Sunday, December 4, 2016

Advent, A Season of Service - Fire and Water


Catholic Volunteer Network and the Catholic Apostolate Center are pleased to bring you this Advent reflection series to support your growth during this important season. We welcome you to journey through these weeks of Advent alongside several of our current and former
volunteers who serve as contributors for this series. We are constantly inspired by their courage to step outside of their comfort zones and their commitment to serving those most in need. They have remarkable stories to share, filled with light and hope. Each week, a different writer reflects on the Sunday Gospel reading through the lens of their volunteer experience. Their insights on the four pillars of faith-based service; Community, Social Justice, Spirituality, and Simple Living, call us back to the true meaning of Advent. Click here to download the complete Advent 2016 Reflection Guide


Second Sunday of Advent

“I am baptizing you with water for repentance, 
but the one who is coming after me is mightier than I.”
Matthew 3:1-12

Reflection by MIchael McCormick, former Augustinian Volunteer, current Resources Coordinator at Catholic Volunteer Network

Today we meet John the Baptist, the voice in the wild. For me, John represents the totality of an individual living in accordance with God’s will. Through self-denial, John becomes a healer of sinners. Through self-abandonment, John becomes whole. How can anyone follow such a path?

I find direction in the two baptisms John describes. First, he says, “I am baptizing you with water, for repentance.” Then he says Jesus, the one who comes after, “will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.”  John washes, Jesus burns. Both will cleanse me and remove my excesses.

Water and fire were two shaping forces during my service year in Southern California, where there is still a severe drought.  The unforgiving dry heat in the desert town where I worked exhausted everyone. The simple words, “Would you like a glass of water?” became a life-affirming phrase of hospitality. Rainfall, though rare, quenched our spirits.

Fire also formed us. In the dry hills, wildfires often threatened homes. In our community house, the small flame of our prayer candle was like my Pentecost, igniting a love for my three community members that mostly surpassed my self-love.

A lack of spirit, like a lack of water, leaves me dry and thirsting for God. A fire of purpose, kindled by the Augustinians, gives me the courage to proceed. I know I am chaff and dirt, yet God will find my grain and burn the rest – sin and sorrow and all that holds me captive.


Focus on: Social Justice


What strikes me is John’s offer of baptism not only to the meek, but also to the righteous Sadducees and Pharisees. Yes, John harshly rebukes them and commands repentance, but the offer is still there if they shall be humble. As Catholics, we pray that God will protect the poor, which he does. We also pray that God will forgive all sinners – including even the mighty.  I cannot help but think of our political climate, and how often we root for leaders to fail, when we should hope for their redemption and our own.

Service Suggestion


During my volunteer year, program staff would visit our communities as a way of checking in. They would also have one-on-one sessions with each volunteer, usually off-site, always over a coffee or tea. These unhurried talks were a form of service by the staff, giving their full presence to become a witness to each volunteer’s experience, struggles included.

This season, who can you check in on? To whom can you be present to? Make time and be a Christian witness to ONE person’s life, especially in this season when so much time is claimed by trivial affairs and festivities. 


Prayer
God, help me to eat the locusts. Help me find the nighttime path. Help me bend this proud back, help me kneel by the river. Mend my cuts with honey and leaves, wipe the grime out of my eye, paste my tongue to the roof of my mouth and help me remember your silence. Your Voice fills the desert night, your Word kicks against the stomach, your fiery breath scorches me and renews me, you rip me from the dirt and for this I give thanks. 



Sunday, November 27, 2016

Advent, A Season of Service - Focus on Spiritual Growth


Catholic Volunteer Network and the Catholic Apostolate Center are pleased to bring you this Advent reflection series to support your growth during this important season. We welcome you to journey through these weeks of Advent alongside several of our current and former volunteers who serve as contributors for this series. We are constantly inspired by their courage to step outside of their comfort zones and their commitment to serving those most in need. They have remarkable stories to share, filled with light and hope. Each week, a different writer reflects on the Sunday Gospel reading through the lens of their volunteer experience. Their insights on the four pillars of faith-based service; Community, Social Justice, Spirituality, and Simple Living, call us back to the true meaning of Advent. Click here to download the complete Advent 2016 Reflection Guide


First Sunday of Advent

“So too, you also must be prepared,
for at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come.”
Matthew 24:37-44

Reflection by Madonna Enwe, current Franciscan Mission Service volunteer

I remember sitting in class during my last semester of college, thinking about the image I had seen the previous night: a dead Syrian boy whose body had been washed to shore. I was deeply hurt by that scene and wondered why people, especially refugees, had to suffer so much to find a peaceful home on earth. As someone who had arrived in the United States as an asylee, I was drawn to helping in any way I could to make the lives of refugees and asylees better. 

