I read the following joke recently:
"One Sunday a minister preached about shepherds. He explained that sheep need lots of guidance, and that a shepherd's job is to stay close to the sheep, protect them from wild animals, and keep them from wandering off. He said that the people of the church were God's sheep. Then he asked, "If you are the sheep, who is the shepherd?" (He was pretty obviously indicating himself.)
After a few seconds, a young boy piped up: "Jesus! Jesus is the shepherd."
The minister, caught by surprise, asked, "Well, then, who am I?"
The boy frowned thoughtfully. "I guess you must be a sheep dog." "
Cute story, right?
But it was also a strong reminder to me to remember that I am NOT "the" shepherd....
I am a sheep dog...
and when I start to think that I am the leader,
then trouble follows....
Sure, I need to put in the effort and might be called to help with any of those roles
but my ego cannot take the lead.
I cannot think that I do these things for my own glory (accolades, awards, titles, etc.)
But it must be my willingness to show Christ to others,
the share Church with others,
to be one-with-Christ as I serve others.
As the Gospel of John reports that John the Baptist said:
He must increase; I must decrease.” (John 3:30)
In Galatians, chapter 2 verse 20, we read:
"I live, no longer I, but Christ lives in me; insofar as I now live in the flesh,
I live by faith in the Son of God who has loved me and given himself up for me."
Dear Lord, please help me lessen my own ego,
to allow more and more room for your love to fill my heart so that
it spills out to all those around me...
and I can help others see the love you have for them as well.
Help me to help you "round up your sheep"
and keep them safe in your loving protection and guidance.
Help me to be one of you sheepdogs!
A joke goes:
The minister's little six-year-old girl had been so naughty during the week that her mother decided to give her the worst kind of punishment. She told her she couldn't go to the Sunday School Picnic on Saturday.
When the day came, her mother felt she had been too harsh and changed her mind. When she told the little girl she could go to the picnic, the child's reaction was one of gloom and unhappiness.
"What's the matter?
I thought you'd be glad to go to the picnic," her mother said.
"It's too late! the little girl said.
"I've already prayed for rain."
This jokes carries a few lessons it seems,
#1 - Patience...
In Youth Ministry circles, it is often taught that God
responds for our prayers FOR things with 3 results:
1. No... that request is not good for you in my plan,
so I will not give that to you/allow it/etc.
God may have something MUCH better planned for you!
2. Yes... that is a worthy request and I will honor it.
3. Yes, but not yet... either you or others involved are not yet ready,
or it is not the appointed time, so please be patient.
We are told that "patience is a virtue"
and that it is a fruit of the Holy Spirit.
In the case of this joke, the girl was not patient,
and may have had a negative impact on her day.
So, what a good reminder to stay patient!
#2 -- be careful what you pray for...
Have you ever wanted others to suffer if they caused you to suffer?
Of course, it is a basic human reaction.
Making requests out of hurt, anger, retaliation, revenge,
or anything other than love will not be
the way to imitate Christ.
God wants good things for each and every one of us.
So, enjoy the laugh, but also work on patience and
wishing loving things for others as well as yourself!
Have a blessed day!
How Christian do you think your town/city/community is?
Many news stories in the past several years have addressed the "Rise of the Nones" as they say, that is the growing number of people that indicate in surveys or interviews that their religious affiliation is NONE (as opposed to Roman Catholic, Protestant, Jewish, etc.) For decades, there have been concerns about atheists and agnostics. How many times have you seen such articles or new stories?
And, when you have seen those articles, how many times have you thought, "Oh, that is too bad, but I am glad that isn't around here?"
Not to be a Debbie-Downer, but yesterday (June 5th) Barna Research shared information entitled: The Most Post-Christian Cities in America: 2019
The good news:
Communities in the Diocese of Youngstown did were NOT listed in the Top Ten.
The bad news:
Youngstown-Warren came in at #63, and
Cleveland-Akron-Canton came in at #67.
As for other cities around us in the Top One Hundred List, we have:
28. Detroit, MI
35. Toledo, OH
36. Pittsburgh, PA
59. Columbus, OH
70. Dayton, OH
71. Cincinnati, OH
Keep in mind that this is surveying all people, of all backgrounds,
not Roman Catholic specifically, but this is the like the air we breathe,
it is all around us, and does include Catholics.
The factors considered were:
To qualify as “post-Christian,” individuals had to meet nine or more of the following factors.
Highly post-Christian” individuals meet 13 or more of the factors (out of these 16 criteria).
How would you rate using this list?
Parents, how might you address some of these with your family?
I see great possibilities in:
reading the Bible together,
sharing stories of the importance of your faith/God/prayer/Church participation,
and how Jesus is part of your daily life!
