Archives for April 2016
Mental Spring Cleaning
By: Sarah Thompson
With the recent warm weather, it feels like Chicago spring is finally here. The energy and joy of new life surrounds us as the trees and flowers bloom and the joyful music of migrating birds early morning songs return. People seem to reflect that same change as well. Research tells us with the change of weather and an increased time outside, our mood, memory, and cognitive abilities improve. It is a time where we step out of a stagnant and enclosed mindset into an improved state of mind. As we put away our boots and gloves and bring out the sandals, it’s also a good time to focus the things we want to personally rid ourselves of moving forward. I like to call it mental spring cleaning. Like a favorite closet, our mind needs to be cleaned up and reorganized every once in a while. Information we thought we could use or that seemed important at one time become disorganized clutter, keeping us from finding what we want and need. Over time, ideas, memories, and concerns accumulate because they seem significant at the time. As we accumulate experiences the original value, importance, or interest often changes, and the closet of our mind can get overwhelming. Every time we avoid dealing with something we chip away at our self-respect. We might feel relieved in the short run when we put something off, but our self-esteem takes a hit over time. This is because part of our psyche knows we are avoiding our responsibility, and that usually adds wear and tear to the soul. When we deal directly with issues, even the unpleasant items, we typically feel better. But more often than not we toss things in the back of the closet of our mind to avoid them, and tell ourselves we’ll get to them later. Later never comes, and when too much builds up, we clog our soul. Self-care is an essential element of spiritual vitality. To neglect one’s own needs is not a sign of Christian piety, but rather a show of disregard for the very temple of God. In today’s Gospel, the command to love others as we love ourselves presupposes an adequate love of self. Self-love or self-care is not self-centered or selfish; they are Biblical prerequisites for loving and caring for others. We cannot give what we do not first possess; we cannot hold new wine in old wineskins of spiritual malaise, physical lethargy, and unresolved emotional issues. The human being is a complex amalgam of spirit, mind, and body; none of which operate independently from the rest. In order to adequately care for ourselves, a holistic approach is necessary. Proper diet and exercise benefit the body but also help keep our emotions balanced. Healthy spirituality involving regular prayer and worship feeds the spirit and also keeps us emotionally healthy. Caring for our emotional needs in turn opens our spirits to soar to the places to which God has called us. In Pope Francis’s landmark document “Amoris Laetitia” he asks us to meet people where they are. If we clean out our negative thoughts, our judgmental views of those different from us, we will be more open to understanding our fellow human beings in all their complexities and be more compassionate, open, and supportive of others. In combination with healthy spiritual disciplines and physical fitness, mental and emotional fitness is an essential component of a holistic and Biblical approach to self-care. Ultimately, finding the appropriate balance of these facets of self-care can improve our ability to reach out to others effectively and with the love of God. As Jesus tells us through today’s gospel, John 13:33-35 “Where I go you cannot come, so now I say it to you. I give you a new commandment: love one another. As I have loved you, so you also should love one another. This is how all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” For us to effectively carry out this commandment, we should first make sure we are on the journey to finding peace within ourselves. Sarah Thompson is the Parish Counselor at Old St. Pat’s.
What Happens When We Listen?
By: Rachel Lyons
Take a moment to think about all that you heard today. Voices, different languages, a sarcastic undertone, advertisements, songs on the radio, a political speech, a prayer you repeated to yourself, music on an elevator, an ambulance, car horns, birds chirping, rain drops, wind in the trees. Walk through your day and think about all that you heard today. Some sounds you probably heard and made it a point to remember, such as a loved one’s request or a troubling story on the news. Some sounds you probably heard and forgot about immediately, such as the blaring siren or the political ad that played five times in one hour. Yet you can recall these secondary sounds now if you pay attention. Some sounds you probably heard and cannot recall now, even though they are subtly shaping your environment, your thoughts, and your future choices. Especially within the context of various devices and outlets on phones, computers, billboards, advertisements, television, and so on, the constant cacophony of economic, political, and social messages sing and dance their way into our days moment by moment. These messages seep into us and wring out when we hum a tune from a commercial, or bring up a topic with a friend over lunch, or, even years later, when we choose brands and do not think twice about why we are dedicated to one type of soap over another. It just happens, we say. ‘Just’ seems inaccurate, though, both in the sense of recently occurred and in the sense of merely or only, simply. It doesn’t just happen, but the messaging is ongoing and incredibly powerful in shaping who we are, what we do, and how we feel. As someone who has grown up here in the United States, I have been hearing and absorbing and soaking up messages my whole life from a society that tells me to be competitive, to follow the rules, to buy objects to feel better, to take care of people who look and talk and think like me, and definitely to fear people who are different from me. In the first reading today, we see the apostles standing before the Sanhedrin, the high priest questioning and interrogating them about teaching in Jesus’ name. They are going against the rules, they are caring for outcasts of society, they are listening to a different truth than what society’s messages are telling them. And so they are interrogated – and the apostles respond by stating, “We must obey God rather than men.” They say that because they are witnesses of Jesus life, death, and resurrection, they embrace the power of the Holy Spirit and can no longer follow the status quo. They can no longer do it. It is not an option, because they know different. They cannot go back to ignorance or denial. This is what happens when we truly listen to the still, small whisper of God with us. When we hear Christ in our neighbor. When we take the time to stop and shut out the noise of a day and open up to the voice of someone sharing their story. What would we hear if we placed our ears into alleyways, near the bottom of dried-up streams, on prison walls, on quiet hospital floors, in the soil of farmlands, in the midst of a protest, or in abandoned homes? What cries of the forgotten would we hear in those places and spaces instead of just focusing on the mainstream translation handed to us on a silver iPad? When do we decide to go back to the original texture of human connection? My prayer this week is for our church to call forth disciples who follow God’s word and God’s call for solidarity and compassion in the midst of messages that divide us. May we be one, may we be one, may we be one.
