Regnum Christi

Holly Gustafson

How to Enter the Presence of God This Summer (in 4 Easy Steps!): Lessons from a Devout Life

How to Enter the Presence of God This Summer (in 4 Easy Steps!): Lessons from a Devout Life

I have a bad habit of “praying” before I’m ready. I’ll dive into the rosary before I’ve even reminded myself what day it is, let alone what mystery I should be reflecting on. I’ll start to mindlessly spout off my morning offering before I’ve barely even sat down on the couch. “Well, let’s get this over with so I can get on with my day,” I might as well be saying to God, because that’s certainly what my hurried attitude towards prayer implies.

 

It only gets worse when summer hits. With a more relaxed schedule, activity-filled days, and often overnights guests, my morning prayer is rushed, when I make the time to pray at all. This summer, however, I’m worrying less about ticking off the boxes and getting my morning prayer “over with” so I can get on with the rest of my day, and focusing instead on slowing down, quieting my heart, and entering into prayer with mindfulness and intention, and it’s all thanks to St. Francis de Sales. In his Introduction to the Devout Life, he suggests that, before we being to pray, we should stop, and place ourselves in God’s Presence. That’s easier said than done, for those of us who have a tendency to carelessly dive right in, but lucky for us, St. Francis proposes four ways (each with its own simple motto!) to slow down, and start our prayer by entering into the Presence of God. 

 

  1. Know that God is Here

“Just as birds, wherever they fly, always meet with the air, so we, wherever we go, or wherever we are, shall always find God present.” – St. Francis de Sales

 

We know that God is omnipresent, here with us wherever we are, but it’s easy enough to forget. Jacob expresses this forgetfulness, this unawareness of God perfectly in the book of Genesis: “Indeed, the Lord is in this place, and I knew it not.” Indeed, He’s here, I just forgot. The first way to enter into the Presence of God is simply to remind ourselves that He is Here.

 

The motto that St. Francis de Sales suggests to help us remember God’s omnipresence is this: “O my heart! Be attentive, for God is truly here!”

 

  1. Know that God is in Your Heart.

“In Him we live and move and have our being.” Acts 17:28

 

While God is omnipresent, present everywhere and in everything, St. Francis de Sales reminds us that God resides in a special way in our heart of hearts, in the very center of our being, in the very truth of who we are. He is not only present, but intimately so. The second way to enter into God’s Presence is to try to enter into the intimacy of His company.

 

The motto St. Francis de Sale suggests comes from Psalm 73: “You are the strength of my heart, and my portion for ever!”

 

  1. Accept the gaze of Christ

“Although we see Him not, He beholds us from above.” – St. Francis de Sales

 

St. Francis de Sales reminds us that Jesus never stops watching over us, never stops holding us in His gaze, even though we don’t see Him, and even when we forget to seek Him. This method of entering into the Presence of God is the act of accepting Jesus’ loving gaze.

 

The motto that St. Francis de Sales proposes comes from Song of Songs: “Behold, he standeth behind our wall, gazing through the windows, looking through the lattices.” However, if you find the image of Jesus peering at you through the lattice more creepy than comforting, you might try this as a prompt instead: “O my God, why do I not turn my eyes towards You, as You always look on me?”

 

  1. Imagine His Sacred Humanity

“Jesus, the very thought of Thee
With sweetness fills the breast;
But sweeter far Thy face to see,
And in Thy presence rest.”
– St. Bernard de Clairvaux

 

In this last method of entering the Presence of God, St. Francis invites us simply to use our imagination, picturing Christ, in the flesh, truly human, present in this space.

 

The motto that St. Francis suggests is “Methinks I see him!” and if you can say that with a straight face, go for it. Otherwise, might I suggest something from Psalm 139: “Yahweh, I know You are near.”

 

Of course, you don’t need to use all of these methods every single time you pray. “Employ then some of these four means of placing yourself in the presence of God before prayer,” suggests St. Francis, “in as concise and simple a manner as possible.” Let these methods, with their accompanying prompts, help you to slow your prayer this summer, And, if after following St. Francis’ advice, and applying his methods, you still don’t feel the presence of God, don’t worry. Even though we see or feel Him not, and even if our summer prayer doesn’t look and feel like we think it should, God is always truly here.

