Christ’s Peace with Us: 4th Sunday of Advent 2020

Peace on Earth?
Do we really have peace on Earth? I tend to look on the bright side of things, but the pessimist in me says no, peace is nowhere to be found. After experiencing the difficulties of 2020, I’d say that we’re far from peace on Earth. Our world seems to be in a state of unrest, division, and suffering of so many kinds. After the year that we’ve had, it’s easy to give in to hopelessness.

Christ's Peace with Us
Christ’s Peace with Us

Perusing for Peace
To escape our frustrating and disappointing reality, we desperately search for peace. Of course, we don’t always know where to look, and during times like these, peace is hard to find and even harder to keep. The news only increases anxiety and anger. Endlessly scrolling though social media tempts us with relaxation and happiness, but it only leaves us feeling empty. TV shows, food, shopping, and other activities that we typically turn to give us temporary distractions and bursts of pleasure, but all of these are fleeting.

If we want to have genuine peace on Earth, we can’t rely on earthly things.

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The Prince of Peace
We remember during Advent that the peace we long for lies in Jesus. One of His many titles is “Prince of Peace” for a reason. He is only One who can truly give us peace and alleviate our anxieties. He came two thousand years ago, and He’ll come again for us someday. Out of endless love for us, He became man, died for us, and conquered death through His Resurrection for us.

Jesus doesn’t promise us that the world will be peaceful and perfect. We’ll have to take up our crosses often in this life, but we don’t have to carry them alone because He’ll be with us every step of the way. Amidst the turmoil of this world, we can retreat to Jesus Christ, our Savior, and rest in His peace.

Yes, peace on Earth is attainable when we find it in Jesus. More importantly, we’ll experience the fullness of Jesus and His peace when we’re face-to-face with him in His Kingdom.

Stay radiant!

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Hidden with God in Isolation

Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence?

Psalm 139:7

Entering Isolation
This Thanksgiving, Nathan and I traveled home to Pennsylvania to visit our families. We were so blessed to spend so much time with his family and mine after being away from home for months. Of course, because we’re still in the middle of a pandemic with cases rising, I had to self-isolate for 72 hours, take a Covid test, and wait for negative results when Nathan took me back to Washington DC.

I don’t like to refer to this time as “quarantine” because I wasn’t actually sick. I prefer the term “isolation” because I had to be alone for a while, away from my community as much as possible, in the unlikely event that I caught the virus. Fortunately, my test result came back negative, as I expected that it would. By the time my result came back, I had spent nearly a week in isolation.

Hidden with God in Isolation
Hidden with God in Isolation

Hidden with God
In a way, isolation was incredibly lonely. I couldn’t spend time with my community, and they rarely talked to me or checked on me. If I hadn’t FaceTimed my family and Nathan every other night, I would have gone crazy from the lack of social interaction. Although I had to be physically isolated from people, I grew ever closer to God during my period of isolation.

It’s easy for me to make excuses about not praying as much as I should. My most common ones are, “I’m too busy,” and “I don’t have enough time.” In isolation, all I really had to do was work from home. I couldn’t help with cooking, dishes, or chores, let alone leave my room, so I had more time and was more free to do whatever I wanted. I spent some of my time blogging, writing letters, and calling loved ones on FaceTime, but the most rewarding and fruitful thing I did during isolation was improve my prayer life. I began my isolation by beginning the St. Andrew Christmas Novena and starting my 33 Days to Morning Glory Marian Consecration renewal. I kept delving into Scripture, reading 1 John and 2 John. God’s Word continues to capture my heart, so I took my time with reading, contemplating, and journaling about it.

Even when I was isolated I still felt close to God. As I had to separate myself from my community, I knew that I could cling to my Heavenly Father. I could never be truly isolated from Him because of His constant presence. During my week by myself, He comforted me and embraced me in His love. Isolation wasn’t always pleasant, but when I turned to my Father in prayer, I happily dwelt there. In a way, I felt like He was isolated with me. Like my chapel veils help me to be hidden with Jesus during Mass, I felt hidden with Him in my upper room, and I cherished our moments alone together.

