by Jerry Koncel, Friend of IVC
Although I am not an IVC volunteer, I am a graduate of St. Ignatius H.S. (Chicago), Loyola University Chicago, the University of Detroit, taught three years at St. Xavier H.S. (Cincinnati), and spent 11 years in the Jesuits studying to become a priest. My best friends are ex-Jesuits, and I cherish my 11 years in the Jesuits.
With this background, my story is about being the lead facilitator for the Baptism Preparation meeting at a nearby. I have been in this ministry for nearly 15 years, enjoy it because it keeps me in contact with the new members of the parish, strengthens my faith, and sometimes just totally amazes me. This is one of those last encounters.
We meet on the last Tuesday of every month, bringing information about Baptism to parents who are having their children baptized within the upcoming months, and asking the parents to discuss and articulate their faith beliefs. We typically have 4-7 sets of parents at that meeting, and on this particular Tuesday, we had six.
I begin our meetings by thanking the parents for taking time out of their busy schedules to attend this meeting and that I want to share with them something we all have in common that is not connected to our faith. “We are all busy,” I tell them. “We live in a world of busy-ness, where we have phones to answer, texts to answer, places to go, people to see, and this is just the world in which we live.” I then tell them that in this world of busyness, we don’t do one thing that is so important to our spiritual lives–we don’t take time to pray. “So, if you would just give me a minute of your time to be quiet, to ditch the noise and hyperactive world in which we live, and just take time to pray, to listen to God, to find Him in all things.” Is this not the Ignatian motto of Contemplation in Action? of Finding God in all things?
The group then watches a 10-minute video on the theology of Baptism before we get into a discussion. We actually ask them to discuss these two questions: Why are you having your child baptized at Hubert Parish and what, if anything” can the parish community do to help you? The second question is: Who are (or were) the one or two people whose Catholic faith meant a lot to you and whose example produced lessons that you share with the newly baptized?
We then go around asking the parents to respond, but before they do, I want them to know that this is not a quiz, just a way of getting them to articulate their faith beliefs that in the hearts and minds. Please remember that there is nothing rehearsed about this discussion. It is spontaneous, and on this night, it amazed me.
In responding to question one, the young lady blurted out that she was from North Carolina, that her husband was in the military and would be going to Afghanistan. When I asked her why she was here at the parish, she replied, “There aren’t many Catholic churches near the base, and I wanted to go back to my parents, to the church and school that have meant so much to me,” She continued, “My parents have belonged to this parish for 35 years and if it weren’t for them, I wouldn’t have our baby baptized here.” Wow, what a powerful statement.
But wait, there’s more. When I asked a couple why they were having their child baptized, the wife said, “I am thanking God for a miracle and hoping that my child will have the strength to live a healthy life.”
I followed up by asking, “So, what’s the miracle?”
She replied, “My husband and I have been wanting to have a child since we were married, but the doctors told us we couldn’t have one. We continued to try and after five years, we succeeded.” The doctor told her that this would be a difficult pregnancy, so she prayed to the Virgin Mary to help make it through this difficult time.
“The baby was born three months ago,” she continued, ” and we are extremely grateful. Without God’s help, without Mary’s help, we don’t think this wonderful child would be ours.” I can’t believe she actually said this to a group that that was unknown to her. I would add that I was amazed and that such interactions do not occur every time the Baptism preparation meeting takes place.
So, when you are least expecting God to reveal himself to you, he does in mysterious ways. I don’t know if the mother from North Carolina ever went home feeling strengthened in her faith, but I did. I’d say the same thing about the mother who shared her story. You never know when God speaks to you, so be open to his callings for He speaks to us in mysterious ways!
by Rich Pozdol, IVC alumnus
As we celebrated the most incredible birth in the history of the world during the Christmas season, I reflected back to this past summer. It was a quiet, warm afternoon when I decided to visit the Lake County, Indiana County Fair. I had not been for a number of years, and I always enjoyed the experience.
One of the things I always checked out was the produce pavilion. I wanted to see the champion squash for the year. It weighed in at 922 lbs. I know how hard it is to grow a decent-sized tomato. How do you get something to grow that large?