How to Enter the Presence of God This Summer (in 4 Easy Steps!): Lessons from a Devout Life Read More »

The Sacred-Hearted Marriage

The Sacred-Hearted Marriage

“Today you two received all the graces you’ll ever need to get through anything in your marriage.”

 

These are the words told to me by a friend on my wedding day and, despite the busyness and emotion of the day, I distinctly remember them. At the time, I know I didn’t understand what she meant, and, had I understood, I doubt I would have believed them. I was a lapsed Catholic then, limping my way back to the Church, and not quite sure yet what to take as Truth. But I seem to have remembered those words, and stored them up, and pondered them somewhere deep in my heart.

 

The words have come up many times in my marriage of twenty-two years, when my husband and I have come up against some difficulty that we couldn’t imagine every surmounting. Like when our young teenagers seemed to be drifting away from us. Or when we seemed to be drifting away from each other, and couldn’t envision every being able to find our way back.

 

We did though, thanks to prayer and hard, hard work, but mostly thanks to those graces that we received on our wedding day. We have called on them many times in twenty-two years, and they have not failed us yet.

 

And this is just one of twelve beautiful promises of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, revealed to St. Margaret Mary Alacoque between 1673 and 1675 (there are lots of places to learn about these promises, but an entertaining way is to check out the “Anything Gude” episode on the Sacred Heart):

 

“I will give them all the graces necessary in their state of life.”

 

I apply this promise to my marriage confidently and constantly. But there’s another one of the twelve promises that stands out to me, at least as a wife:

“Lukewarm souls shall become fervent.”

 

This is a good promise for me to remember in my marriage; we’ve certainly had our times of tepidity, whether it was because we were exhausted from parenting little ones, cooped up in quarantine, or just because we’ve been together for twenty-five years.

 

But God never leaves us lukewarm, neither in our faith, nor our vocation to marriage; He is always ready to fan the flames of our love for our spouse and rekindle our compassion and kindness and cheer. As we celebrate the Sacred Heart of Jesus this month, I’m calling upon that promise in particular: that God will warm my heart when it becomes tepid, increase my thoughtfulness when I become thoughtless, and fan the flame to make me more fervent in my love.

The Sacred-Hearted Marriage Read More »

'She is Made for More': RC Detroit Women offers Women's Conference to inspire, encourage, and empower women

‘She is Made for More’: RC Detroit Women offers Women’s Conference to inspire, encourage, and empower women

“God has made you for more; your story will be more creative, imaginative, and better than you could ever imagine.” This message is behind the ‘She is Made for More’ Women’s Conference, an initiative from the heart of a few RC women designed to equip women with the tools and support they need to live a life filled with faith, passion, and purpose. The sold-old event was held on January 27th, 2024, at the Townsend Hotel in Birmingham, Michigan, with nearly 200 women and teens in attendance. 

 

 

 

This conference was the fifth year for the ‘She is Made for More’ Event, which began in 2018. It was initiated and chaired by three Regnum Christi members: Ann Marie Neme, Chelsea Gheesling, and Kristi Heft. The conference was an outgrowth of two locally founded organizations: Choices Detroit, an educational non-profit that promotes women’s authentic identity, and Good Girl Comeback, a non-profit designed to empower teens and young women to become independent and virtuous leaders. Choices Detroit, with Ann Marie Neme as co-founder, was started as a non-profit to collaborate with other non-profits to support and encourage women. It empowers women, particularly those experiencing unemployment, homelessness, or critical illness, to be seen, loved, fed, and cared for. In partnership with Good Girl Comeback, founded by Chelsea Gheesling, a former RC Mission Corps missionary, the ‘She is Made for More’ Conference serves to build up and support women in all areas of their lives and to promote the value of womanhood, the ‘feminine genius.’

 

Under the leadership of these three women, the conference is designed to be an educational and faith-filled event for women and about women. The Archdiocese of Detroit Evangelization Office was briefed on their conference communication and marketing plans and is grateful for this event as a beautiful soft entry point into living a life centered on Christ and informed by faith.