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Creating and Sharing a Special Space
Now that Covid cases are rising, non-essential businesses and non-profits are shifting to remote work. After a discussion with FMS, the other two associates and I decided to work from home three days a week. At first, I thought I would resent this option. From my time in isolation, I learned that I’m more productive in the office and I can focus more on my work in that designated space. Now, I’m glad that I can work from home because I have more time to pray.

During Advent, we reflect on what it means to prepare the way for the Lord. Generally, this looks like making our homes and hearts ready for the most important One to come to be with us. We make space for Him, clean it up, and make it lovely and special. With my deepening prayer life, my room has become a special space for the Lord, and He and I dwell there together. In the morning, I light a candle, sip some tea, and read and reflect on His Word. When I’m done with work, I look out the window to watch the sunset with Him while I pray the Rosary. Now that all the leaves are off the trees, I can see the National Shrine of the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception through my bedroom window. The closeness of the Basilica is one of the many ways that I feel Jesus near.

Always Abiding with Him
The surprises of 2020 have taught me many lessons, one of them being there’s nowhere I can go where the Lord isn’t already. He’s always close to me, which is the most perfect gift. Remembering this truth reminds me to abide in Him in all things, like He encourages us to do in John 15. My prayer this Advent is that we can draw ever nearer to Jesus. May He soften our hearts and open them up so that He can abide in us.

Stay radiant!

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Joy in the Lord: 3rd Sunday of Advent 2020

I rejoice heartily in the Lord; in my God is the joy of my soul.

Isaiah 61:10

Our Search for Joy
As humans, we long for joy. Because we’re human, we’re not always sure how to seek joy, where we can find it, and if the source of our joy is good. Often, we find and settle for lower forms of joy. We find fleeting happiness in material objects and pleasure in superficial things and temporary feelings. These things of the world and the flesh come and go, so the greatest joy we’ll ever find is in God. He alone is eternal and almighty, so the truest and most perfect joy that we’ll ever experience lies with Him.

Joy in the Lord
Joy in the Lord

Rejoicing in the Lord
On Gaudete Sunday, the third Sunday of Advent, the first reading comes from the book of Isaiah. He describes the joy that he finds in God, and how he rejoices in Him. The Lord doesn’t just cause a grin, a giggle, or a little pleasant feeling. The joy that He offers is overwhelming in the best way. It cannot be contained, so we praise, worship, and boast in Him.

Reflecting on Isaiah’s words, I think of Mary’s Magnificat. When she visited her cousin, Elizabeth, Mary boasted in the Lord, sharing her joy in Him and the wonderful things that He has done, is doing, and will do. Like Isaiah, Mary says that her spirit rejoices in God (Luke 1:47). Having given Him her fiat, saying “yes” to His will in a big way, Mary found her joy in the Lord and rejoiced in Him. Of course, this joy cannot be contained, so she shared it beautifully and unceasingly by praising the Lord.

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Overflow with Joy
Although 2020 has shown us that everything comes and goes, we can still remember everything that God has done for us. This Advent, we can praise Him for all the blessings He grants us, the prayers that He answers, and the protection that He offers. This alone should stir our souls and cause us to rejoice, but there’s more. Now that Advent is half over, we know that we’ll be celebrating Christmas soon. Out of His never ending love for us, God became flesh to be with us and save us so that we could dwell with Him forever in Heaven. We can rejoice as we celebrate Jesus’ Nativity, and similarly, our hearts can overflow with joy in knowing that He’ll come again and that we’ll be together with Him in His Kingdom someday.

Stay radiant!

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Deepening our Faith: 2nd Sunday of Advent 2020

A voice proclaims: In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord! Make straight in the wasteland a highway for our God!

