GUEST POST: Marian Book Review by Katie Hendrick

Today I am very grateful to have fellow blogger Katie Hendrick as a guest writer. She has reviewed many great titles about our Blessed Mother, which will make for perfect reading this Lent. You can visit Katie at her blog Stumbling Toward Sainthood.

Despite being a “cradle Catholic,” my relationship with Mary is pretty weak. Being the bookworm that I am, I decided to start reading more books about the Blessed Mother (as well as introducing some Marian prayers into my life). In doing this, I have found three books that can help anyone connect with Mary as Christ made clear we are to do.

Mary by Tim Staples

What It’s About: Staples provides “biblical evidence for Marian doctrine and devotion, answers common objections to Catholic teachings, and guidance on how to imitate Christ – which we should do in all things – by loving and honoring his mother.”

The Good: This book draws from a number of different resources (Scripture, Early Church, etc.) and covers a wide array of the common misconceptions about Mary. I also felt what made this book especially beneficial to readers was Tim Staples’ perspective as a Catholic convert. Because he came from a Fundamentalist background, he was able to address the concerns about Mary more effectively than someone who always felt close to Mary.

The Opportunities for Improvement: The only thing I didn’t like about this book was some of the Bible verses got repetitive. Though they were still relevant, I think a simple verse reference would have sufficed.

Why You should Read it: If you want to grow closer to Mary, I think you first need to get rid of all the misconceptions surrounding her. There is so much misinformation surrounding the practice of honoring to Mary, and this book provides clear responses to correct this. If you start turning to Mary with uncertainty or fear fueled by misconceptions, it will be a much more difficult road. Starting by learning will make the path smoother, so this book is a great place to start.

Link to my Full Review: https://stumblingtowardsainthood.com/book-review-mary/

 Mary: Help in Hard Times by Marianne Lorraine Trouve

What It’s About: “No matter what challenges we may face in life, Mary is always there to help us….Let the prayers and real-life stories of how others have experienced Mary’s intercession open your heart to the care she can provide for you.”

The Good: This is probably the second best book on Mary I have read (only overshadowed by the last book I will recommend). It starts by addressing who Mary is, moves into people’s experiences with the Blessed Mother, and concludes with different practices to connect with Mary. I thought the level of detail was fantastic, and this book was very encouraging.

The Opportunities for Improvement: This is such a small criticism, but I did not like the Bible translation they used for The Annunciation because the explanation of it referenced a different translation.

Why You should Read it: If you only want to read one book on Mary, this is the book to pick; it is a good blend of apologetics and devotions. This book was also very practical. For example, when discussing the personal experiences people had with Mary, it didn’t lean heavily on miracles; instead, it focused on how dedicated prayer brought about fruit. It’s also a great starting point for Marian prayer if you have no idea where to start.

Link to my Full Review: https://stumblingtowardsainthood.com/book-review-mary-help-hard-times/

Praying the Rosary Like Never Before by Edward Sri

What It’s About: “Do you struggle with praying the rosary: finding time, fighting distractions, worrying about your mind wandering? In Praying the Rosary Like Never Before, Edward Sri offers practical suggestions that come from the rosary’s tradition and, most especially, St. John Paul II. These helpful tips will make the rosary a constant companions through the different seasons, moments, and challenges we all face. These tips serve as easy on-ramps for those who don’t pray the rosary regularly motivate avid devotees of the rosary to go deeper with the Lord.” In the interest of transparency, I want to make it clear that I received a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own.

The Good: This book was very intelligently written without being intimidating. Whether you and Mary are BFFs or you just got past the “Catholics worship Mary” falsity, you can find growth from this book. Though the beginning of the book was solid with its blend of apologetics and history, what really made this book special was the beautiful rosary meditations. If you think that the rosary is boring, these beautiful mediations will change your mind. If you fear that the rosary focuses too much on Mary, the explanations of the mystery in the context of Scripture and Christ’s salvific plan will also change your mind. This was my favorite book from 2017.