“We want women to feel hopeful, share their journey, and honor their important roles and responsibilities,” says Kristi. “The conference is about women helping women, helping them to see how essential they are and that what they do matters immensely to human flourishing.” 

The conference is held at the end of January each year. It includes breakfast and lunch, a keynote speaker, a panel or workshop, and an afterglow event, allowing participants to meet the speaker, mingle with old friends, and make new friends. 

 

This year’s keynote speaker for the event was January Donovan, a former RC Mission Corps missionary and now a life coach and founder of The Woman School. This online school offers courses, coaching, and community to form women in the skills and mindset to design an intentional, integrated, and fulfilling life. In her address and accompanying workshop, January offered pragmatic steps and a goal-oriented pathway towards intentionality in all facets of life, including family, career, and spirituality. Previous keynote speakers include Leah Darrow, a former model who appeared on America’s Next Top Model and is now a mindset coach and entrepreneur; Kelly Nieto, former Miss Michigan and atheist turned Catholic convert and comedian; bestselling author Gina Kell Spehn; and Sarah Swafford, founder of Emotional Virtue Ministries.

 

As a follow-up to the ‘She is Made For More’ Conference, Kristi, Ann Marie, Chelsea, and other Regnum Christi women members have invited women to attend a Regnum Christi EXPO at a club on Union Lake northwest of Detroit. This event, held in October for the past two years, welcomes women to learn more about deepening their relationship with Christ through the vocation of Regnum Christi. The past EXPOs have included keynote speakers such as Fr. Jason Brooks, LC, who currently serves as a Chaplain within the RC Detroit locality and Healing Ministry, Consecrated Woman of Regnum Christi, Marial Corona, from the Chicago community, and non-profit founder Katie Milligan, of 1 Girl Revolution, along with panels of two to four Regnum Christi women involved in diverse apostolates sharing their mission and motivation. 

 

Participants of the ‘She is Made for More’ Conference are invited to attend Regnum Christi events like Regnum Christi Women’s EXPO, retreats, healing retreats led by Fr. Jason Brooks, LC, and other RC programs found online or in-person to extend and deepen their conference experience. The RC Detroit Women’s Section is also partnering with the multi-diocese Michigan Catholic Women’s Conference being held in Lansing, Michigan on October 12, 2024. Centered on the theme “Be Radiant Be Loved,” women will come together to focus on their faith and experience the fellowship of sisterhood in Christ Jesus, by hearing from Catholic speakers, including Fr. Jason Brooks, engaging in praise and worship music, and celebrating Mass with the bishops of the dioceses of Detroit, Lansing, Grand Rapids, Saginaw, Kalamazoo, Gaylord, and Marquette.

 

For the last four and a half years, Kristi has worked full-time as a Development Officer for the Legionaries of Christ community, the Consecrated Women community, and the RC Mission in Detroit. She also interfaces with the National Development Office and raises funds for the national mission and apostolates. Kristi is a wife and mother of an adult daughter and was an enthusiastic delegate to the North American Territorial Convention held in Chicago last November. She was grateful to witness firsthand those leaders working toward the renewal of Regnum Christi, and for Kristi, the success of the ‘She is Made For More’ Conference is a sign of joy and hope for women seeking to understand their role and value in today’s culture and an indicator of that hope-filled renewal within Regnum Christi.

 

Since serving one year as an RC Mission Corps missionary, Chelsea has continued a life of mission, including hosting conferences for girls and young women on self-esteem, confidence, and modesty and leading multiple mission trips to Haiti. She is now a wife and mother of three children and runs Bundled, a corporate gifting company she co-founded in 2015 that strives to build an inclusive work environment where women of all backgrounds can thrive. She and this year’s conference keynote, January, served together as RC missionaries in Washington, DC.

 

Ann Marie is a wife and mother of eight children and serves as the Regnum Christi Women’s Section Director for RC Detroit. She says, “Our mission is to unite women of all generations, promoting the value of being a woman by offering a forum where they can pause and reflect on the direction of their lives. We allow women to integrate and better fulfill their family, personal, and professional aspirations and responsibilities, achieving true fulfillment.”