Isaiah 40:3

Cleaning Up Our Faith
We often hear that Advent is a time to deepen our faith. Like we clean up our house and make it lovely for a guest, we do the same with our faith during Advent. We get ready for Jesus to be with us, and we consider the unknown day of our death when we’ll meet Him face to face. With these times in mind, we “clean up” our faith through Confession and by doing penance. We strengthen it and make it lovely for Jesus by praying more often and more devoutly, and doing more acts of charity.

Deepening our Faith
Deepening our Faith

Loving the Preparation
When I was little, I didn’t really understand the season of Advent. I just wished it away so that I could get to the fun of Christmas. As I grew up, the beauty of Advent attracted me. I came to appreciate this liturgical season of waiting, and I grew to love the many ways of preparing for Jesus. I looked forward to praying more deeply, going to Confession, and making my heart ready for Jesus, and I participated in these practices intentionally and with joy.

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Heeding John the Baptist’s Call
In this Sunday’s reading, we were introduced to John the Baptist, who encourages us to prepare the way of the Lord. In his time, he prepared people for Jesus’ earthly ministry through Baptism as they repented from sin and did penance. He knew that Jesus would come to proclaim the Kingdom of Heaven, and he wanted everyone to be ready.

John the Baptist’s call to prepare the way of the Lord still applies to us today. He reminds us that Jesus is really is coming, and there are real, tangible ways that we can get ready for Him. During this beautiful season, make your hearts ready for Jesus the way that you would prepare your home for a guest. Clean up your heart, make your soul beautiful, and open yourself up to welcome Him. We can still prepare the way of the Lord, and we can prepare His way into our lives and hearts.

Stay radiant!

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Giving God Our Daily Fiat

“Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. Let it be done to me according to your word.”

Luke 1:38

Our Will or His Will?
How often do you dream about the day when God reveals His plan for your life? I used to daydream of having some great epiphany. I dreamed up an elaborate scenario of realizing that God wants me to be a missionary, a Catholic writer, a super holy wife and mom, a youth minister, or whatever, and knowing exactly what I need to do follow His call. I muse over someday figuring out what’s going to make me a Saint and courageously pursue that path.

I was preoccupied by seeking a singular, grand moment instead of centering myself on the present.

Giving God our Daily Fiat
Giving God our Daily Fiat

Let it Be Done
Although we’re in the beautiful season of Advent, I want to take a minute and talk about Lent. It was my junior year of college, and some of my friends and I were embarking on Fiat 40, a retreat for Catholic college girls who want to grow closer to God through detachment and a radical prayer life. A week or so prior to Ash Wednesday, we huddled in a cozy apartment with mugs of tea and Bibles. My girlfriends from Slippery Rock’s Newman Center and the FOCUS missionaries read and prayed with the Annunciation passage. We reflected on Mary’s yes, which was so much more than a yes.

Fiat isn’t Latin for “yes;” it means so much more. Fiat means “let it be done.” I love to say that Mary gave her fiat completely, whole heartedly, and with no reservations. She surrendered to the Lord, giving Him all of herself and everything she had. Having conformed her will with His, Mary accepted God’s will out of her pure and perfect Love for Him. She held nothing back from God, understanding that although she didn’t have all of the answers, God would provide and everything would work out.

Having discovered the beauty and power of saying fiat to God, I began dreaming of how He would call me to say fiat. I obsessed over what my future would be like and the extraordinary plans that He would reveal to me.

Wanting What He Wants
There are so many unique things about Mary, like how she was conceived without original sin and her unlimited amount of grace. Mary was so in tune with God’s will that she conformed her will with His. In other words, Mary always wanted what God wanted. Mary didn’t travel to many countries or write eloquent letters, but she was the closest and most perfect disciple because she said “yes” to God at all times and in all things.

