About that Confession Thing…

Here’s the information about our parish’s Penance services coming up.  It’s a great way to start Advent on the right foot and experience that squeaky clean feeling that comes with having gone to Confession!

 

Sunday, December 2nd:  Immediately following the 11am Mass at Immaculate Conception Church in Troy

Sunday, December 9th:  2 pm at St. Joseph Church in Hinsdale

Sunday, December 16th:  2 pm at St. Margaret Mary Church in Keene

 

If you need a ride with other students or young adults, let me know and we’ll set something up!  Or, if none of these times work for you, contact one of our friendly priests through the parish office and they’ll be happy to set up a time to meet at your convenience!  Call 352.3525 or email Martha at holyspirit.peace@gmail.com.

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Monday Musings: Lost and Found

Forgiveness is a funny thing.  It sounds pretty cut and dry, but in reality I think we all know there are several types.  You have the “forgive and forget” folks, and then you have the “forgive but never forget” faction who sweep past infractions under the rug only until it’s convenient to trot them out again for their benefit.  You have the “forgiveness is a feeling” people (who must either be the most charitable people in the world or who never really get around to actually forgiving anyone) and the “forgiveness is a choice” crowd who take heroic steps of reconciliation when faced with conflict resolution.

And then there’s something entirely different; then there’s God.

He’s in a class all His own, the “I forgave you before you even did it” club.  Jesus, being a fan of parables, told His followers about God’s forgiveness by telling them the story of arguably the world’s worst son.  This son up and decides one day that he’s done with this whole family farm thing, waltzes into his dad’s room and demands that he gets his inheritance–today.  That takes some nerve.  But wait, it gets better!  His father gives it to him, and then the son goes off and spends it all–not on practical stuff or making a good life for himself, but on what is discreetly referred to in the Bible as “wild living”.  (I’ll leave it to your imagination what that means.)  Well, eventually there’s a famine and the wild child is all out of money and rents himself out to a local feeding pigs.  He’s so hungry that he would eat the slop that he’s doling out to the swine but no one will give him any!  So he figures, “Hey, my dad treats his servants pretty well.  I’m not worth being called his son anymore, so I’ll go home and see if my father will hire me as a servant.”  And he does.

Can you imagine the long walk home?  The constant inner turmoil, how much that son must have beat himself up over and over again.  The speech he rehearsed in his head: “‘Dad, I’m really sorry.  Please, would you hire me as a servant?’  No, that’s not good enough….’Father, I humbly beg…’ No, that’s too formal.  Ah, what am I going to say to him?!?”  It was probably the longest walk he ever took.  But while he was still far off, his father saw him approaching:

 “His heart pounding, he ran out, embraced him and kissed him.  The son started his speech, ‘Father, I’ve sinned against God, I’ve sinned before you; I don’t deserve to be called your son ever again.’  But the father wasn’t listening.  He was calling out to the servants, ‘Quick!  Bring a clean set of clothes and dress him.  Put the family ring on his finger and sandals on his feet.  Then get a grain-fed heifer and roast it.  We’re going to feast!  We’re going to have a wonderful time!”

(Luke 15.20-23, The Message translation)

I’m pretty sure if this had happened in the modern day, the son would have thought, “Am I being Punked?” and looked for Ashton Kutcher to spring out of the nearest bush.

Now, there are a few things here that aren’t being said.  First off, it says that the father runs out to see his son…….which implies that he was looking for him.  It’s not like the son just showed up on the doorstep; the father saw him from a distance and then sprints out to receive him, not waiting for an explanation, not waiting for an apology, just thrilled to see his child alive and home no matter what the reason.  Which leads to my second point:  for all the father knew, his son was home to ask for more money.  But he doesn’t stop and grill him, he doesn’t make him beg forgiveness; he just rejoices.  Furthermore, the father doesn’t wait for the son to ask why he’s welcoming him home (probably because the son was stunned speechless, but I digress), he just proclaims his reasoning:

“For this son of mine was dead and is alive again;

he was lost and is found!”

Luke 15.24, NIV

 

That, dear friends, is how God feels about us.  He runs out while we’re still far away, heart pounding, and rejoices when we return!  And here’s the kicker (oh yes, there’s more!):

if, as Christians, we’re supposed to act like Christ,

and Christ is God,

and God forgives like this….