 

For more information about the ‘She is Made for More’ Women’s Conference, find them on Facebook or contact [email protected]. To find out more about RC Detroit, visit their website at https://www.rcdetroit.org/

‘She is Made for More’: RC Detroit Women offers Women’s Conference to inspire, encourage, and empower women Read More »

Praying the Rosary Through the Gaze of Christ

Praying the Rosary Through the Gaze of Christ

“My heart says to You, ‘Your face, Lord, do I seek.’ Hide not Your face from me.” (Psalm 27:8-9)

 

This was a passage that spoke to me out of the dryness I was experiencing at one spiritual exercises years ago. I had been struggling all weekend to connect with Christ, to no avail. Nothing seemed to be working, and as the end of the retreat drew nearer and nearer, I felt like I had wasted my time, not received any lights, and not succeeded in making the most of this silent retreat experience that only comes around for me once a year. On hearing this line from the psalms in the darkness of the chapel in the middle of the night, I closed my eyes and raised my face to God, allowing His gaze to simply fall on me. I left the retreat the next day with no resolutions, no answers to the questions I was discerning, nothing tangible to show for my weekend away, other than the utter transformation of having experienced the gaze of Christ, of having allowed myself to be truly seen.

 

This must be what St. John Vianney was referring to when he told this story:

 

“When I first came to Ars, there was a man who never passed the church without going in. In the morning on his way to work, and in the evening on his way home, he left his spade and pickaxe in the porch, and he spent a long time in adoration before the Blessed Sacrament. Oh, how I loved to see that! I asked him once what he said to Our Lord during the long visits he made to Him. Do you know what he told me? ‘Eh, Monsieur le Curé, I say nothing to Him; I look at Him and he looks at me!’”

 

Since that middle-of-the-night moment in the chapel when Christ invited me to gaze at Him, and to receive His loving gaze in return, I’ve tried to return to that simple yet powerful form of meditation described by the humble, holy man in St. John Vianney’s account: “I look at Him and he looks at me!” A way to do this in a concrete way is by praying the rosary through the gaze of Christ. 

 

As I pray each decade, I contemplate Christ in each mystery, and imagine myself receiving His (or His dear mother’s) loving gaze. This is sweet and lovely when I get to look into the eyes of the newborn Christ-child swaddled in His mother’s arms, but not quite so fun when I have to gaze into His eyes as He is scourged, or as He dies. But it’s always a powerful way to experience the mysteries of the rosary, particularly when I am seeking connection with Christ, and longing to be seen.

Praying the Rosary Through the Gaze of Christ Read More »

Come, Holy Spirit: A Simplified Version

Come, Holy Spirit: A Simplified Version

With the Feast of Pentecost fast approaching, the daily Gospel readings have been trending towards all things Spirit-related: Jesus has been consistently preparing his apostles not only for his Ascension, but also for the arrival of this mysterious Spirit to follow.

 

And the Holy Spirit is a bit of a mystery. Jesus we can picture (despite how inaccurate that image might be), and at least we have a basic understanding of the concept of a Father, since all of us have one, in some form or other. But comprehending the Spirit is tricky.

 

I understand how important it is to call upon the Holy Spirit – for comfort, for guidance, for renewal – because Jesus says so. He even goes so far as to say that the arrival of the Spirit will be even better than his own physical presence on earth:  “But I tell you the truth, it is better for you that I go. For if I do not go, the Advocate will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you.” (John 16: 7). I can only imagine the apostles’ confusion, and perhaps scepticism; after all, what could possibly be better than having the living Christ in their midst?

 

And so, despite the ethereal nature of the Holy Spirit, whom I cannot touch, or picture, or really even compare to any human relationship I might have, I try to remember to call upon his help. I frequently recite the Come, Holy Spirit prayer, particularly before I read the Gospel, or when I’m in a situation without a clear solution:

 

Come, Holy Spirit,

Fill the hearts of your faithful and kindle in them the fire of your love.