Our Blessed Mother was secure in knowing that God had good and beautiful plans for her life. Mary wasn’t sitting around waiting for an angel to appear to her. She didn’t impatiently wait for a sign that God was calling her to something grand, and she didn’t pursue things that weren’t meant for her. She trusted in the Lord’s perfect timing, staying receptive to God and His will for her. Because of this, she had the capacity to give her fiat at the Annunciation. Because she said “yes” to God in every way of every day of her life, she was able to say the biggest “yes” ever.

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A Rude Awakening
When I made my Marian Consecration almost a year ago, I felt compelled to emulate Mary so that I could love her Son more. In learning more about Mary and longing to be more like her, I realized that I was doing the opposite of what Mary did. I searched for my own will and held on to things that God didn’t want for me.

It wasn’t pleasant to realize that I needed to be more humble and obedient, especially towards God, but it was so good to know that I could grow in these virtues and that I had my Mother as the most perfect example. Like the gentle mother that she is, Mary helped me to open my heart to God’s will. She patiently taught me to be still and receive the goodness that God always pours into us. Instead of searching for what isn’t mine or what I can’t have yet, I became more conscious of the ways that I can do God’s will every day.

Letting Our Mother Guide Us
Mary probably never expected that she would be the Mother of God, but she accepted His will with grace and humility. In contrast, I used to think that I would change the world. I still hope that I’ll be a great Saint, but now I understand that listening to and following God will make me a Saint. If I want to know what my big “V” vocation is or what will lead me to Sainthood, I need to be open to the little things in my daily life that God uses sanctify me. This practice has helped me to understand God’s will for me more clearly.

Especially during Advent, I contemplate Mary’s humility and obedience. I look to her as a model of these virtues and she lovingly grants me the graces to grow in them. My prayer is that during this beautiful liturgical season, we can become more like our Blessed Mother and allow her to help us love her Son more. In doing so, we can give God our daily fiats by recognizing and fulfilling the little things He asks of us each day.

Stay radiant!

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Waiting in Hope: 1st Sunday of Advent 2020

We have this hope as an anchor for the soul.

Hebrews 6:19

What is Hope?
Recently, I’ve been pondering what it means to hope. I understand that faith and hope are completely different, but they seem so similar at a glance. After researching it in the Catechism and reading a few articles, I learned that while faith is assurance in things unseen, hope is desiring for something and expecting to receive it.

Hope is the virtue that allows us to desire salvation and the Kingdom of Heaven. With the help of the Holy Spirit, we hope that we’ll enter God’s Kingdom when our time on earth is complete. We don’t expect that we’ll go to Heaven, but because Jesus saved us from our sins, we’re certain that we’ll be with Him forever as long as we spend our lives in a way that prepares us for this Heavenly eternity.

Waiting in Hope: 1st Sunday of Advent 2020
Waiting in Hope: 1st Sunday of Advent 2020

Waiting in Hope for Jesus
We hear at Mass that we “wait in joyful hope for the coming of our Savior, Jesus Christ.” This phrase reminds me so much of Advent, the beautiful season that we began yesterday. The people of Israel were waiting in hope for the Messiah, and now we wait in hope for His Second Coming and the Kingdom of Heaven. This liturgical season isn’t only about preparing for Christmas. It also serves to remind us that we’re going to die. As grim as it sounds, our world and our lives will end, and we’ll be in either Heaven or Hell forever. While we prepare for December 25, we should also prepare for the unknown date of our death. We know when we’ll celebrate the Nativity of our Lord, but we don’t know when He’s going to come for us. Because of this, we should constantly make ourselves ready to meet Him.

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Preparing While We Wait
Especially during Advent, we don’t simply wait for Jesus. Instead of idleness, we fill our time of waiting with ways of preparing ourselves for Him. While we wait and prepare, we do so with hope. With confidence, we expect Jesus will come for us, and in our waiting, we pray, receive the Sacraments, do penance, and do whatever we can to make ourselves ready for Him.

Stay radiant!