(wait for it, you know it’s coming!)

….then that means we’re supposed to forgive like this as well.

 

Ouch.

 

I mean, it’s all well and good when it’s God being the hero, but me?  You?  Us?  We’re supposed to just run out and forgive immediately?

 

Yup.

 

It’s almost Advent, and that means that if you haven’t been to Confession in awhile, it’s time to dust off your Act of Contrition and do a good ol’ examination of conscience.  Start over with God.  Approach Him from far off; He will run out to greet you and welcome you home with a feast.  Also consider the relationships in your own life.  Fix them.  Own up to your mistakes.  And forgive with Christ-like zeal.

 

Then go have ice cream or something to celebrate because I’m pretty sure we don’t have a lot of grain-fed heifers roaming around on campus.

 

 

Bishop Libasci’s Thanksgiving Message

THANKSGIVING MESSAGE OF BISHOP PETER A. LIBASCI

“Happy Thanksgiving!” Coming from the smallest of children, the words are spoken with excitement and punctuated by wide eyes and broad smiles. The children have learned at home and in school that there is something special about this particular Thursday in November.

Youngsters of school age will know all about the Pilgrims and the Native Americans who shared a harvest meal of thanksgiving. A new generation of children of so many different cultures will eagerly offer their greeting of “Happy Thanksgiving,” because they know that every year, on this particular Thursday in November, we celebrate the bounty of God’s goodness, shared with gratitude.

The Pilgrims didn’t know what their future would be in the new world. What they did know was that they wanted to be free to exercise their religious beliefs. They came to these shores a strange and different people – markedly different from the people already living here. Their own identity and their communal faith gave them strength; their mission gave them purpose. The Native Americans, by contrast, knew this land and its beauty. They knew how to coax the soil to yield up a plentiful harvest. One wonders what the Native American thought on seeing these strange newcomers arriving with their unfamiliar clothing and manner. What we know is that these native people were proud of what their culture had achieved and were proud, too, to show these new arrivals how to manage.

The story is familiar though its facts are often fuzzy, but as with all great epics, there is a universal truth that emerges – a paradigm of the human story. It is relived and must be relived until all can understand and appreciate its true meaning.

And so now, on this particular Thursday in November, we recall that first Thanksgiving meal when two seemingly opposite peoples came together in a harmony desired by The Great Spirit, a harmony inspired by God. Together they mirrored the very best of what each had sought. They had found the meaning of God and together they imprinted on the nation a lasting icon of gratitude.

“Happy Thanksgiving, everybody!”  And make sure there’s a drumstick for God.

Monday Musings: Call Me a Handmaid

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about Mary. You know, Jesus’ mom (not Magdalene, and not Martha’s sister….they really needed to start using last names in the Ancient Near East, seriously).   Maybe it’s because Christmas is coming up, maybe it’s because I’ve been wearing a lot of blue lately, maybe it’s because I’ve gotten more into praying the rosary as of late.  But no matter the cause, she’s been on my mind.

Growing up, I was never a huge Mary fan.  She was someone to trot out around Christmas and in times when you needed an example of a woman of great faith, but I never really connected with the term “Blessed Mother”.   Sure, she was Jesus’ mother, but not really mine…until I became a mother myself, at which point the jumping up and down in excitement quickly turned into dropping to my knees and begging her to ask her Son to keep me and my unborn child healthy.  Suddenly, Mary was my Blessed Mother too and ever since then I’ve felt a certain kinship with her.  The kind in which, if we were in similar social circles at school, we’d nod at each other upon passing in the hallway, maybe share a fist pump.

Mmmhmm, that’s right.  Mary and I are homies.

It’s probably a matter of the chicken and the egg–do I like praying the rosary because I feel pretty cool about Mary or do I feel pretty cool about Mary because I like praying the rosary?  The world may never know, but while praying it last night during a drive, I was struck by her words at the Annunciation:

“And Mary said,

Yes, I see it all now:

 I’m the Lord’s maid, ready to serve.

Let it be with me
just as you say.

Then the angel left her.”