 

Send forth your Spirit and they shall be created, and you shall renew the face of the earth.

 

O God, by the light of the Holy Spirit, you have taught the hearts of your faithful. In the same Spirit, help us to know what is truly right and always rejoice in his consolation.

 

We ask this through Christ our Lord,

Amen.

 

But sometimes, if I’m tired or not being attentive or not in the mood, that prayer just starts to sound like a lot of words strung together in my head, without much meaning, and certainly without much intentionality in truly calling on the comforting guidance of the Holy Spirit. That’s when I go back, and re-pray, this time speaking only the verbs:

 

Holy Spirit:

Come.

Fill me.

Enkindle me.

Create in me.

Renew me.

Enlighten me.

Teach me.

Console me.

 

I don’t know if this helps me at all to comprehend the incomprehensible, or grasp the intangible, but breaking the prayer down into its simplest form does seem to help my human brain and my fumbling faith make a little more sense of the Mystery.

 

Holy Spirit, Come.

Come, Holy Spirit: A Simplified Version Read More »

What Would Mary Do: Maternal Advice for When You’re Obsessing

What Would Mary Do: Maternal Advice for When You’re Obsessing

Recently, I had a fairly negative encounter that terribly hurt my feelings (which, I’ll be the first to admit, are very fragile and easily injured), and I replayed the entire thing over and over in my head until I’d nearly driven myself crazy. How could they say that? How could they think that? How could they do that? Only after I had lost plenty of sleep and wasted way too much time obsessing about what had happened did I finally pause and seek Christ’s guidance. And He immediately pointed me to His mother and invited me to ask, what would she do? I knew immediately that whatever the answer was, it was probably pretty close to the exact opposite of what I had been doing, and exactly what I needed.

 

She’d respond with humility.

 

Mary was perfect, so she was never at fault, but I’m human enough to admit that I, on the other hand, am not perfect and, unfortunately, I make a ton of mistakes. And while I’m in the midst of madly spiralling over some perceived slight, or defending myself from what appear to be total falsehoods, it never hurts to take a step back and ask myself: is there any truth in this? Most times, if I’m humble enough to admit it, I can see how I may have played a role in the situation or misunderstanding – even in a small or unintentional way – and I can take simple steps to make things right, or at least better.

 

She wouldn’t try to fix things on her own.

 

When I’m in the middle of a negative situation, I always want to take control and make it all okay. Maybe if I send the perfectly worded text, or come up with the best comeback, or do just the right thing, I’ll make everything magically better, or at least bring about my own version of justice. But that wasn’t Mary’s way – she never relied on herself. At the wedding at Cana, she didn’t go off in search of more wine or attempt to take control; she knew that transformation was not within her power or control – for that, she always turned to her Son. “When we are powerless, let us be quiet and let God act,” says Father Jacques Philippe. The best way to fix things is to be still, pray, and let God do the work. (But be ready to run and fill a bunch of jugs with water if that’s what He asks.)

 

She’d surrender.

 

Surrendering to the will of God was Mary’s special gift, but to me, it doesn’t come so easily. When I’m especially upset, worried, or obsessing about something, it’s really hard to let it go, even in prayer. That’s when I pray a surrendering rosary, during which time I do not allow myself to think about the thing that’s been taking up all my mental bandwidth. As soon as I catch myself thinking about the concern or worrying situation, I simply wave the thought away, and return to my Hail Marys. It might happen a dozen times, or as many times as there are beads on a rosary, but it’s an intentional and active act of surrender, and calls me continually away from myself – and the thing that’s got me all worked up – and towards Christ in the mysteries.

What Would Mary Do: Maternal Advice for When You’re Obsessing Read More »

How to Overcome Pray-er’s Block

How to Overcome Pray-er’s Block

Daily prayer has been dry for me lately. Every day, I read my Gospel. Every day, I pray that the Holy Spirit will inspire and enlighten me. And every day, at least lately, I feel neither inspired nor enlightened. But also lately, I’ve been realizing that the important thing about praying every day is not the inspiration or enlightenment. The important thing is the every day.