College students and young adults with roommates, many of the suggestions for parents above can easily be done with your dorm-mates or roommates and groups of friends.
Side note: in the Catholic tradition, we don't usually say we are "Born Again,"
however, we were at our Baptism...
we continue to each time we say Amen and receive Communion,
and we do every morning that we dedicate our day to God.
"Sunday school" and "Small groups" may not be terms you are used to either.
But are you involved with continuing education sessions,
participate in your parish mission,
go to speaker sessions,
take Catechist Certification courses (including the Youth Ministry Online Trainings),
go to Bible studies,
take part in Ladies Guild, Knights of Columbus, Women's Group, Men's Fellowship,
or participate in Faith Formation programs?
Then, there you go!
Do not let this study get your depressed,
instead, use it as an incentive to find ways to more obviously live your faith.
Remember that old song, "They will know we are Christians by our love"?
Share God's love by doing acts of love every day.
Then, next time Barna does this research, maybe Youngstown, Warren, Canton
and the rest of the diocese will be lower on the list
as we promote Christian living
in our schools,
places or work,
areas of service,
and everywhere we go!
To read the Barna article references, please visit:
To read more about the "nones" from Pew Research, visit:
Recall the words of St. Teresa of Avila:
Christ has no body but yours,
No hands, no feet on earth but yours,
Yours are the eyes with which he looks
Compassion on this world,
Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good,
Yours are the hands, with which he blesses all the world.
Yours are the hands, yours are the feet,
Yours are the eyes, you are his body.
Christ has no body now but yours,
No hands, no feet on earth but yours,
Yours are the eyes with which he looks
compassion on this world.
Christ has no body now on earth but yours.
Ahhhh, as Memorial Day weekend nears,
I can hear the sighs of relief from many
parish ministers, teachers, and families
as another school year concludes.
Another sprint through the winter and spring
are almost complete, and we are celebrating:
longer and warmer days....
graduations from everything from pre-schools through advanced college degrees...
Sacramental Celebrations, especially Confirmations and First Holy Communions...
perhaps Weddings and vacations as well....
"end of the year" retreats, parties and field trips...
the closing of the 75th Anniversary of the Diocese...
In any event, there seems no lack of JOY at this time of the year!
WHAT BRINGS YOU JOY?
Really, take a moment to reflect on the question....
sure, jot down the first things that come to your mind,
but then consider if they bring laughter, satisfaction, warm-fuzzies,
or true joy?
Dig deeper.... what truly fills your heart with joy?
Beginning this Friday and running throughout the summer,
the OY&YAM Facebook page/Twitter feed will have posts
from the 2019 Eagle of the Cross Recipients on what brings them joy.
Perhaps, as no surprise, the most repeated answer involved family and friends.
However, service and helping others ran a close second!
Thank you, Coordinators for Youth Ministries for making opportunities
for service and mission work possible as to help bring joy to those serving
as well as those being served.
My point of posting these insights is to help prompt thoughts of joy in all
who will read them... and hope the readers will then share joy to those around them.
Here is the full list, in no particular order (just as I typed them flipping through the
Eagle of the Cross response forms). Possibly, the list will bring you some joy,
and help you tap into the deep joy in your heart,
so that we can continue to be "an Easter people" claiming "Alleluia is our song"
as St. John Paul II said, long after this Easter season has ended.
And as Pope Francis reminds us, "If we live the faith in our daily life,
then our work too becomes a chance to spread the joy of being a Christian."
Please, keep spreading joy in your daily life of faith!
2019 Eagle of the Cross Recipients Joys:
Last week, I had the honor or representing our diocese at the Annual Membership Meeting of the National Federation for Catholic Youth Ministry. This is nothing new as I have done so since I became the Director of the OY&YAM, as did the previous directors. What was new and exciting this year though was having Archbishop Christophe Pierre, who serves as the Apostolic Nuncio to the United States (i.e. like the Vatican Ambassador.)
He kindly took time to thank all of us that work with young people in America.
He shared the excitement he had during the October Synod of Bishops on the theme of "Young People, the Faith and Vocational Discernment" as well as the recent World Youth Day events in Panama.
He encouraged us all to reflect on the well known Emmaus story,
focusing on "recognizing, interpreting and choosing" especially as we journey with young people discerning God's call for their lives.
We must continue to bear witness to the Good News.
We must take time to listen to and really hear young people.
And to help them hear the voice of God.
And to encourage the young people to choose to engage in a personal relationship with God,
while walking with our faith community.
Archbishop Pierre promised to communicate our best wishes as youth workers on the USA back to Pope Francis, along with our prayers. May the Holy Spirit continue to bless us all as the follow up work of the Synod continues through our relationships, witness, listening and accompanying of the young people!
A group of alumni, highly established in their careers, got together to visit their old university professor. The conversation soon turned into complaints about stress in work and life.