The Opportunities for Improvement: This is an even smaller criticism than before, but there was one graphic in the book that was blurry. I really had to dig to find something wrong with it.

Why You should Read it: This book is just beautiful. It’s hard to articulate how much I loved it. The rosary seems like an outdated prayer, but this book shines the spotlight this amazing spiritual practice. It’s hard to read this book and not feel some kind of change.

Link to my Full Review: https://stumblingtowardsainthood.com/book-review-pray-rosary-like-never/ 

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Getting to know Mary can be intimidating, but these books lay some groundwork. Mary gives you the most basic information you need about our Blessed Mother. Mary: Help in Hard Times reassures you of her love for her children and gives some steps for growing closer to her. Praying the Rosary Like Never Before will lead you to fall in love with this incredible prayer. Though there are many great books about Mary out there, you can’t go wrong with starting with these three.

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Kate Hendrick lives in Wisconsin with her husband and two cats. She works as an engineer full-time. Kate writes on her blog, Stumbling Toward Sainthood, which discusses the challenges we face as we strive to live authentically Catholic lives. When Kate isn’t sharing her love for Christ and His Church online, you can find her reading, crocheting, or playing nerdy board games with her friends. You can also find Kate on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram.

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Snow Day Special: Roamin’ Catholic

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First, let’s be real: the “Roamin’ Catholic” phrase is overused and eye-roll inducing, but it’s fun. Second, let’s talk travel.

For many who know me in person, you all know that I’m a frequent traveler. On any school break, you will not find me at home. Rather, I’ve been known to go far and wide, never leaving enough time for grass to grow under my feet. The cool thing about being Catholic and full is wanderlust is that there are no shortages of holy places around the world to visit. Without delay, here are just a few places I’d like to visit before I cross into eternity.

  1. The Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Mexico City, Mexico: It’s one of the most visited shrines in the world, and luckily, it’s on my continent. Also, the opportunity to see St. Juan Diego’s tilma is once (maybe twice) in a lifetime.
  2. The Holy Land: When I was 16, I was privileged to visit Israel with my mom. At the time, I thought I appreciated it. But in reality, I was 16 years old and my mind wasn’t concerned about ancient history.
  3. National Shrine of the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception, Washington, D.C.: It’s described as the “nation’s Catholic Church.” Only 8 hours away by car, and faster by plane.
  4. National Shrine of the Twenty-Six Martyrs, Nagasaki, Japan: Nagasaki, in the past and today, has the highest concentration of Catholics in Japan. After reading A Song for Nagasaki by Fr. Paul Glynn, I’d like to revisit Japan, especially this shrine.
  5. The Sheshan Basilica, Shanghai, China: I believe that this basilica is now under the control of the Patriotic Catholic Church (think: state-approved Catholicism). Still, Our Lady of Sheshan and Our Lady of China are two of my favorite depictions of Jesus and Mary. I would love to see where the images found their beginnings.
  6. The Lourdes Shrine, Lourdes, France: Where the alleged apparitions of Mary occurred in 1858 (received by St. Bernadette), Lourdes is home to the miraculous water spring. Also, the story of Our Lady of Lourdes has always touched my heart.
  7. Oratory of St. Joseph Basilica, Montreal, Canada: St. Andre Bessette was known as God’s Doorman. A simple man, he was a porter for the Congregation of the Holy Cross in Montreal, Canada. However, St. Andre became known far and wide for his healing ability, which he credited to the intercession of St. Joseph, the earthly father of Jesus. St. Andre never took credit for his gift from God. Before he died, St. Andre saw to it that a basilica was built in honor of St. Joseph: a masculine model of love of Christ. There, you can see the crutches of those were, and are still being, healed.

These are just a few of the places I’d like to visit. Have you been to one or more of the places listed above? What other shrines, chapels, and memorials would you recommend? Comment below!

Happy travels!

