A Catholic Convert in Ottawa

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Yesterday is history; tomorrow is a mystery; today is a gift of God, which is why we call it the present.

~ Unknown

For some of us, the high school or college years seem to have been the best time of our lives. We had fewer responsibilities and worries about family, health issues, bills, and so on. Maybe it’s more that we had dreams, hopes and plans that we knew would be realized in the future or that we liked who we were back then.

I know that I had certain educational and career goals; maybe I was also a bit quicker to forgive, less guarded, more optimistic. Not everything turned out the way I planned, and in nostalgic moments, that bothers me.

Those who, like me, can get caught up in the past could take a cue from these words of St. Thérèse of Lisieux, quoted in the “Celebrate January 2015” column in the January/February issue of Catholic Digest:

When we yield to discouragement or despair it is usually because we give too much thought to the past and to the future.

Do we focus too much on our regrets—the goals and dreams we didn’t achieve—and on the people we were rather than appreciate the ways we’ve succeeded and how much we’ve grown? Do we worry too much about whether we’ll get where we want to go?

We need to remember two things. First, whatever we may plan, God has his own plans for us—good plans—as he reminds us in Jeremiah 29:11*:

“For I know the plans I have for you, says the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.”

And second, as Jesus reminds us in Matthew 6:31-35, worrying about the future is futile, for everything is in God’s hands and each day has cares enough of its own:

“Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For…your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things shall be yours as well.

“Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Let the day’s own trouble be sufficient for the day.”

When we find ourselves dwelling on the past or worrying about the future, may we pray that God would show us his will for us today, guide us in his plans for our tomorrows, and care for us as our Father always.

(*Scripture quotes taken from the Holy Bible, Revised Standard Version, Second Catholic Edition.)

God made the world round so we would never be able to see too far down the road. – Danish author Isak Dinesen, quoted in The Book of Positive Quotations, 2nd Edition

Years ago, we watched the movie Click, where Adam Sandler’s character pushed buttons on a remote to fast-forward through life’s duller moments.

Sometimes in our society, it feels as though we’re holding down the “fast forward” button—and missing out on opportunities to find joy and share God’s love in everyday moments.

Last week, I noticed that stores had priced much of the fall merchandise to clear and that Christmas lights and wrap were beginning to edge out Halloween wares. We haven’t even gotten a pumpkin yet, let alone carved one.

And one of our neighbours was testing his Christmas lights—a task we generally remember to take on when the temperature has fallen below 0˚C.

And my in-laws asked for Christmas gift ideas. I do buy little things and tuck them away all year, but it can be like pulling teeth to get gift ideas from my husband…or to limit my son’s list.

I am a diehard list maker who values common sense and planning. It makes good sense to ensure a store won’t be saddled with seasonal merchandise, to hang holiday lights when there’s no risk of frostbite, or to plan our holiday shopping to avoid overspending on last-minute gifts or shipping. But it strikes me as odd that, while we recognize we can’t live in the past (unless you’re a scrapbooker, an archivist or an archaeologist, for example), we’re obsessed with planning for our future.

And I wonder how many of us…well, pause in our planning to press “play.”

Do we take the time to get down on the floor to play with our children before time flies and they’re busy teenagers? To talk with our parents and ask their advice while they’re still with us? To spend a lot of quality time together before we’re empty nesters so our marriage stays strong? To see the needs in our society now? And, most importantly, to spend time in God’s presence to share our concerns, pray for strength and comfort, discover how he would like us to serve him, and just be with him?

We can plan for our future, keeping in mind Jeremiah 29:11*: “For I know the plans I have for you, says the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.”

But we need to recognize the present for the gift that it is—a gift God wants us to use:

This is the day which the LORD has made;

let us rejoice and be glad in it.  – Psalm 118:24

(*Scripture quotes taken from the Holy Bible, Revised Standard Version, Second Catholic Edition.)

fingers crossed

Keeping your fingers crossed

rosary in hand

Praying to God

I think there are three basic approaches to life.

The first is to believe that your future depends on “the universe” or on your luck, good or bad. You carry a good-luck charm to help you win the big game or consult your horoscope to find out what the day will hold. But how comforting is it to think that forgetting to bring your good-luck charm or follow your horoscope to the letter could hurt you?

The second is to believe that you’re in complete control of your future. You have a long-term plan and, if you follow it carefully, everything will fall into place. But as a poet named Robert Burns pointed out, the best-laid plans often fail to work out.

The first two approaches have a lot of supporters. We know that minor hiccups (traffic jams, rain on the day of a picnic, a stain on our favourite shirt) and major disruptions (job loss, serious illness, loss of loved ones) happen to us and those we love, and often with little warning. And so we long for life to unfold exactly according to our hopes and plans.

Notice that I said our plans. But this is where the third approach comes in. To take this approach is to “let go and let God” and believe that God is in control.

I think it’s a path worth following. Consider the alternative: if we make a decision or guide our children in their decision to marry a certain person or pursue a given career without praying for guidance first, we might miss out on the spouse or the career God has planned for us…or lead our children to do the same.

Recognizing that God is in control—and we’re not—might seem scary. But we can take comfort in the fact that God has good plans for each of us, as he tells us in Jeremiah 29:11:

For I know the plans I have for you, says the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. (Holy Bible, Revised Standard Version, Second Catholic Edition)


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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