Luke 1:38, The Message translation

I love this translation purely because of the humor of how Gabriel breaks the news earlier in the chapter: “God has a surprise for you!”  I’m sure many things ran through Mary’s mind–Joseph is secretly rich!  I have a long lost sister!  Free goat cheese for a year!–but I’m pretty sure “I’m going to have a scandalous pregnancy and a child out of wedlock!” wasn’t on the top of her list.  And that makes her response so very, very meaningful:  “Yes, I see it all now.  I am the Lord’s maid, ready to serve.  Let it be with me just as you say.”

Let’s get this straight:  Gabriel didn’t just tell her that she had a simple task to do.  He didn’t announce that she had to write a report on following God or say a special prayer or walk around a city seven times blowing a shofar.  Those things would have been easy in comparison.  He told her that she was going to radically give up her body to the miraculous child growing within it, to deal with cravings and exhaustion, with back pain and swollen ankles, with the inability to see her feet for months on end, with what for all she knew was going to be an excruciating labor that she could very well die in, all while dealing with the emotional upheaval that an unplanned, out of marriage pregnancy would bring.

He was telling her that her entire life was about to explode.

And she’s cool with that?!?!???!!!?!?!?

No wonder we call her Blessed.

You see, while I was praying the rosary last night, I realized in that deep, authentic way–not in the way that you read something and promptly forget it, but in the way that it changes your life once you realize this thing–that Mary’s response is recorded so that we can all say the same thing when God asks us to believe the impossible and radically dedicate ourselves to it.  He laid out what looked like an incredibly raw deal, and she said “Okay!” out of complete trust and obedience.  Would that I would be that obedient; what kinds of things could God achieve through me?!  What kinds of things could God achieve through you if you accepted His call to the impossible?!  Maybe it’s not as radical sounding as “You’re going to have a miraculous virgin birth”, maybe it’s something seemingly more simple:

“Go take this job you’re not sure of.”

“Serve Me in this specific way.”

“Reconnect with that old friend you hurt.”

“Step out of your comfort zone and into this ministry.”

“Forgive him for the way he hurt you; let My love shine through you.”

“Change your major.”

These  might not seem like huge, life altering commands in comparison, but they are.  Because you’ll be doing God’s work when you say “Yes, I will.”   Just like Mary did.  So from now on, just call me a handmaid; I’ll be responding to God’s most ridiculous sounding requests with obedience.  Cause it worked pretty well for my homegirl there.

 

It’s Homelessness and Hunger Awareness Week….Are You Aware?

While I’m looking forward to green bean casserole and searching for the perfect gluten-free crescent roll for Thanksgiving next week, there are many–far too many–in our community who are just hoping to have something, anything to eat every day or a warm place to sleep.  It’s Homelessness and Hunger Awareness Week….and are you aware of just how major a problem this is?  Here are a few statistics for you just about youth homelessness alone:

  • Family crisis is the absolute most prevalent reason homeless youth cite for being homeless
  • 20-40% of homeless youth experienced sexual abuse in their former homes, as opposed to 1-3% of the rest of the population
  • 40-60% of homeless youth have experienced physical violence in their homes before living on the streets
  • Up to 40% of homeless youth identify as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgendered, Queer or Questioning
  • 28% of homeless youth on the street report trading sexual favors to receive a basic need–food, clothing or shelter

My brothers and sisters, how do we let this happen?  We should be outraged!  We should be sorrowful!  We should be doing something.  Jesus told His followers that whatever acts of mercy and charity we give to a brother or sister in need, we do for Him (Matthew 25.40).  Let’s see Christ in the needy and join together to help.  There are a couple opportunities coming up at the Newman Center to do this, and more possibly to come.

Donate!

Join us this weekend as we collect items for a Thanksgiving basket to donate to the Keene State College Annual Thanksgiving Basket Drive.  Baskets will be collected at the Student Center on November 20th (join us in the Newman Center Common Room that morning to put it together and carry it over!) and given to hungry families in the area.

