Will you be welcoming to all at your festive gatherings?
No. 2: Open a Window
Not only did Pope John welcome everyone to the same table, he wanted to open a window at his banquet for fresh ideas. Pope John grew up in an era steeped in hundreds of years of tradition. While he loved and upheld the dignity of tradition, he was open to change and fresh insight.
Will you welcome fresh insights at your table this season?
No. 3: Peace and Goodwill
Pope John worked for peace during his papacy. One story I love is about the day he received (at the Vatican) the daughter and son-in-law of Nikita Khrushchev, a leading figure of the Communist Soviet Union. Everyone at the Vatican advised him not to because of their opposing views. Pope John said he would see them anyway because they were children of God.
Will peace be at your festive gathering?
The Holiday Season, a cocktail of secular and sacred, calls us to invite all to our tables, open the windows of our hearts to fresh insights, with a goal of peace.
Matthew had asked for feedback/testimony about the Dynamic Catholic Prayer Process in his October conference call.
I decided to accept Matthew’s challenge to use his Prayer Process for 30 days. I have never been successful with maintaining any type of consistent prayer life.
The Prayer Process for me has been nothing short of amazing in the one month that I practiced it. I prayed it nightly and the key for me was remembering that it needed to be a dialogue with God and not just thinking about each of the points. Here are a few ways that I noticed change in my life:
1) A deep sense of gratitude for all the many items in my life that I have to be grateful for. Putting that at the beginning of the Prayer Process and talking with God about it on a daily basis has really shifted my focus and outlook on life.
2) I became very aware of a problem (sin) that I had not really looked at. I was able to receive healing and strength in the sacrament of reconciliation and talk openly with my husband before it negatively impacted my marriage. I am convinced that this awareness would not have come if I had not had that time daily to listen to what God had to say about what I was doing (nor would the awareness come without the 30 day challenge).
3) Learning and practicing the Prayer Process has given me a tool and language to discuss personal prayer with my daughter who is preparing for her First Holy Communion in May. She knows her “rote” prayers and has often asked me to teach her how to pray “spontaneously” about what is on her heart but I wasn’t able to explain it to her in a way in which she “got it.” I showed her the prayer card and explained the first two concepts and she is now comfortable dialoguing with God and is eager for more. This is beyond priceless to me, that she can learn how to comfortably converse and listen to God prior to receiving Him in Holy Communion. She is also eager to learn more and I feel confident with the Prayer Process that I know the next steps to use to guide her.
I’m sure there are more ways that God is using this time in my life. Thank you for introducing this process and for challenging us to use it for 30 days. Without the challenge, I’m not sure I would have stuck with it when things became a little uncomfortable but the perseverance has allowed God to work abundantly!
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Making time for each other isn’t that difficult if you think about how to anchor the time around already established routines at home.
Life is short, and the holidays fly by. Don’t waste this time texting your friends about how crazy your family is making you (even if it’s true). Do your best to be present to them, seek to understand and to love.
Waking up early is a war. It is a battle against the self. You are your enemy. And there is only one way to win the war: Discipline.
When you choose to be the-best-version-of-yourself, when you exercise virtue and strength of character, you impact the world more than you will ever know.