Rachel Lyons is the Director of Social Justice at Old St. Patrick’s Church.
Easter is the Celebration of Light and Mercy
By: Tim Liston
What a month of March! It’s hard to believe that St. Patrick’s Day was only two weeks ago – it seems like its been months. As many of you participated with us throughout this Holy Week, you saw the beautiful expressions of this Gospel lived out within our community. What I find particularly moving is all the uses of fire and water in our Catholic tradition. Fire often represents light and hope, but it also represents the burning away (like those of our palms to ashes) the dead to begin anew. Much like a farmer does a prescribed burn of his field to create the opportunity for new growth, so too do we need to clear out some of our “personal brush”. Water (like that which was used to baptize our new Catholics on Holy Saturday and to wash our feet on Holy Thursday) represents life and rebirth. There’s a reason that we need to recall our own baptism so often because that is the reminder of our own rebirth of faith. I find that in this Easter season and the beginning of our natural turn to Spring, we are invited to clear the old deadwood, splash some proverbial water onto our hearts and make room to start again. Personally, I plan to burn away some of my couch time to make more room for walking and exercising. I also need to give a rinse to clear away my impatience, and I need to allow for more understanding and restraint to grow. I need to quite literally make room for an addition to our family, but more importantly I hope that this new life will help to soften some of my edges and wash me with new love and hope in my life. Maybe its because these articles are referred to as Awakenings and its spring, but for whatever reason, the notion of Spring Awakening kept coming to mind (side note: this is NOT in relation to the terrible EDM music festival held every year in Chicago). Perhaps we all need a “spring awakening” during this Easter season. This year, we have plenty of opportunities to hopefully do just that. If you’re looking for a personal challenge of body, mind and soul, and you’re looking to meet new people working for the same goal. And if you want to succeed in this goal all while helping to support some of the wonderful partner organizations of Old St. Pat’s, maybe joining Crossroads Runners is your Spring Awakening. If you’re looking to hit the pause button on your often hectic life, and you want to share an experience of personal reflection and growth with others. And if you want to refine and “re-find” yourself all within the beautiful greenery of St. Mary of the Lake, then maybe participating in the upcoming Beloved retreat is your Spring Awakening. If you’re a young adult looking to be surrounded by the energy and joy of teens looking to give back to the world around them, and you think you could use a refresh with your own inner youth. And if you have time to devote to the spiritual development of yourself and others, maybe becoming a Foundations leader is your Spring Awakening. However you find the Spirit calling you, and in whatever way you feel that you can benefit from a rebirth, we encourage you to pursue that call. We know that sometimes it can seem intimidating to jump right in, but we have a friendly staff hoping that you will connect with us to get more involved. Please flip to the back pages of our staff directory to find the right contact. In other Old St. Pat’s news, we are doing a bit of spring awakening ourselves in a couple of ways: As you may know, we’re in the midst of creating a strategic plan for our mission to continue to make this experience of church the best we can. We want to boldly dream of how we can renew, and how we can act on these plans. You will be hearing from Fr. Hurley, our staff and the board of advisors on how you can get more involved. We have also been doing some serious spring cleaning of our rectory to begin the construction work for our new community center. We will begin work the week of April 18, so please pardon our dust while we are in this exciting time of rebuilding. Lastly, (as a selfish plug) we will be announcing the headliners of our World’s Largest Block Party next week, but until then please mark your calendar for Saturday, June 25. It’s going to be another great year with summer fun and great music!
Tim Liston is the Business Manager at Old St. Patrick’s Church.