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3 Intentional Ways to Practice Gratitude

I will give thanks to you, Lord, with all my heart; I will tell of all your wondrous deeds.

Psalm 9:1

An Attitude of Gratitude
How often do you practice gratitude? Lately, I’ve been learning that when you practice gratitude, you’re more receptive to the blessings that God gives you, and when you’re happy with what you have, you recognize the blessings that you already have more often.

My boyfriend, Nathan is really great about being grateful, and he inspires me to practice gratitude often. He often shares what he’s thankful for, and when I’m in a bad mood, he sometimes asks me to count my blessings. Nathan has helped me to be more positive and trust that God has good things in store for me. Because of Nathan, I eventually began making gratitude part of my routine. I thought of a few ways to incorporate gratitude throughout my day, and it made me happier and more receptive of God’s gifts.

As followers of Christ, we’re encouraged to give thanks at all times. We should view everything as a gift from God and always have our eyes open to His blessings. Thanksgiving reminds us to be thankful every day. In light of the Thanksgiving season, we should count our blessings and have a more intentional attitude of gratitude. Because Thanksgiving is right around the corner, here are a few ways that I like to practice gratitude.

3 Intentional Ways to Practice Gratitude
3 Intentional Ways to Practice Gratitude

1 Journal
If you like to write or if writing helps you to remember things, write down in your prayer journal what you’re thankful for. It’s effective to do this regularly, so you write down something you’re thankful for every day, or at the end of every week, write down ten things you were grateful for from the past week.

2 Talk with Friends and Family
I love to tell my friends what I’m thankful for and share how God is working in my life. I also love hearing what they’re thankful for and seeing how God has blessed them. When you’re catching up with a friend or having dinner with your family, ask them to share something they’re grateful for from the day.

3 Pray in Thanksgiving
Because prayer isn’t just about asking for things, take a few moments in prayer to share your gratitude with God. The Lord delights when we pray in thanksgiving, so thank God for the blessings in your life. Ask Him for clarity when reflecting on your life so that you can recognize the blessings that He gave you.

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Have a blessed Thanksgiving!

Stay radiant!

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This Sunday’s Gospel: November 22, 2020

Matthew 25:31-46

Jesus said to his disciples:
“When the Son of Man comes in his glory,
and all the angels with him,
he will sit upon his glorious throne,
and all the nations will be assembled before him.
And he will separate them one from another,
as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.
He will place the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.
Then the king will say to those on his right,
‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father.
Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.
For I was hungry and you gave me food,
I was thirsty and you gave me drink,
a stranger and you welcomed me,
naked and you clothed me,
ill and you cared for me,
in prison and you visited me.’
Then the righteous will answer him and say,
‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you,
or thirsty and give you drink?
When did we see you a stranger and welcome you,
or naked and clothe you?
When did we see you ill or in prison, and visit you?’
And the king will say to them in reply,
‘Amen, I say to you, whatever you did
for one of the least brothers of mine, you did for me.’
Then he will say to those on his left,
‘Depart from me, you accursed,
into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.
For I was hungry and you gave me no food,
I was thirsty and you gave me no drink,
a stranger and you gave me no welcome,
naked and you gave me no clothing,
ill and in prison, and you did not care for me.’
Then they will answer and say,
‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty
or a stranger or naked or ill or in prison,
and not minister to your needs?’
He will answer them, ‘Amen, I say to you,
what you did not do for one of these least ones,
you did not do for me.’
And these will go off to eternal punishment,
but the righteous to eternal life.”

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Fr. John and I sat together in wicker chairs on a warm March morning. Surrounded by the flowers, concrete buildings, and children of the Diriamba Mustard Seed Community compound, he heard my confession and talked with me for a while. At the beginning of my time on mission in Nicaragua, he gave me a few words of encouragement. He told me that when I go to Heaven, Jesus will tell me “I was in Nicaragua, in all of the children, and you loved me.”