Offering his guests coffee,
the professor went to the kitchen
and returned with a large pot of coffee
and an assortment of cups - porcelain, plastic, glass, crystal,
some plain-looking, some expensive, and some exquisite -
elling them to help themselves to the coffee.
After all the students had a cup of coffee in hand, the professor said:
"If you noticed,
all the nice-looking, expensive cups were taken up,
leaving behind the plain and cheap ones.
While it is but normal for you to want only the best for yourselves,
that is the source of your problems and stress.
"Be assured that the cup itself adds no quality to the coffee.
In most cases, it's just more expensive
and in some cases even hides what we drink.
What all of you really wanted was coffee, not the cup,
but you consciously went for the best cups...
and then began eyeing each other's cups.
"Now consider this:
Life is the coffee,
and the jobs, money and position in society are the cups.
They are just tools to hold and contain life,
and the type of cup we have does not define
nor change the quality of life we live.
Sometimes, by concentrating only on the cup,
we fail to enjoy the coffee God has provided us."
God brews the coffee, not the cups . . .
enjoy your coffee.
I attended Catholic school from mid-first grade through my freshmen year of high school
(St. Joseph in Cuyahoga Falls and St. Vincent-St. Mary in Akron).
I cannot recall in which year
we had to memorize the Memorare, but I know that it was in grade school and
to this day, when someone begins the prayer,
my mind automatically continues on as the words are etched in my mind (perhaps even my heart, as that makes for a better prayer.)
While memorization is difficult for many (at least for me),
I do have to admit that it is nice to have some things ready to recite
at a moments notice! I have been able to pray the Memorare
(and MANY other prayers) in times of stress, anxiety, uncertainty
and even boredom.
Of course, as with many things in life, I will admit that I did not understand the prayer when I memorized it. Besides not knowing what implored or incarnate meant, as a child, I was fortunate to now have much need to "Fly" to her. However, as I lived a few more years,
I experienced more need for a feeling of protection,
I now wish that I'd had an opportunity to re-learn the prayer as a teen, with focus on a deeper understanding of what we were praying.,
Of remembering the need for God in my life,
and the gift of having Mary to pray with and for me to her Son.
Truly understanding that she will not give up on her children,
and will help us really can boost our "confidence" of faith!
With October being a month dedicated to Mary,
what is YOUR favorite Marian prayer?
(You can list it in the Comments section below.)
Seek ways to break this prayer open with the
teens and/or young adults with whom you serve.
Dig for that deeper understanding of memorized prayers
(and maybe even learn a new one!)
While you consider this,
why not pray the Memorare with me?
Remember, O most gracious Virgin Mary,
that never was it known
that anyone who fled to your protection,
implored your help,
and sought your intercession,
was left unaided.
Inspired with this confidence,
I fly to you,
O Virgin of virgins, my Mother,
to you I come,
before you I stand sinful and sorrowful.
O Mother of the Word Incarnate!
Despise not my petitions,
but, in your mercy, hear and answer me.
On Saturday, July 1
in the Hyatt Regency Orlando,
a couple thousand Catholics gathered for
an Evening Marian Devotion
focused around Mary, Mother of Evangelization
as part of the Convocation of Catholic Leaders
organized by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.
Allow me to pause to say that despite my birthday falling on a Marian feast
(Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary on August 15),
and my name including a Marian-variation (Marie),
I have not found myself to have a strong Marian devotion.
Not that I have anything against this amazing woman who said YES to God,
gave birth to our Savior and raised Jesus;
I was just raised to believe that I can go directly to Christ with my prayers.
So I didn't "need" Mary as much.
Please do not judge me harshly as I share this only to admit that I may have considered
skipping this Saturday night event....
but I did go,
and I was so glad that I did.
It was a highlight of the Convocation for me.
I left inspired and faith-filled.
Archbishop Gustavo Garcia-Siller, MSpS of San Antonio and
Bishop Martin D. Holley, DD of Memphis
each shared their appreciation for and strong devotions to Mary that began during their childhoods,
nurtured them as they grew up and how she assist them now as they serve the Church.
They also discussed that Mary is called upon by Pope Francis in Evangelii Gaudium:
"Mary let herself be guided by the Holy Spirit on a journey of faith toward a destiny of service and fruitfulness. Today we look to her and ask her to help us proclaim the message of salvation to all and to enable new disciples to become evangelizers in turn." ~ EG, no. 287.
We then prayed the Joyful Mysteries of the Rosary,
with an amazing couple of twists:
1. a myriad of languages were used to pray the Hail Mary, including English, French, Vietnamese, Igbo, Tagalog, Italian, Creole, Polish, Gaelic/Irish, and Spanish;
2. different styles of songs that connected to each Mystery were sung at the completion of each decade ("The Angel Gabriel From Heaven Came," "Mary's Canticle," "What Child is This," "Mary's Song," and "El Perpetuo Socorro," along with "Immaculate Mary" at the end.)