 

While palpable divine enlightenment would really hit the spot right about now, there’s something to be said for showing up to the Gospel on a regular basis, whether you come away feeling enlightened or not. As a writer, I read a lot about writing, by people who do it consistently and well. One of my favorite authors on the subject is Julia Cameron, who’s made a career out of inspiring people to overcome obstacles – usually ones they’ve placed in their own path – and become the writers they want to be. A lot of her advice on how to overcome writer’s block (that dryness that takes away your ability to write) started sounding particularly adaptable to addressing what I’ve been experiencing recently in prayer (a dryness that convinces me it’s useless to pray). Here’s some of Cameron’s advice on writing, which I’ve adapted to apply to persevering in prayer (in most cases, I’ve just substituted the word “write” for “pray”):

 

Don’t wait until you feel like praying.

 

“One thing I know about [praying] is that you do not have to be in the mood to do it.”

 

If I prayed only when I was in the mood to do so, I’d end up going a long time between prayers. I have to just do it anyways, whether I feel like it or not. “It is a luxury to be in the mood to [pray],” says Cameron (of writing, of course). “It’s a blessing but it’s not a necessity.” She insists that writing, even excellent writing, can be done without the benefit of feeling inspired, and I suggest that praying can be done without the same benefit. “The sheer act of [praying] is the only antidote” to not feeling like praying. Just do it.

 

Listen more than you speak.

 

“When… I struggle to [pray], it is because I am trying to speak… rather than listen.”

Cameron insists that “writing is about getting something down, not about thinking something up.” I need to constantly remind myself that prayer is not an act of self-enlightenment; I am not required to think up something inspiring, entirely on my own, that will get me through the rest of the day. All that is required of me is that I be silent.

 

Use the time you’ve got.

 

“The trick to finding time [to pray] is to make time [to pray] in the life you’ve got.”

With a family of seven, alone time is hard to find (and pandemic-triggered school closures and work-from-home mandates certainly haven’t helped). “One of the biggest myths around writing is that in order to do it, we must have great swathes of uninterrupted time,” says Cameron, and this belief that I needed a decent chunk of uninterrupted time in order to pray well has, in the past, kept me from praying at all. “The myth that we must have ‘time’ – more time – in order to [pray] is a myth that keeps us from using the time we do have,” says Cameron. “If we are forever yearning for ‘more’, we are forever discounting what is offered.” Don’t wait for the time to be perfect in order to pray – instead, pray in the time you’ve got.

 

Be honest.

 

“Telling the truth… always takes you deeper.”

Cameron says that any time she’s stuck on a piece of writing, unable to move forward, she asks herself: “Am I failing to tell the truth? Is there something I am not saying, something I am afraid to say?” Prayer, like writing (according to Cameron), takes emotional courage – the courage to be honest with God, and say “I’m fearful” or “I’m disappointed” or “I’m not in the mood to pray today.” “It is almost impossible to be honest and boring at the same time,” says Cameron, so being brutally honest with God seems like a good way to inject some life into a prayer life that’s feeling dry and boring.

 

Pray regularly.

 

“[Praying], when we let ourselves do it, is like breathing. It doesn’t have to be fancy. It need only be regular and steady.”

I try not to be constantly dissatisfied with my prayer life, but when I’m not careful, I can feel disappointed. Disappointed that my prayer life these days doesn’t feel inspired, or transformative, or even halfway good. In fact, the only thing I can say about my prayer life right now is that it’s consistent. And that, I guess, is more than enough, for now.

 

Unfortunately, I know that none of these suggestions will transform my prayer life into the awe-inspiring, life-changing experience I’m craving these days. But that’s not my goal, or my responsibility, or even within my power. All I can do is just show up, and know that that’s enough.

 

All quotes come from The Right to Write: An Invitation and Initiation into the Writing Life, by Julia Cameron.

How to Overcome Pray-er’s Block Read More »

Hope for Control Freaks: Two Biblical Images to Help You Surrender in Prayer

Hope for Control Freaks: Two Biblical Images to Help You Surrender in Prayer

There are a lot of words I might use to describe my approach to prayer over the years. Sometimes I’ve been faithful and persevering. Sometimes I’ve been unfocused and fickle.