Book Review: The Last Girl by Nadia Murad

 

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virago.co.uk

With all of the news today, it can be difficult to sort out between reality and fiction. We hear so many stories about captivity and torture at the hands of ISIS, that it’s difficult to relate to what’s going on halfway across the world. How could we possible relate to something going on thousands of miles away and so foreign to our sensibilities? This is where The Last Girl steps in a fills in the gaps.

Nadia Murad lived a happy, simple life in the little village of Kocho, Iraq. Though she struggled with poverty and some family tensions, Nadia notes that she never thought of leaving her hometown. On top of everything else, she lived in a devout community with those who practiced the Yazidi religion. Everything seemed to fall into place year by year.

Unfortunately, in early 2014, ISIS overtook Nadia’s small village. Deeming those who practice the Yazidi religion to be infidels, ISIS militants destroyed Kocho, taking Nadia and her family. In an act against humanity, Nadia was eventually trafficked as a sex slave, suffering rape multiple times at the hands of many men. Without divulging the whole plot of Nadia’s heroic tale, there is a positive ending.

If you are interested in international relations and stories of courage, I recommend The Last Girl by Nadia Murad.

I received a free copy of this book from bloggingforbooks.com in exchange for an honest review.

Tips for Mercy

I am always compelled by those have lived, and live, lives of mercy. One of my favorite true stories of a merciful life is that of Satoko Kitahara, the subject of Fr. Paul Glynn’s The Smile of a Ragpicker (I wrote about Satoko here). Long-story-short, Satoko left a life of privilege to serve the poor and detested souls of Tokyo’s Ants Town. After her death, the Church recognized Satoko as a Venerable, and she is on the path towards sainthood.

What is impressive about Satoko is that she was merciful to those in her own city. Though she wanted to serve in the foreign missions, she instead was a “Japanese for the Japanese.” In our everyday lives, there are numerous opportunities to show mercy to Image result for mercy pixabaythose we encounter.

Personally, is something I struggle with each and every day.

Often, those around me do not meet my expectations or just get under my skin. It’s easy for me to ignore those I deem not worthy of my time. Yet, today, to have mercy for all is an incredibly counter-cultural act. In fact, in the Gospel of St. Luke, Jesus tells us to be merciful because God is merciful to us (Luke 6:36). In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus says “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy” (Matthew 6:7).

But why, Lord, does mercy have to be so difficult? My theory: Anything worth cultivating won’t be an easy undertaking. So, to help you along your way, I’ve listed three tips for living a more merciful life:

  1. Pray: This is an obvious solution that sometimes we rarely employ. Is there someone grinding your last nerve? Pray for them. Are you on the verge of hatred? Pray about it. Do you find more comfort in anger than in peace? Pray about it. I know, it’s easier said than done. On many occasions, I’ve relished in the idea of resentment more than a heart of forgiveness. Instead, I should have asked for a merciful heart towards those I perceived had wronged me. Prayer changes things, and God will guide you on a merciful path.
  2. Take Up a Devotion: Is there a religious practice that has meaning for you? This could be praying the Rosary or going back to the same passages of Scripture and meditating on it. Personally, I love the Chaplet of Divine Mercy. While praying the Chaplet, you ask God to have mercy on you and the whole world. When you realize that you, too, are in need of God’s mercy, it puts other struggles into perspective.
  3. Sacrifice: Once again. it’s one of those spiritual practices that’s easy to preach, but harder to live out. I want you to think about someone who annoys you. As a personal rule, I tend to avoid these people. But, to cultivate mercy, maybe we could sacrifice our comfort to say “Hello” to that person or ask about their day. It’s one small step, one little sacrifice, that can lead to a lifetime of merciful living.

Do you have any tips for living a more merciful life? What advice would you give to someone who wants to show more mercy to their friends and neighbors? God bless!

For the sake of His sorrowful passion, have mercy on us and on the whole world. // Chaplet of Divine Mercy

One thing alone is necessary; that the sinner set ajar the door of his heart, be it ever so little, to let in a ray of God’s merciful grace, and then God will do the rest. // St. Faustina

Book Review: To Light a Fire on the Earth by Bishop Robert Barron with John L. Allen Jr.