For the next week, I poured my heart out to all of the children. It didn’t matter that I spoke English and they spoke Spanish. It didn’t matter what disabilities they had. It didn’t matter that I only had a few days to spend with them. I loved every child that I encountered and treated each one like Jesus. I truly saw Christ in each child as they were so quick to love me and everyone else on my team. We didn’t do anything to earn or deserve their love, but they loved us anyway unconditionally.

My time in Nicaragua taught me so many things, but most importantly, it taught me to see Christ in everyone. I realized that everyone is my brother or sister in Christ and we’re all connected in His Mystical Body. When I hugged a child in Nicaragua, I was hugging Jesus. This week, try to find Jesus within the people in your own life. Ask yourself how you can serve Him through them. He wants to welcome us into His Kingdom, but first we need to show Him that we love Him, especially through the least of His people.

Stay radiant!

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How to Practice Holy Leisure

Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.

Matthew 11:28

What is Holy Leisure?
I first heard about holy leisure when I started discipleship in college. Courtney, my discipler was teaching me about six-step planning, and she reminded me to take time for holy leisure. She advised me to save time to do something restful and life-giving as I planned my schedule for each week. We’re often told that self-care is very important, and holy leisure can be likened to self-care from a faith-based perspective.

Holy leisure is a form of rest or light recreation that glorifies God. Our Heavenly Father didn’t create us to be workhorses. While work is part of His plan for creation and His will for our lives, He also wants us to rest. Specifically, He wants us to rest well. Our leisure time should be restorative so that we can slow down to enjoy the life that God blesses us with. When we rest well, we can give from a full cup when we go back to our work, service, or ministries.

What we do during our holy leisure time matters. We should engage our bodies, minds, and souls in life-giving things. Holy leisure is NOT endlessly scrolling on social media, binge-watching a Netflix show, constantly sleeping, or eating because you’re bored. A great holy leisure activity should find a balance of engaging and relaxing your body, mind, and soul. Picture your activity in light of the transcendentals. If it’s authentically true, good, and/or beautiful, then it’s something worth doing.

How to Practice Holy Leisure
How to Practice Holy Leisure: What holy leisure is and 8 fun and restorative holy leisure activities

I wasn’t very good at doing holy leisure in college, but now I’m finding ways to incorporate it into my week. Here are just a few of my favorite holy leisure activities:

1 Reading or listening to a Catholic or Christian book
Curl up on a comfy couch with some coffee or tea and spend an afternoon reading or listening to an audio book. You can exchange favorite books with a friend, or start a little book club. Some of my favorite Catholic books are Men, Women, and the Mystery of Love by Dr. Edward Sri, and Called by Kevin Cotter, and I’m currently reading Meditations with St. Teresa of Avila by Megan Don.

2 Taking a short nap
A FOCUS missionary that I knew always said that taking a nap is an act of trust in God, which means that you trust that God will help you to get your work done and rest. Get cozy in bed for 30 minutes to an hour for some rejuvenating rest.

3 Making a craft/being creative
Getting artsy is good way to relax and have fun, and when you’re done, you have something special to keep or to give as a gift. There are endless ways to be creative, like painting along with Bob Ross, crocheting or knitting, or even decorating your planner with stickers. God is the divine artist, so He delights when we create beautiful works of art of our own.

4 Going on a run, exercising, or physical activity
Exercise is a great way to take care of our bodies. As long as you don’t push yourself too much, it can be refreshing and a good way to burn off energy. Go for a walk or run around the block, go to a class or do an at-home workout, or put on some music and dance!

5 Watch a movie or an episode of a show with a friend
Watching one episode at a time with a few friends makes binge-watching less likely to happen. Find a show or a movie that’s life-giving and inspiring to enjoy at the end of a long day.

6 Pamper yourself
Spend an evening painting your nails, taking a bubble bath, or doing a face mask. These restorative and relaxing self-care tactics are great ways to take care of the body that God gave you.