I’ve been sometimes devoted, often demanding, occasionally attentive, and frequently distracted. But in general, if I had to choose one word to describe my past attitude towards prayer, I would say it was purposeful.

 

Purposeful prayer does not initially sound like a bad thing. Purposeful prayer sounds persistent and decisive; it’s prayer that knows what it wants and strives to attain it. And this was precisely the problem. I was approaching God in prayer with both the problem and the solution, and reading the Gospel already knowing the message I wanted (and thought I needed) to hear. It was as though my prayer was simply me saying “Here’s the situation, God, and here’s how I think You should handle it”. Or “Don’t worry, God, I’ve got this. You just sit there and listen.”

 

The trick is: how do I approach prayer with less self-driven purpose, setting aside all my presumptions about what I think I need and what I think God wants to say to me, and instead come to prayer with an attitude of surrender? 

 

Because I’m a visual person, images often give me inspiration, provide something on which to center my thoughts, and help me to focus. Here are two images that I call to mind in order to help me surrender in prayer. If you’re someone who likes to be in control of everything, including your relationship with God, they might help you take first steps to letting go:

 

The Lifted Lamb

 

“For He is our God, and we are the people of His pasture, and the sheep of His hand. O that today you would hearken to His voice, harden not your hearts!” Psalm 95:7

 

One of my favourite images of surrender to God is the lost lamb. In the Gospel of Luke, Jesus tells us the parable of the shepherd who, having lost one of his sheep, will leave the ninety-nine to go after the one that is lost, until he finds it. “And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing.” 

 

The little lost sheep does nothing in this parable. He does not actively seek his shepherd; he is merely found. And when he is found, he does not even actively follow the shepherd on his own; he merely allows himself to be lifted up onto the shoulders of the shepherd, to be carried. The sheep does nothing but consent to be lifted up.

 

I realized that I was approaching prayer as the one doing all the seeking, all the leading, and, most importantly, all the talking. The first change I made in my prayer life was to be quiet. The image of the lost lamb – sought, found, and lifted up – helped me to approach prayer with an attitude of silence instead of speaking, of trusting God enough to know that I don’t have to scramble to make myself, my concerns, and my intentions known. In silence, I consent to stop leading, and instead allow myself to be found and lifted up by God.

 

The Melted Wax 

 

“Set me as a seal upon your heart, as a seal upon your arm.” Song of Songs 8:6

As I was reading The Interior Castle, St. Teresa of Avila provided me with another image with which to open my prayer: the melted seal. Teresa uses this metaphor to describe the ideal state of the soul in regard to God’s will: we are to be like wax when a seal is impressed upon it. The wax does not impress itself with the seal, she explains, but is merely soft. And the wax doesn’t even soften itself; “it merely remains quiet and consenting.” 

 

Imagining myself as wax, willing to be softened of my hardened habits, and prepared to be impressed with His seal is another helpful tool in learning to surrender myself in prayer, and ultimately to God’s will. “All You want is our will,” says St. Teresa, “and ask that Thy wax may offer no impediment.”

 

Instead of approaching prayer with a set of problems (and possible solutions from which God may choose!), I tried simply to soften myself to His will, and set aside my need to control both my life, and my prayer. While I’d love to come away from prayer each day feeling like all my problems will get solved if I follow a precise God-given, Spirit-inspired action plan, I’ve finally realized that that’s not the point. Prayer isn’t about gaining control of my day, my life, and my soul. It’s about surrendering that control to a God Who will do a much better job of it all anyways.

Hope for Control Freaks: Two Biblical Images to Help You Surrender in Prayer Read More »

Lenten Resolutions to Improve Your Relationship With Food

Lenten Resolutions to Improve Your Relationship With Food

“It’s complicated.”

 

That’s how I’d describe my relationship with food. And let’s face it: living in this body- and beauty-focused world can be tough on the old self-image. On any given day, you can probably find me wishing I were thinner or fitter, or wondering if I should be hopping on the newest fad diet. And it’s easy for me to only see food as “good” or “bad,” as something to control (or else be controlled by), instead of what it is truly meant to be: nourishment.