To Light a Fire

amazon.com

Ask almost any Catholic with Internet access who Bishop Robert Barron is, and you may receive a response like this: Oh! He does the Word on Fire YouTube videos! For the bookworm, his hit book Catholicism lingers in the back of a faithful mind. Walk into a Catholic book study, and odds are, you’ll see a supplemental resource written by Bishop Barron.

In To Light a Fire on the Earth, John L. Allen Jr. partners with Bishop Barron to bring the story of the Gospel to our secular world. For those who are looking for a sentimental reflection on the Catholic faith, they will be disappointed. Rather, Bishop Barron tackles the growing secularism in our society, and combats it with the hard truths and promises of Catholicism.

For example, Barron states that while the Catholic Church is “extreme in its demand…it’s also extreme in its mercy.” As a result, Barron argues that we should not succumb to what he labels “beige Catholicism” that is plain and watered-down. He recalls a story of a child who once recalled the story of the whole Star Wars saga, right down to names and details. The point? If a child can recall names like Obi Wan-Kenobi and Darth Vader, then he is capable of learning about Habakkuk, Nebuchadnezzar, and Aquinas. To combat secularism, Catholics must have high expectations for not only ourselves, but also for the next generation of the faithful.

To Light a Fire is highly recommended for those who are Catholic, Protestant, non-believers, and everyone in between. This book discusses everything from secularism to the use of the Bible in everyday Catholic living. For those who are not Catholic (or Christian), the book expertly describes Catholic teaching and doctrine. To those of us who are Catholic, the book is a reminder of why we believe what we believe. Additionally, as Catholics, Barron encourages us to be authentic with non-believers and to show them the beauty of our Faith.

Note: I received this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for an honest review.

Bop Around

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uvmbored.com

Happy Monday!

I pray your week is off to a lovely start. Over the past few days, I’ve acquired new readers. How exciting! For new readers and subscribers, here’s a quick rundown of what you can find on my blog:

  1. First, read why I call my blog Quelpart. That link is here.
  2. I’m on social media, and you can hop over to Connect With Me to learn more.
  3. Need a book recommendation? I track the books I’ve read since 2016 at What I’m Reading.
  4. I’m published at various places around the Web and in print. If you’re interested, my Writing page can take you there.
  5. Also, let’s talk Catholicism. I’ve started a page, Resources for Catholic Living, which is currently under construction, but has recommendations for Catholic media.
  6. Finally, I love to visit churches, cathedrals, chapels, and shrines. Feel free to track my Church Hopping.

This week, I plan to write about offering up our sufferings to Christ. Keep your eyes open, and I’ll see you soon.

 

Book Review: The Far Away Brothers by Lauren Markham

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npr.org

From August 2014 to May 2015, I worked as an English as a Second Language teacher in Western Kentucky. During this time, the United States experienced a crisis: a massive influx of unaccompanied minors at the southern border. In my work, most of my students were from Mexico and a smattering of other Central American countries. I was well aware of the unique plight of these children: one student rode on horseback from Guatemala, up through Mexico, suffering a broken tailbone along the way. One student ran through the river that borders Texas, while another crossed the border with his parents while still a toddler. Many of these students knew little-to-no English, and often spoke indigenous languages as opposed to Spanish.

Though these students are often here unauthorized, their individual stories speak volumes about the resilience of survival.

Enter Lauren Markham’s The Far Away Brothers, the true story of two twins: Ernesto and Raul. The twins’ story begins in violence-ridden El Salvador, where the murder rates are at an all-time high and gang activity is the norm, not the exception. Both boys grow up in a loving family, but are often sneered by their classmates and teachers. As time progresses, Ernesto catches the ire of a gang-affiliated uncle. For their own safety, both boys must flee El Salvador, and become far away brothers (a name for the millions of Salvadorian migrants to the States).