I had decided to take a gap year between college and medical school, planning to do something health-related. However, I changed my mind when I discovered the opportunity to serve for a year at the Refugee Service Center for Catholic Charities through the Franciscan Mission Service program. I did not want to wait until I became a doctor before I could help people. This opportunity had presented itself to me, and I knew that God wants me to take advantage of it right now, especially when there is a current refugee crisis in the world. Without knowing when our Lord will come back, I cannot push back a call that He has placed in my heart. To better prepare my heart for His second coming, I am called - just as we all are - to  minister to the suffering and needs of the people around me, listening to the Lord’s voice when He calls me to serve, even when I don’t feel qualified.  

Focus on: Spiritual Growth


There are always times when I go for days, weeks, and even months without creating concrete time for the Lord. These moments always make me feel dry and withdrawn from Him, and I feel a sense of peace taken away from me. This passage tells us that we should not let our limitations lead us far away from God, but to strive more often to desire to find peace again and turn to Him. Being alert to serving the needs of others also challenges us spiritually to always be looking for and serving Jesus in those around us. 

Service Suggestion


During this time of thanksgiving and waiting for the birth of Christ, let us daily strive to open our hearts and homes to those who are lonely, living alone or away from home, and suffering in one way or another. Find some way to engage your talents or resources to serve those around you: sing at a hospital or nursing home, donate gifts to refugee centers or crisis pregnancy centers near you, or become involved with young people in your parish to give them more opportunities to  grow in their faith.

Prayer
Lord, please create in me a clean heart 
and a quiet spirit 
that is ready to listen to your call and answer it quickly. 
Help me not to be blinded to the sufferings of your people around me; 
rather, let me be an example of your goodness and mercy to those I serve. 
Even when I hide or run away from your call, 
draw me back close to you so that I can dwell in your presence 
and be an instrument of your peace and love in the world. 









Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Hózhǫ́

By Kaitlyn Miller, Mercy Volunteer Corps 
Kaitlyn Miller (far right) and her community members


I have been fascinated by the language of the Diné (Navajo) people since living on the Rez. In the nursing department we have been trying to keep up with learning a new “Navajo Word of the Day.” The language is quite a difficult one to learn as it uses sounds and syllables that my English speaking mouth just can’t seem to make happen no matter how hard I try.

One of the words (that I can actually pronounce!) I find particularly interesting. It is the word hózhǫ́ (it kind of sounds like ho-shown). It occurs in two important ceremonials called the Blessing Way and the Beauty Way and is found in many Navajo songs and prayers. My co-workers tell me it means, “walk in beauty, a place of harmony, blessing, a state of holy being, or a peaceful place.” From asking around and from doing some research, I was amazed to come to know that not even a hundred English words can truly describe what the word hózhǫ́ means to the Navajo people.

In short, this word seems to encompass beauty, order, harmony, and the idea of striving for a balanced life. According to Navajo culture and traditions, every aspect of life is related to hózhǫ́. Even more so, the Diné people believe that this doesn’t mean to pray for what you do not have, but rather to pray for balance with what is going on. For example, while others may pray for rain during a drought, the Navajo hold ceremonies to put them in balance and harmony with a drought.

The whole idea of hózhǫ́ recognizes what is beyond our control to change. Hózhǫ́ is changing one’s attitude to fit the situation, not to try to change the situation to our attitude. We need to try to become content with the inevitable. This harmony is a choice that we can pick each and every day. It calls us to be flexible in all situations, yielding adaptive skills and learning how to thrive under radically new conditions. Another English word that falls under this idea of hózhǫ́ is gratitude. Hózhǫ́ calls people to be grateful in every situation, both the good and the bad.

It is said that the Navajo do not look for beauty, rather they are engulfed in it. When it seems disrupted, they restore it; when it is lost or diminished, they renew it; when it is present, they celebrate it. Often it is said, “with me there is beauty (shil hózhó),” “in me there is beauty (shii’ hózhó),” and “from me beauty radiates (shaa hózhó).”

This makes me think of how Christians view God. He is omnipotent, omnipresent, and omniscient. We are engulfed in His love. When our relationship with Him seems to be disrupted, we try to restore it, when it feels lost or diminished, we try to renew it, when we feel His presence, we celebrate it. We are taught to be grateful in all things and to praise Him in both the good and the bad times. He is with me, in me, and from me His light and love radiates.

This year has been crazy so far, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. When we get stuck in the mud but God helps us find a way out, I think hózhǫ́. When we get to go hiking and be surrounded by God’s creation, I think hózhǫ́. When there are days when nothing seems to get accomplished at work or I feel like I didn’t make a difference, but I made a student smile, I think hózhǫ́. And lastly, when I see these four amazing women I get to share this year’s experience with, I think hózhǫ́. Being on the Rez this year, we have seen beauty and light with us, in us, and radiating from us, as we continue to live out what God has called us to do.


To learn more about Mercy Volunteer Corps, please click here