 

Things We Need for the Basket:

1   Jar of pickles

1   Jar of green or black olives

1   Bag of celery (keep cool to avoid wilting or include in gift certificate)

1   Bag of carrots (keep cool to avoid wilting or include in gift certificate)

1   Box of crackers/non-perishable dip

1   Box/Bag raisins

1   Gift Card – $15-$20 – to buy a turkey

1   Box/bag of stuffing mix *(note: some bags require additional items like seasoning or celery, etc.)

1   5lb bag of potatoes

2   Lbs of winter squash, turnip, or sweet potato

2   Cans green vegetables

1   Can of cranberry sauce

2   Bottles/cans of juice (cranberry, apple juice, tomato)

1   Bread item (brown ‘n serve rolls, hot roll mix, loaf of bread, etc.)

2   Jars/cans Gravy

Small white onions

1   Box of pie crust mix

1   16 oz can of pie filling: pumpkin, apple, cherry, blueberry

1-2  Cake mixes, fruit bread mixes, etc.

 

If you have canned goods that aren’t on this list, that’s okay!  Bring them along too and we’ll donate them to the St. Vincent dePaul Food Pantry!  You can also drop donations in the box outside the Newman Center Office.

Pray!

Second, you can join us in praying for the homeless and hungry.  This might not sound like much, but Scripture says that faith the size of a mustard seed (read: really, really small!) can move a mountain (really, really big!).  So what if you have faith the size of a flower seed?  Or an orange?  Or a basketball?  Lift up our needy brothers and sisters in prayer, and God will use you to enact justice, I promise you that.  Please join me in praying the following:

Sharing the loaves and fishes,
You gave us an image of solidarity with the hungry, O Lord.

Sharing yourself in the Bread and Wine,
You called all to the table, O Lord.

Give me the hunger to be a part of the feeding
And the healing of this world.

Nourish me with your Grace,
So I may work with joy to serve your children.

Open my eyes and my heart
To recognize those in poverty
And increase my awareness
Of the structures and systems
That need to be changed
So we may all break bread together.

In your name we pray for the end of hunger.
Amen.

Be blessed, and go be Christ to others.

Monday Musings: 10 Christian Cliches

“It’s okay, everything happens for a reason”

….did your blood pressure just rise and your eyes roll immediately?

Good, me too.

 

I HATE this phrase and, unfortunately, it has a firm spot in the Greatest Hits section of the Christian lexicon.  Seriously?  Everything happens for a reason?  Rape happens for a reason?  Spouses are unfaithful for a reason?  Children die for a reason?  Give me a break.  This has long been a pet peeve of mine, and so I was tickled pink to find this article by Christian Piatt on 10 Christian Clichés that need to be removed from our vocabulary immediately.  It includes such gems as “He/she is in a better place” and one of Piatt’s sequel articles (you can find them all here) includes my personal favorite: “Are you Catholic or are you Christian?”

 

Don’t. get. me. started.

 

So, have a gander (with an open mind and a sense of humor, please) and next time you’re tempted to throw one of these bad boys out, just think:  “What would Jesus do?”  (teehee)

Monday Musings: Announcing our March 2013 Mission Trip!

Do me a solid.  Click on the “Newman Center Theme 2012-2013” link above.  I’ll wait for you to come back, go ahead.

Okay, got it?  Good.

Before I started here at the Newman Center, I prayed about finding a direction in which to lead the Newman Center and its young adults this year, and this verse came to mind.  So many times, when we think about Christianity we think about words, and I don’t mean the idea of Christ as logos.  We think about sidewalk preachers telling people they’re going to Hell, and hypocrites whose words don’t begin to match their actions.  We think about awkward conversations with people who have no idea what they’re saying and that terrible feeling of inadequacy we sometimes get when people ask us about our faith and we can’t explain it well enough.  Words.  But what about actions?  What about living as Christ-like as possible, about loving the marginalized and the unwanted, about speaking the truth and love of God, about being the salt and light of the earth?  That’s what we’re focusing on this year at the Newman Center.  As St. Francis said, “Always preach the Gospel.  If necessary, use words.”

I’ve tried to put several programs into place this year that encourage the young adults of Keene to put their faith into action in a way that makes our actions inform the words we use.  We have Small Groups, ministry opportunities, liturgical ministry and service opportunities.  Maybe if we’re acting out our faith, that will spurn contemplation, and that contemplation will spurn better words when we need to use them, and those words will bring the love of Christ to all we encounter.  Today, I’m announcing another very huge opportunity to act out our faith:

This upcoming March, the Newman Center will be sending a group of short-term missionaries to act as Christ to the needy at the Damien House in Guyaquil, Ecuador.  