For the boys, the road is tricky. Their father puts up his property for collateral in order to pay coyotes for the boys’ passage to the border, and for a while, communication is scarce. As Ernesto and Raul pass through Mexico, they face border stops, strange homes, and random drug raids in their vehicle. However, this is only the tip of the iceberg.

Once in the United States, the boys must enroll in school, work to send money home to their family in El Salvador, find an immigration lawyer, and present their case to a California judge. All the while, the twins struggle with American social norms, academic expectations, the plight of love (Ernesto becomes a father), and the pull of a far away homeland that is too dangerous for a return.

Regardless of your views on immigration and the unaccompanied minors crisis, The Far Away Brothers is a wonderful overview of the life many immigrants. While often we are presented with snippets from our favorite news source, Brothers shows readers the peril of leaving one’s home in search of something better, safer. For this reason, I recommend Markham’s book for anyone interested in politics, social science, and true stories of perseverance.

Dwelling Together: Maturing in Faith

Hello! Thanks for reading today, I’m glad you’re here. Today is a long-winded post, but I think you may relate to it (especially if you’re anything like me). 

Each week, I attempt to publish one to two quality posts about faith, life, books, and anything else happening in my day-to-day life. If you enjoy what you read, please consider sharing on social media and subscribing through email or WordPress.

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How good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell together as one! // Psalm 133:1 (NAB)

I have this persistent and terrible habit where I believe I am the only one. Foolishly, I think that it’s just me who struggles with anxiety, or it’s just me whose mind wanders during work, Mass, or while on the phone with my mom. I’m the only one who sometimes pushes the Holy Spirit’s nudging out of my heart when the conviction is uncomfortable. For a very long time (and even still some today), I wrestled with these feelings of inadequacy, loneliness, and a sense of floating. I knew I could turn to Our Lord in the times of need, but overall, everything felt like a one-woman show. I had to take care of my own issues, it wasn’t the job of anyone else. These problems were solely my problems and no one else could ever understand my thought process. Unfortunately, this is one of lies that the devil tells us: You must depend on yourself to fix anything, all the time, no one can help.

In high school and college, I suffered from a terrible case of superiority complex. When classes were canceled on campus due to snow, I was out in my boots walking to mid-week Bible study while everyone else was cozy in the dorms. In high school, I purposely did not attend social events because, frankly, I was better than everyone else. Only unintelligent, uncultured simpletons attended football games on Friday night instead of staying at home with a good book.

If you couldn’t tell, I was simply a joy to have around.  Insert eye roll.

Because I believed that I was inherently better than everyone around me, I failed to form healthy communal bonds with those around me. While I formed lovely friendships, especially in college, I believed that only I could deal with my issues. I believed that my issues with anxiety or nervousness were so unique that no one could possibly provide a reasonable solution. In many a silly decision, I bypassed what were probably valuable campus meetings, designed specifically for women undertaking the transitions of adult life. I was determined to help myself.

Thankfully, age is the wonderful, gracious teacher.

Obviously, I am older than I was in high school and college. My faith and life is more of my own, my understanding of my need for others has increased (though it’s not perfect). Since my conversion to Catholicism, I’ve absorbed any resource at my fingertips – especially those tailored towards the needs of women. Podcasts, articles, devotions have been my closest friends in my walk of faith. I’ve realized that yes, I do need support in my walk as not only as a Catholic, but also as a teacher, daughter, and community member.

This morning I read this morning’s devotional from Blessed Is She, an online community for Catholic women. Patty Breen, today’s writer, penned words that cut to my core:

“The most difficult prayers I have prayed in my life (and still do) are ones of abandonment and submission to the will of God. For a type-A planner like myself, it is so easy to tell Jesus what I think the best option or plan is. But that is neither how God nor prayer works. We call that manipulation, not worship.”