The changing up of languages during the Hail Mary really made one pause and listen to the words,
rather than speeding through it as can happen in some recitations that I have been part of (and even led that way, as though there is a prize for finishing fastest!) and the songs assisted me in reflecting upon that Mystery.
All the while, different images of Mary were displayed on large screens in the room.
This helped to show the various ways in which people relate to the Holy Mother around the world,
and in the U.S.
Together, we prayed through the songs, prayers and images.
It was an inspiring and up-lifting evening that I wished you could have all been part of with us.
However, you can participate in spirit in the following ways:
1. Watch recordings of some parts of the evening devotion:
Part 1 (bishop's talks, Ave Maria)
Part 2 (praying the Rosary)
2. Pray the Special Prayer of Dedication to Mary taken from Evangelii Gaudium:
Mary, Virgin and Mother,
you who, moved by the Holy Spirit,
welcomed the word of life
in the depths of your humble faith:
as you gave yourself completely to the Eternal One,
help us to say our own “yes”
to the urgent call, as pressing as ever,
to proclaim the good news of Jesus.
Filled with Christ’s presence,
you brought joy to John the Baptist,
making him exult in the womb of his mother.
Brimming over with joy,
you sang of the great things done by God.
Standing at the foot of the cross
with unyielding faith,
you received the joyful comfort of the resurrection,
and joined the disciples in awaiting the Spirit
so that the evangelizing Church might be born.
Obtain for us now a new ardor born of the resurrection,
that we may bring to all the Gospel of life
which triumphs over death.
Give us a holy courage to seek new paths,
that the gift of unfading beauty
may reach every man and woman.
Virgin of listening and contemplation,
Mother of love, Bride of the eternal wedding feast,
pray for the Church, whose pure icon you are,
that she may never be closed in on herself
or lose her passion for establishing God’s kingdom.
Star of the new evangelization,
help us to bear radiant witness to communion,
service, ardent and generous faith,
justice and love of the poor,
that the joy of the Gospel
may reach to the ends of the earth,
illuminating even the fringes of our world.
Mother of the living Gospel,
wellspring of happiness for God’s little ones,
pray for us.
May Mary, Star of the New Evangelization and Patroness of the Americas continue to pray for us!
During the Ash Wednesday 12:10 p.m. Mass homily at St. Columba Cathedral,
Bishop George V. Murry, S.J. began by sharing that the word Lent
Often springtime conjures images of cleaning out things after winter.
He then continued to talk about spiritually cleaning one's heart for a better relationship with God.
However, my mind veered off a bit to the meme seen above.
Many people on social media have been sharing this idea of physically cleaning things out
this Lent... to simplify your home but also to potentially assist those who may need things.
As a bit of a clutterbug (not quite up to the TV show "Hoarders" level, yet,
but I have the potential), this is an exhilarating and scary idea.
But, I am going to give it a try....
if not 40 large trash bags, then at least several bags and boxes.
I am also reminded of the Zelda Fitzgerald quote:
What most people need to learn in life is how to love people and use things
instead of using people and loving things.
While I do my best not to use people, I may have a tendency to love things,
as I was taught to treasure gifts from loved ones, and I place perhaps too much
emotion into items I own. Therefore, this might just make for a good Lenten practice for me,
as I will need to pray my way through it.
One prayer I will be praying is the Suscipe by St. Ignatius of Loyola
(proud of my Jesuit education):
Take Lord, and receive all my liberty,
and my entire will,
all that I have and possess.
Thou hast given all to me.
To Thee, O lord, I return it.
All is Thine,
dispose of it wholly according to Thy will.
Give me Thy love and thy grace,
for this is sufficient for me.
(As one who grew up in the "Glory and Praise" era of Church music,
I often 'hear' this prayer in the musical form,
which if you are not familiar, I would encourage you to listen:
Please pray with me,
and perhaps join in me in this process of letting go.
Maybe in the giving of material things,
my heart will also let go of hurts, disappointments, or other feelings that
impede a joy-filled relationship with God?
May I be able to clean out all things that block God's love for me,
so that I can be open to a deeper Easter joy.
May your Lenten practices do the same for you!
Whoever confers benefits will be amply enriched,
and whoever refreshes others will be refreshed.
Whoever hoards grain, the people curse,
but blessings are on the head of one who distributes it!
Remembering the reason of the season, and praying for you and your loved ones...
May God's presence be ever more evident in and through your life!
Cindee Case, MAPS
Director of the Diocese of Youngstown Office of Youth and Young Adult Ministry.