7 Listen to a Catholic podcast or conference talk
It’s easy to pop on a podcast while you’re driving to work or cleaning, but you can also have a seat and just soak in the conversation. A few of my favorite Catholic podcasts are The Crunch, Clerically Speaking, and Fr. Mike Schmitz.

8 Enjoy a cup of coffee or tea
Having a warm beverage is always fun activity to do with a friend or by yourself. It’s an easy way to take a minute to yourself and step away from your work. You can easily brew a cup of coffee or tea at home, or you could visit a local coffee shop to support a small business.

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What are your favorite holy leisure activities? Which ones are you looking forward to trying? Tips!! Set aside time for it, do something that lifts you up and helps you think of God

Stay radiant!

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This Sunday’s Gospel: November 15, 2020

Matthew 25:14-30

Jesus told his disciples this parable:
“A man going on a journey
called in his servants and entrusted his possessions to them.
To one he gave five talents; to another, two; to a third, one–
to each according to his ability. 
Then he went away.
Immediately the one who received five talents went and traded with them,
and made another five.
Likewise, the one who received two made another two. 
But the man who received one went off and dug a hole in the ground
and buried his master’s money.

“After a long time
the master of those servants came back
and settled accounts with them.
The one who had received five talents came forward
bringing the additional five. 
He said, ‘Master, you gave me five talents. 
See, I have made five more.’
His master said to him, ‘Well done, my good and faithful servant. 
Since you were faithful in small matters,
I will give you great responsibilities. 
Come, share your master’s joy.’
Then the one who had received two talents also came forward and said,
‘Master, you gave me two talents. 
See, I have made two more.’
His master said to him, ‘Well done, my good and faithful servant. 
Since you were faithful in small matters,
I will give you great responsibilities.
Come, share your master’s joy.’
Then the one who had received the one talent came forward and said, 
‘Master, I knew you were a demanding person,
harvesting where you did not plant
and gathering where you did not scatter;
so out of fear I went off and buried your talent in the ground. 
Here it is back.’
His master said to him in reply, ‘You wicked, lazy servant!
So you knew that I harvest where I did not plant
and gather where I did not scatter? 
Should you not then have put my money in the bank
so that I could have got it back with interest on my return? 
Now then! Take the talent from him and give it to the one with ten. 
For to everyone who has,
more will be given and he will grow rich;
but from the one who has not,
even what he has will be taken away.
And throw this useless servant into the darkness outside,
where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.'”

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My very first parish priest was Fr. Andrew Stanko. He presided at St. Stephens, the parish that I was born, baptized, and spent my childhood in. He was the chaplain of West End Catholic, my Catholic elementary school, and he gave me my First Holy Communion. This Sunday’s Gospel reminds me of a homily that he gave during a student Mass. He called three students up and walked them through a little reenactment of the Parable of the Talents. He gave pennies to each student, and told one to put his penny in a plant to symbolize burying it. Fr. Stanko always knew how to engage us and teach us the faith in a way that we could grasp.

Earlier this month, I got a text from my mom. She told me that Fr. Stanko had passed away. When I prayed for him that night, the words “well done, good and faithful servant” popped into my heart. I found peace in thinking that these were the words that Fr. Stanko heard our Heavenly Father tell him. I looked up the Mass readings for this Sunday, and quite providentially, today’s Gospel reading is the one that reminds me the most of Fr. Stanko. Memories of his interactive homily flooded my mind and provoked thoughts, smiles, and even a tear.

With the Parable of the Talents, Jesus reminds us to spend not our money, but our lives intentionally. He encourages us to use the talents, gifts, and blessings that He gave us. Instead of squandering them by hiding them from the world, we have to use our talents to glorify God and serve His children. Fr. Stanko had a talent for giving insightful and thought-provoking homilies. He used this talent well, and I’m confident that when he met our Lord, He told him, “well done, good and faithful servant.”

Stay radiant!

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