 

If you’re like me, and longing to re-establish a healthy and uncomplicated relationship with food, here are some things I’ll be trying this Lent. Choose one resolution from each category, and approach Lent as the season of healing that it is meant to be.

 

Fast…

…from mindless eating

 

Eat intentionally, by not doing anything else (like working, watching TV, or scrolling through your phone) while you eat. Don’t eat standing up; always set the table or place when you eat, even when you’re eating alone. Eat when you’re hungry, and not when you’re not, paying attention to your body’s cues that you’ve had enough.

 

…from needing to see “results

 

“Our progress has nothing to do with the body, which is the thing that matters least,” says St. Teresa of Avila. Focus on fidelity to your Lenten resolution, and not the physical fruits it might produce, by ditching the scale, and even tucking your full-length mirror away in the closet.

 

…from food that won’t give you the added benefit of weight loss

 

If you like the idea of traditional fasting from food, but fear you will focus more on the physical benefits of fasting than on the spiritual, fast from food items that won’t cause you to lost weight (like artificial sweeteners, salt and pepper, or ice in your drinks).

 

Pray…

…grace at every meal (and snack!)

 

Get in the custom of praying before every meal, even if it’s just a midday coffee or a small evening snack. Build the habit of gratitude for every bite.

 

…the Word of God daily

 

“Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4). Remember that your daily prayer is the greatest nourishment you will receive each day, and make extra time and effort to contemplate the Gospels this Lent.

 

…for virtue 

 

Instead of focusing on being thin, or even fit and healthy, which in itself does not necessarily make us more available to God’s love and mercy, concentrate on the virtues. Pray for detachment from the bad habits you might be clinging to, self-mastery over your passions, fortitude in the face of temptation, and temperance in all things.

Give…

 

…time, food, or money to the hungry

 

 Spend time this Lent around people who might not have the privilege of overeating, eating according to a specific diet, or being picky about what they eat by volunteering at a soup kitchen or donating to a food bank.

 

…a meal to someone in need

 

Once a week, deliver a meal to a person or a family in need, like an elderly neighbour who lives alone, or a family with a brand new baby.

 

…your time 

 

Make a point to meet someone for coffee, invite a family for brunch or supper, or have friends over for drinks once a week, acknowledging that food is meant to nurture relationships as much as it’s meant to nourish our bodies.

Lenten Resolutions to Improve Your Relationship With Food Read More »

Scroll to Top

Alex Kucera

Atlanta

Alex Kucera has lived in Atlanta, GA, for the last 46 years. He is one of 9 children, married to his wife Karmen, and has 3 girls, one grandson, and a granddaughter on the way. Alex joined Regnum Christi in 2007. Out of the gate, he joined the Helping Hands Medical Missions apostolate and is still participating today with the Ghana Friendship Mission.

In 2009, Alex was asked to be the Atlanta RC Renewal Coordinator for the Atlanta Locality to help the RC members with the RC renewal process. Alex became a Group Leader in 2012 for four of the Atlanta Men’s Section Teams and continues today. Running in parallel, in 2013, Alex became a Team Leader and shepherded a large team of good men.

Alex was honored to be the Atlanta Mission Coordinator between 2010 to 2022 (12 years), coordinating 5-8 Holy Week Mission teams across Georgia. He also created and coordinated missions at a parish in Athens, GA, for 9 years. Alex continues to coordinate Holy Week Missions, Advent Missions, and Monthly missions at Good Shepherd Catholic Church in Cumming, GA.

From 2016 to 2022, Alex also served as the Men’s Section Assistant in Atlanta. He loved working with the Men’s Section Director, the Legionaries, Consecrated, and Women’s Section leadership teams.

Alex is exceptionally grateful to the Legionaries, Consecrated, and many RC members who he’s journeyed shoulder to shoulder, growing his relationship with Christ and others along the way. He knows that there is only one way, that’s Christ’s Way, with others!