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by Matthew Kelly
A Call to Joy
by Father Bob Sherry
From time to time a debate emerges about why people don’t read the Bible more. These discussions always raise an array of reasons, which are then explored, discussed, and analyzed. Popular reasons include because people are intimidated by the various ancient texts or because people are simply too busy.
One of the reasons we don’t read the Bible more is because we have become a deeply impatient people. The more impatient we have become as a society, the more our relationships have suffered. At the core of any great relationship is patience, because it takes patience to listen and really get to know the heart of another person.
The Bible helps us know the heart of God, and the heart of man. That takes time. It’s not a self-help book where every line is filled with clichés and step-by-step directives. It is about learning God’s heart and learning our own heart.
But in a deeply subconscious way, when we explore the question why don’t people read the Bible more, I think it comes down to one profound reason: We don’t read the Bible more because we know the Word of God has the power to transform our lives. That’s why we don’t read it.
You see, the uncomfortable, unspoken, and often-avoided truth is that we don’t want our lives transformed. Be honest. Do you want God to completely overhaul your life and totally transform you?
It sounds attractive and in a moment of blissfully holy idealistic exuberance we may say yes, but the reality is we like to distance ourselves from the inner work required to bring about such a transformation.
The long history of God’s relationship with humanity has always displayed God’s preference for collaboration over intervention. God will not snap his fingers and bring about the type of transformation we are talking about here. He desires a dynamic collaboration with each of us. God wants us to do our part.
So, no, we don’t necessarily want our lives transformed. Sure, we want some tweaking, but not transformation. Our desire for tweaking is selective and selfish. Transformation is total and selfless.
No other prayer will fill you with greater joy than a prayer of gratitude. Recognize what you have.
— From “A Call to Joy” by Matthew Kelly
Sometimes we feel that there is a void in our lives. We associate this void with a lack of happiness. We tell ourselves, “If only I could do this, or have that, or if only I could be that, then I would be happy and this void would disappear.” We are wrong. The problem is we are forever focusing on all the things we cannot do, all the things we do not have, and all the people that we are not. Joy is the fruit of appreciation. When we take a few moments each day to reflect in silence on who we are, on the talents we have, and on the many wonderful gifts and people that fill our lives, we begin to dance for joy. If you want to know what to pray about or what to meditate on, this is it: the gifts in your life. Most of them are simple things that we take for granted every day. For ten minutes close your eyes and imagine that you have no legs. How would this affect the way you live your life? What would be the inconveniences? At the end of your meditation, you will have renewed respect and appreciation for your legs. The saddest thing in the world is wasted talent. Recognize your gifts. Appreciate them. Then you will use them wisely.
We tend to live in the poets’ realm: we only learn to appreciate people and things when they are lost or gone. When we get sick, we appreciate the good health we once had. How many people only learn of their overwhelming love for their parents after their parents have died? Why? Because so many of us do not stop to appreciate the many wonderful things our parents and others do for us in our lives. When our loved ones die, their absence forces us to recognize all that they have done and been.
Reflect appreciatively on the gifts and people in your life.
I can see now that when I have experienced unhappiness in my life, it was most often caused by a lack of something but because I did not enjoy what I had at that moment.
I can see now that when I have felt lonely and not loved, it was not because I was all alone and that no one loved me but because I was rejecting the people God was sending into my life as companions and instead I was desiring to be with others.
The present moment feeds, nourishes, educates, instructs, guides, counsels, loves, and sanctifies.
Even as a kid, November was a favorite month for me. I liked that it started with honoring all the unknown saints, then the next day praying for all the poor souls in purgatory, including my grandparents whom I hardly knew. Then closely followed my birthday celebration and presents. One year I received a cherished St. Andrew Daily Missal, with Latin on the left page and the English on the right. A treasure for me. I immediately went to discover what saint was assigned to my birthday; there was none. That is when I thought I’d like to become a saint to fill in the sixth since no on had taken it yet. I’m still working on it.
Thanksgiving Day was just a few weeks away, and I thought: What a great way to end the month. Thanksgiving also helped me to start getting ready for Christmas: grateful for all the birthday gifts, and the other gifts throughout the year (which I pretty much took for granted at that age).
Now I like to take time each day in The Prayer Process to express gratitude for at least five things each day. I’m amazed at the lack of repetition, for God showers gifts beyond counting.
How about you? What are you thankful for this year? Email me at FrBob.Sherry@dynamiccatholic.com.
This summer, I pulled out a copy of The Four Signs of a Dynamic Catholic that I had sitting around for nearly a year after receiving a copy in a post-Mass parish book distribution program. I’d read Rediscover Catholicism during time in our parish adoration chapel a few months earlier and decided I’d finally see what this book was about.
I was looking to establish some momentum in my otherwise meandering spiritual journey, and after reading the book, I decided to introduce it to a men’s reflection group I had been organizing that met biweekly. We took up The Four Signs of a Dynamic Catholic as our meeting topic and dove in, chapter by chapter.
In our discussions about Chapter 2, “Are You Spiritually Healthy?”, the need for establishing a regular prayer routine in my own life was made evident, but I’d tried this before with little success. I needed something that would remind me daily to pray, something that would motivate me to stick with the commitment long enough to make it a habit. As I thought about my own needs, I realized that my needs were not unique, and that perhaps many people in our parish were in the same situation.
Then the Holy Spirit stepped in, and the idea of a prayer challenge surfaced in my mind. In Chapter 2, Matthew tells the story of a priest wanting to increase prayer in his parish family. The priest suggests setting a weekly prayer goal, much like most parishes have an offertory goal. As the parish achieves the goal, the priest can raise the goal and continue to encourage prayer.
What was brought to my mind was the idea of challenging our parish to complete 10,000 hours of prayer in 100 days. I brought the idea up casually in my men’s meeting and received enthusiastic feedback. I presented the concept to our parish priest and received his very excited approval. We picked Christmas Day as our challenge target date, leaving us five weeks to pull the program together. The Holy Spirit continued its work in helping identify an artist to design our promotional banners, a developer to build a web page to allow all parish members to record their prayer time, speakers for all the Masses to present the idea, and youth ministry leaders to adopt the program for their fall school of religion, youth group, and parish school faith formation activities, etc.
We launched the STM 10,000 Hours of Prayer Challenge on September 15, and we’ve collected more than 3,000 hours of prayer as of October 7, and we expect to achieve our parish goal by Christmas. But the real goal is to encourage and facilitate a daily prayer routine by all members of our parish family. To that end we’ve delivered 2,000 Prayer Process cards, which align beautifully with the use of DECISION POINT for our Confirmation preparedness program, as well as age appropriate prayer education materials for all the youth in our parish.
I personally know this challenge is having an impact. People are talking about prayer; they are telling me about their participation, and how it is helping them in encouraging prayer in their family and friend circles. It is so exciting to see this program take hold. Then there is me. Every day I get reminded to pray by checking on the progress of the challenge. Every day I pray. Thank you God for answering my prayers about praying.
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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.