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Archive for the ‘Living the Catholic Life’ Category

I recently read an article on the National Catholic Register website about what Fr. Dwight Longnecker calls “wood-chopping therapy.” After visiting a parishioner who he felt was over-worried and anxious about life, his brother suggested that the parishioner needed a good dose of wood-chopping therapy. He, the brother, had recently come home feeling angry and frustrated about something, but after chopping wood for awhile in the back yard, he felt restored of mind and spirit.

Fr. Longnecker interprets his brother’s suggestion as a case study in St. Benedict’s rule to combine prayer and work, ora et labora, to lead a contented, balanced life. St. Benedict mandated that his religious brothers engage in chores throughout the day and that these chores be, whenever possible, physical chores. He too knew of the restorative power of physical labor.

After reading that article, I was craving some wood-chopping therapy. My school day ended somewhat lousily today, and nothing I told myself in my head made any difference. Nothing stuck. I knew that the problem wasn’t in my mind, but rather in my body.

Seeing as how I live in an apartment in a large metropolitan area, however, chopping wood is easier said than done. I went for a walk, hoping to take care of some of the edginess. I was unrelieved. I prayed, simply, for some wood-chopping before the day was through.

Earlier this week, I had arranged to pick up a used sofa from a friend and co-worker. It was a large, heavy sofa with a mattress inside. “Will we be able to carry this?” I asked, referring more to myself than my friend.

After some vein-popping fun, the couch finally made it into the apartment. But before it even got out of the door of his, I knew this was God’s answer to my prayers for a chance to chop wood this evening. The job done, I felt restored to a degree of mental clarity. My lousy day wasn’t so confusing anymore, and I could see things a bit more clearly.

If you need any wood chopped, let me know.

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Need a little inspiration this month?  Check this video out.  I found it on Amy Welborn’s Via Media.:

This one is almost even cooler.

Update:  I decided to make the second one a link so as not to overwhelm this post visually.  Both of them are worth checking out.

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This weekend I was reading a reflection from Praying with St. Paul at breakfast.  The author, Fr. James Martin, S.J., remarked that “God takes delight in you!” and that in little ways, God shows us that he likes us, that he takes delight in us.

When I showed up to run the 5K at St. Richard’s this weekend, I stopped in quickly to get my registration materials, number, and t-shirt.  This is what I found inside:

scan0002Yes, that’s right, I had been given the number one as my race number.  I felt pretty special.

Then, later that day, I received this card from my eight-year-old brother in the mail.  It was perfect.

scan0003Well, that pretty much sums it up.  Thanks, God.

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Over the last month and a half, I have been singing with the choir at my Catholic parish. I come when I can and, although the choir is, well, a church choir, I do enjoy the community of randomly assorted singers that I get to see every Wednesday evening and Sunday morning.

littlest-angel

On a couple of occasions, I have thought of the children’s book, The Littlest Angel, while singing with the choir. The main character is a little boy-angel who sings with the choir and runs around heaven, always leaving things in a little bit of a mess and never quite fulfilling his angel-duties like a responsible angel should. For example, he always shows up late to choir practice, sings a bit off-key, and gets distracted easily during practice. The older angels give him disapproving looks, thinking he can’t get his act together.

I like to think of this littlest angel, who must be so loved by God. Flitting into and out of his responsibilities, he is held in God’s tender hand. God is not so worried about his little mistakes, but takes delight in his spirited presence in heaven.

When I’m too serious about my adult responsibilities, it helps to think of myself as the littlest angel. It’s okay if I flit into and out of my responsibilities, a little. The Lord doesn’t care that I do everything perfectly; he’s delighted I’m around on earth, brightening up corners here and there.

An elderly angel realizes the littlest angel is actually homesick and that, perhaps, his lack of attention to detail might be a symptom of missing his earthly home. He finds a bolex of things that remind him of his home on earth, gives it to the litt angel, and this seems to do the trick.

When Jesus is born, the littlest angel gives Jesus his box; it is the only gift he has. He worries that it won’t be enough but God accepts the gift.

He turns the box of remembrances into the star of Bethlehem.

I get homesick, too, down in MS. We all long for things we have lost or given up to follow the Lord. But maybe our little gifts, however imperfect, will be enough to direct others on their way to see the Lord.

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I have been reading some very insightful and powerful reflections at Amy Welborn’s Blog, Charlotte Was Both. Amy Welborn is a popular Catholic author who has written the Prove It! series for Catholic young adults, among many other bestsellers. I have met some people who disagree with Amy on one topic or the other, but I find her to be a sound writer, though she isn’t afraid to approach some difficult issues.

Amy has reflected in writing on a number of topics that I have found very relevant to my situation. She has put words to what it feels like to leave home, to find your way in a new place, to try to strike the balance between insulation and communication, and to live faith in an uncertain world. Amy’s posts about reading and books are usually insightful, at least to the point where I am encouraged to read more and am reminded of how enriching a balanced diet of reading can be. The fact that Amy’s posts don’t have the benefit of an editor is not usually a problem. Aside from a typo here or there, Amy’s reflections are well worth the time it takes to read them.

And while we’re on the subject, I really enjoy reading Ambrose-a-Rama, a blog written by a Catholic woman living with her family in China. I’m a fan of Ambrose’s frequent references to Starbucks and her frequent posts about the Church in China.

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