The Damien House is named after St. Damien of Molokai, the priest who ministered to the lepers of Hawaii and who ultimately contracted the disease himself.  Today, this ancient disease is called Hansen’s Disease and is completely treatable.  Many lepers are still marginalized from society, however, and it is these children of God that are served at the Damien House.  Here are the details of our trip:

Who: YOU!  Any young adult in the greater Keene area is welcome to join in our mission!

When:  March 9-16.  This coincides with Spring Break for both Keene State College and Antioch University.

Where: We will be traveling to Guyaquil, Ecuador to the Damien House, a residential hospital for over 60 Hansen’s patients that also treats a roster of around 700 outpatients. Quality medical care is provided seven days a week, twenty-four hours a day. With the help of donations to the US-based Damien House organization, the staff is also able to provide patients with dental care, physical therapy, sanitary services, medication, and three well-balanced hot meals every day.  Additionally, Damien House has a community outreach program that helps those who have been treated and cured to secure a home, find work, and participate in community activities so that they may return to living full lives.

The work of Damien House extends far beyond the hospital’s walls. The staff makes regular visits within Guayaquil and
in remote villages, providing public education about the cause and curability of Hansen’s Disease and spreading optimism for its eventual elimination.

For more information on this ministry, check out their website.

Why:  To be salt and light to these beloved children of God, to encourage Sister Annie in her ministry, and to deepen our individual faith through action.

Duties:  Missionaries will be fulfilling any and all help that workers at the Damien House require, as well as ministering to the patients through love and fellowship.  I know this description is incredibly vague, but that is the nature of mission work in general, and South American mission work in particular; South American culture is relationship-based and can therefore seem unstructured to our productivity-focused North American minds.

Cost: $1175.00/person (not including vaccinations or passport fees).  DON’T WORRY, WE’LL BE DOING FUND RAISING!!!!!  I’ve done quite a bit of missionary fund raising in my day and I promise you that we will work together as a group and I will work with each individual to make sure that the cost is minimal for each person.  If you feel that God is leading you to participate in this trip, He will provide a way to make it happen!   Speak to me before counting yourself out for financial reasons!

Additional Information:  Participants will receive pre- and post-trip training through the Newman Center and will be responsible for securing all necessary documents (including a U.S. passport, although a Visa is not necessary).  The Newman Center will help participants in each aspect of preparation, so never fear!  Since we will be traveling during the wet season, the following vaccinations are mandatory:  Hepatitis A and B, Malaria, Yellow Fever, Typhoid, MMR (Measles, Mumps and Rubella), dTap, and Tetanus.  Many of these are already required for Americans and the Newman Center will provide each participant with vaccination information and resources.

Deadline to Apply: November 28th.  Click here to fill out an application.  Please note that the application process is a tool to determine if each participant is physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually ready to undertake a mission trip and make sure that we have good team dynamics.  Filling out an application does NOT mean you are committing to going on the trip, it just means that you’d like to be considered!

Please prayerfully consider joining us in this mission!  If you have any questions, please contact Campus Minister Cindy Cheshire at ksc.newman.ctr@gmail.com or by dropping by the Newman Center Office!

It’s Election Season…..for the 2012-2013 Newman Center T-Shirt!

It’s that time of the year again.  Time for stump speeches, super-PACs and nonstop political ads.  We here at the Newman Center have decided to get in on the action……only in a way more fun manner.  Come one, come all and do your civic duty as participants in the Newman Center ministry by voting for your favorite t-shirt below!  Your vote counts, and not voting is really just voting for not getting an awesome t-shirt, which is sad.  So vote.  Preferably by November 9th, which is when I’ll be placing the order!

All t-shirts can and probably will be customized with a quote or saying on the back.  Vote for that in the poll too!

Option 1:  “I’ve spent decades at the Newman Center”  

Catholic humor at its best here, folks.

Option 2:  Newman Center Label

Discreet, yet it sends the message

Option 3:  Monadnock Tribute

Cause don’t we all just love that mountain?

Option 4: Salt and Light

A clever take on our 2012-2013 theme

Your vote counts!  Vote today and look super cool tomorrow

(or, in approximately 10-14 business days, thanks CustomInk.com!)