Like Patty, I am a type-A personality: high-strung, organized, meticulous. I also struggle with turning over every detail of my life over to God and His divine will. My past habits tell the story: Again, I thought I was the only one who struggled with this. I thought I was too stubborn, too selfish, not worthy enough to let God take control in every nook of my existence. But this morning, I was informed in plain English that I’m not the only woman on the planet who struggles with any given issue.

I’m not alone, I’m not isolated, my struggles are common. Thankfully.

This is why community, and dwelling together, is especially important for Christian living. Reflecting on my past, I know I probably would not have subscribed to a daily inbox devotional as a teenager or college student. I didn’t expect anyone to know my needs, especially someone who didn’t know me on a personal level. As I mature in both age and faith, I realize that I do need community and that I do need support. I’ve finally understood that support can come from the most unexpected places through little acts of faith. I find that I am not the brilliant one-woman operation I used to be.

And that is a wonderful, merciful, graceful thing.

O Fount of life, unfathomable Divine Mercy, envelop the whole world and empty Yourself out upon us. // The Chaplet of Divine Mercy

Our Lady of Grace, pray for us.

 

 

 

 

Book Review: The Four Tendencies by Gretchen Rubin

For a long time, I balked at personality tests and quizzes. Even in college, when we had to take the MBTI assessment during orientation (I’m an INTJ, by the way), I thought there was no way a simple test could tell me what I needed to know about my personality. I

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was far too complex, right? However, as the years progressed, I was introduced to more personality studies. I studied and thought, “Hey, maybe this isn’t total nonsense.”

Enter: The Four Tendencies by Gretchen Rubin. From friends on social media, I had heard of Rubin’s book, but was generally unaware of her work as a whole. When given the opportunity to provide and honest review for a free copy of the book through Blogging for Books, I was so impressed with Rubin’s content and writing style.

Without the tense language of a psychology textbook, Tendencies examines four ways humans often express them selves as: Upholders, Obligers, Rebels, and Questioners. Rubin takes each tendency, and presents how each “style” operates and interacts with

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others in real life. For example, I took the quiz at Rubin’s website and to no surprise, I am a textbook case Obliger. I can meet outer expectations, but I fail to meet inner expectations. For example, I can finish a report for work ahead of a deadline, but to go to the gym for myself? No way. Promises to myself can be broken.

On the other end, you may be a Questioner. You can meet your own inner expectations, but an outward expectations? You’ve got a few questions first, and you’re not volunteering just because. Maybe you’re a rebel who resists ALL expectations because you can’t stand being told what to do. Or, perhaps you’re an upholder: You meet expectations, both inner and outer, and “discipline is your freedom” (1).

What makes Tendencies so successful and engaging is that it teachers you not to attribute every single personality quirk to your tendency, but to think about your behavior and how it shapes you. Rubin offers advice for Obligers who want to keep promises to themselves and to the Questioner who wants to avoid information acquisition burnout.

Overall, for the armchair personality enthusiast to seasoned professionals, I would highly recommend The Four Tendencies. You will learn something about the ones you work with and love. Most importantly, you’ll recognize a familiar trait or discover something brand new about yourself.

Us and Them (or How Not to Evangelize)

I’ve always prided myself on inclusion. Perhaps that’s the first warning in this story, because pride is a very tricky (and sinful) thing.

Need somebody to teach English in the public schools? That’s me. Need another person to give up their college spring break to serve kids living in urban public housing? Hey, that’s me again. I’m there, with no prejudice attached.

We’re all God’s children, right? Sure.

Until I began RCIA and was received into the Catholic Church, I had no particular interest in evangelization. I knew I was supposed to tell people about the Good News of Jesus: that He took on humanity, lived among us, died for our sins, and resurrected to defeat death and sin three days later. Salvation, eternal life, and friendship with God, because of Jesus, is totally free. That’s wonderful news, but I possessed no real interest in telling anyone about it. I was born into a Christian family, the Gospel came pretty easy to me. I assumed it should come pretty easy to everyone else.