Another thing I always enjoyed was visiting the cow barn. As I stood admiring the champion cow, a young girl of 15 or 16 years of age gushed out loud, “Isn’t she beautiful!” I had to agree. I had not thought of cows as especially beautiful, but this particular cow was a beautiful specimen. As we admired the cow, I noticed a small crowd gathered at the other end of the barn and walked over to see what was going on. I asked someone what was happening and was told that a cow was about to give birth. I had never seen a calf being born, so I decided to stay and watch.
What I immediately noticed was how gentle the vet, his young son, and another assistant were to the cow. They petted the cow as she struggled to deliver. “Good girl”, “you can do it”, “everything is going to be fine.” I doubt that the cow understood, but the soothing words seemed to calm her. The water bag was protruding but had not yet broken. The vet told us that over 90% of cows delivered on their own, but he was there if she needed help. He said he was going to wait another half hour before he intervened. The half hour passed with no action. He then manually broke the water bag. A young woman standing next to me said, “now we’ll see some action.” “How so?” I asked. “Oh, I know. I have assisted dozens of cows deliver their babies,” she responded. I thought to myself, “I am truly a city boy. At my advanced age, this is my first birth of a calf.”
Still no action. Finally, the vet asked his son to bring some chains. The calf’s nose was now protruding, along with the front legs…just enough to attach the chains. The best and his son gently pulled. After several minutes, the calf was out. A new life had entered the world, reaffirming in my mind the existence of God.
Within minutes, the newborn was struggling to its feet. The mother was up and licking her newborn. The vet said that the cow would be a good mother and that everything looked fine. The vet then started to sprinkle salt from a Morton’s salt box on the baby calf. He explained that he did this in order to make the cow thirsty so that she would drink more water. She was dehydrated after the birth, and he wanted to make sure she was quickly rehydrated.
Birth is such an amazing thing. The joy radiating from the small crowd of parents and children was palpable.
“Pied Beauty” (1877)
Glory be to God for dappled things—
For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow;
For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim;
Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches’ wings;
Landscape plotted and pieced—fold, fallow, and plough;
And áll trádes, their gear and tackle and trim.
All things counter, original, spare, strange;
Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?)
With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim;
He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change: Praise Him.
-Gerard Manley Hopkins, SJ
The Practice of Ritual
by Mark Avery, IVC Volunteer
The practice of ritual has been of assistance to me through life and relationship transitions.
For hundreds of years, ritual has not only helped us make sense of the world and where we fit into it, but has expanded our awareness and connected us to the great mystery of life. The very word “ritual”, means to “fit together.” Every ritual conveys an act in which we literally join the metaphysical with the physical. It is a means of calling spirit into our material lives.
We all long to a time when the lighting of candles signified a real desire to illuminate – to bring virtue, healing, and deeper meaning into our lives and our homes. We hunger for both community and communion,the feelings found in the conscious practice of rituals. Let us consider bringing back their ancient power, translated for our modern times.
- Ritual is one of the greatest spiritual technologies of the 21st century
- Rituals anchor us and give us a sense of belonging to something greater than ourselves
- Rituals have great influence over our minds
Here are four rituals that can bring you energy and meaning in the New Year:
Review the year. Acknowledge accomplishments, see where you parted from your mission, evaluate what worked and what didn’t. What needs to be changed? Any new opportunities come to light? What did you learn? What challenged you? How did you grow stronger?
Out with the old. Clear out the old things that clutter up your life. If you get something new, give something away.
Welcome good luck and prosperity. Think of the qualities that you want to bring into your life in 2020. Perhaps joy, clarity, good health, a peaceful heart. Identify an item(s) in your home that represents your qualities and keep them in your mindfulness for 48 hours. And, if appropriate, then consider giving the items away to a charity or someone who could use them.
Focus on the first 12 days. Wise women and men have taught that the first 12 days of the year represent the entire year. (January 1 for January, January 2 for February, etc.) By practicing loving kindness, openness, and generosity while giving thoughtful attention to the significance of each of these 12 days, you will consecrate and revere the entire coming year!
HAPPY NEW YEAR!
ABUNDANT AND CHOICE BLESSINGS TO YOU AND YOUR FAMILY!
See the archives for more reflections.