A Catholic Convert in Ottawa

Posts Tagged ‘change

Spring has arrived and change along with it as I find myself preparing to sell my home.

The past week or so has been a whirlwind of arranging appointments with tradespeople and sorting my belongings. I’ve packed a couple of dozen boxes, donated a dozen bags to the St. Vincent de Paul bin at my church, and set aside a pile of craft supplies for my nieces.

Downsizing from my bungalow to a condo is proving to be a challenge. As I sort through twenty years of accumulated belongings, it seems as though each item has a memory attached to it and letting go hurts a little bit. A lot, in some cases.

Sometimes these seasons of change come by choice and at other times, unexpectedly. In either case, we need to lean on God and find in him the courage to let go of the less important things so that we can move forward.

We need to remember that our belongings don’t contain our memories–our hearts do. Even if the memories are bittersweet, we can be thankful for the joy God has allowed us to know and maybe even find ourselves anticipating what lies ahead.

The biggest lesson for me in all of this? Learning to reach out for help or connect by phone, by text or in person when I need to. In times of change, we need to be unafraid to rely on others. Most of all, we need to lean into our faith, trusting that God will carry us when we feel we can’t keep going.

Whatever winds of change may be blowing in our lives, I pray that we would remember these words of the apostle Paul in Philippians 4:13:

I can do all things in him who strengthens me.

(*Scripture quote taken from the Holy Bible, Revised Standard Version, 2nd Catholic Edition.)

 

I may look relaxed on the outside, but I generally feel like I should be doing something. Feeling like a coiled spring has taken its toll, but with the help of physiotherapy, massage and yoga, I’m already starting to feel better.

The first step was choosing to change. And the same holds true for our spiritual health.

As our parish priest pointed out at last night’s Ash Wednesday service, we have a choice to make: we can be the same people at the end of Lent as we are now, or we can choose to examine our lives and make changes during Lent, with God’s help:

  • We can look at how we spend our time. Are we working so many hours that we seldom sit down to dinner with our family?
  • We can consider our relationships. How do we speak to our spouse and children? Do we use our words to build them up or tear them down?
  • We can think about how we use our material blessings. Do we have so much stuff that decluttering is always on the menu? Do we give to our church and to charity?

Lent offers us a great opportunity for a spiritual “house cleaning”—the chance to work on giving up bad habits and establishing good habits that help us make better use of our time, treasure and talents and bring us closer to our family and to God.

I pray that we would decide to be changed people at the end of Lent and that we would let God show us the ways he would have us change.

Go where thou wilt, seek what thou wilt, and thou shalt not find a higher way above, nor a safer way below than the way of the Holy Cross.

~ Thomas à Kempis, quoted in “Celebrate February 2015,” Catholic Digest, January/February 2015

For some ways to observe Lent through penance, prayer and almsgiving, see this checklist on the Held By His Pierced Hands blog.

“ A change is as good as a rest,” my mother has often said. But we’re not always open to change in our parishes. Even when it’s a good thing.

For example, one church I attended offered two Sunday services, with more contemporary music at one and hymns at the other. In the summer, the music alternated between traditional and contemporary music each week—and people used to the other service weren’t happy, even though they had the chance to worship in a different way, with parishioners they didn’t often see.

At another church, I once volunteered to help with a church bake sale. Although I showed up early, I wasn’t allowed to do anything—even to put away the tables afterward—because the people in charge were the ones who had always run the sale and didn’t welcome my help. Needless to say, I didn’t volunteer again.

“This is the way it’s always been done, and these are the people who’ve always done it.” I read once that a priest who comes into a new parish can face this challenge. But I think it’s also true for those who join a parish or want to get involved in a ministry group.

We need to leave room for our parish priests to recognize parishioners’ gifts and draw upon them—and we need to do the same in our ministry groups. So how can we make it happen?

  • Hold a ministry fair. Just before the summer holidays, so people can hit the ground running in their new roles come September; after school starts in the fall, when people are getting back into their routines; or in January, when it feels like a fresh start. (And holding a coffee hour at the same time can encourage parishioners to spend time at the ministry fair.) By offering sign-up sheets for allministry groups, we can give parishioners a chance to use their gifts and enable volunteers to step away from a ministry group they’ve served in for a long time to take on a new challenge.
  • Keep an ear to the ground. Accountants in our parish could bring their skills to the finance council; Early Childhood Education students could help with the children’s liturgy; a professional organizer (or even just a neat nut like me) could organize the church’s storage spaces. To be able to draw on these skills—to ask parishioners to volunteer for an activity or a ministry group, or to recommend them to our parish priest when a ministry group leader is needed—we need to know about their skills in the first place. A couple of parishes I belonged to even asked new members to list their work experience and some skills they could use in serving the parish.
  • Let people help. Maybe new volunteers have contacts in the community that could help with a fundraising event. Maybe they have excellent desktop publishing skills they could use to create beautiful programmes for special services. Or maybe they’re just willing to work hard at whatever task they’re given. If we say we need volunteers and people offer their help, we need to let them get involved and not resent their efforts or suggestions. For a ministry group where a few people do a lot of work, some new faces could mean the workload lightens for everyone and volunteers enjoy their work rather than burn out.

 


Food for Thought

(Y)ou do not know about tomorrow. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we shall live and we shall do this or that.” ~ James 4:14-15

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