Fast forward to the present day, and I’ve experienced a change of heart. As it turns out, not everyone knows about Jesus. And for many, coming to faith isn’t that simple. There’s, unfortunately, often many circumstances that turn people away from the Gospel. Or simply, they may not want to accept it. But still, I want to share the Good News more now than ever.

Entrance: My pride.

Earlier this week, I ordered a stack of cards and a few brochures from the St. Paul Street Evangelization, a Catholic evangelization project that takes the Catholic faith to the literal streets. There’s no SPSE team where I live, but I was able to order the materials to give to acquaintances, leave with restaurant and service tips, and give to a stranger I may encounter.

As I would occasionally leave a Sacred Heart of Jesus card with my restaurant tips last week, I’d feel very good about myself.

“Ahh, spreading the Gospel has never been so easy!” I would think. “This could really set a chain reaction of events in someone’s life and bring countless souls to the Lord.” The satisfaction of a job well done.

So, one evening last week, as I walked through Walmart, I witnessed a familiar sight, one you may know yourself. There was a very overweight woman wearing high-cut jean shorts and a spaghetti-strap camisole for a shirt. There was nothing left to the imagination. With her were a couple of rambunctious kids (whom I assumed did not share the same father).

St Peter'S Basilica, Vatican, Catholic

The Lord hitting me with the truth. (pixabay.com)

 

Though I came in contact with the woman for less than one second, it’s as if the Lord asked in that moment, “Would you share the Gospel with her if I asked you to?”

I felt my stomach and psyche knot up.

“Lord,” I said. “I know I should, but maybe somebody else could do that. Now, if you need someone to report for duty in an exotic land or to volunteer to sweep the floor at a convent, You know I’m ready to go.”

Basically, I was telling Jesus that I didn’t want morbidly obese women who didn’t wear appropriate clothing and couldn’t control their loud kids in Heaven with me. I pushed the woman and the thought to the back of my mind, thinking of other things I deemed much more important.

The next morning, I attended Mass at a local parish close to my hotel. I settled in, did the standard look-around that comes with visiting a new church, and waited for the Mass to  begin. As I waited, I prayed that Jesus would show Himself to me during worship.

What a dangerous prayer for anyone to pray.

After the typical Catholic gymnastics, the ups and downs, it was time for the homily. Sunday’s Gospel reading was from Matthew 15:21-28, the story of the Canaanite woman and her demon-oppressed daughter.

In brief: The Canaanite woman asks Jesus to heal her daughter, but His disciples tell Jesus to “send [the woman] away.” The woman begs Jesus to heal her daughter, even after Jesus says that “It is not right to take the food of the children and throw it to the dogs.” The woman quickly responds: “Please, Lord, for even the dogs eat the scraps that fall from the table of their masters.” To this, Our Lord replies, “O woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish.”

In Jesus’s day, Canannites were a despised race, typically seen as the “other” in society. Rarely, did an Israelite want anything to do with the Canaanite, especially a Canaanite woman. As I listened, the parish priest speculated that Jesus may have played upon his disciples’ prejudices, only to turn the tables on them. Jesus’ disciples, it seemed, only wanted a certain type of person to experience Jesus’ healing and teachings. Yet, Jesus showed that His teachings were, and still are, applicable to everyone. With only her faith, the Canaanite woman’s daughter was healed and a miracle was performed. Race, sex, and social status was not a hindrance for Jesus.

As I listened, this message struck me between the eyes. Less than 24 hours earlier in Walmart, I was no better than Jesus’ disciples. Sure, I wanted salvation for everyone. I want everyone to know Jesus. But, when I was asked “Would you share the Gospel with her if I asked you to?,” I wasn’t about to abandon my neat, clean Christianity to minister to a woman who I assumed had no sense of common decency. During Mass, I prayed and I asked for forgiveness. I realized that when you ask Jesus to show Himself to you, it’s best to prepare for discomfort rather than nice platitudes.

And for this discomfort, I am grateful.