A Catholic Convert in Ottawa

Posts Tagged ‘joy

With the wintry weather lately, it was fitting that I read Sirach 43:17b-20* yesterday:

He scatters the snow like birds flying down, and its descent is like locusts alighting.

The eye marvels at the beauty of its whiteness, and the mind is amazed at its falling.

He pours the hoarfrost upon the earth like salt, and when it freezes, it becomes pointed thorns.

The cold north wind blows, and ice freezes over the water;

it rests upon every pool of water, and the water puts it on like a breastplate.

squirrels eating

Six squirrels eating–two at the feeders and four below them.

And today, I asked myself just what this winter would be like as I watched six squirrels—yes, six—jockeying for position at my bird feeders and just below them.

Winter can mean bitter cold and heavy snow, but the promise of hot chocolate or tea to drink or a fire to sit by when we head indoors can keep the chill from putting a damper on our spirits.

Just as I hope the hustle and bustle of the season won’t put a damper on our joy.

This time of year, the stores seem to be busy all day long. Lineups take longer, drives are stop-and-go, and everyone seems to be in a hurry—often too much of a hurry to smile and say thanks, let alone allow other drivers to squeeze into traffic. But we can and should make sure our words and actions reflect the joy this season holds for us as Christians:

  • We can take a moment to wish people “Merry Christmas,” whether in cards, online or in person.
  • If we need to run errands, we can offer a smile and thanks to store staff, especially since it may be the only time someone else notices that they, too, are under pressure and doing their best.
  • We can take part in Mass and reconciliation to refresh, restore and remind us of the reason for the season as Christmas draws closer.
  • We can be friendly and welcoming to those visiting our parish from out of town—or from in town—or even invite a friend or neighbour to attend a service with us during the holidays.

With Christmas just a week away, I pray that we would not let the busyness around us—or the desire for a  “perfect” holiday—steal our joy in preparing for and celebrating Christmas.

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


The past few weeks have been packed with activity. Besides the regular routine, I took my son to a couple of appointments and a confirmation class, wrapped Christmas presents, stocked up on household staples for the holidays, and prepared for a music recital and a taekwon-do test. It’s been busy rather than stressful.

On Friday, I was feeling proud of myself for everything I’d accomplished: vacuuming, floor cleaning and snow shovelling, on top of my everyday chores. I was patting myself on the back…and then I remembered that God created light on the first day (see Genesis 1). It was a healthy dose of perspective!

The ridiculous thing is that I didn’t need to get all those things done that day. And I could have asked for more help from my son, even if it might have been given reluctantly.

Today, as I braved the crowds to get groceries and run a couple of errands, I needed this reminder once more:

Learn to let others do their share of the work. Things may be done less well, but you will have more peace of soul and health of body. And what temporal interest should we not sacrifice in order to gain these blessings?

~ St. Rose Philippine Duchesne, quoted in “Celebrate November 2013,” Catholic Digest

How often do we insist on wrapping Christmas presents and sending out cards ourselves because no one will do these tasks the same way we do? Or how about folding the laundry, loading the dishwasher or cooking meals? Do we wear ourselves out so chores are done “the right way,” or do we allow other people to bless us with their help?

If we still hesitate to share the load, we may need another reminder not to run ourselves ragged at the expense of our physical and spiritual health, this time from Sirach 30:15-16*:

Health and soundness are better than all gold,

and a robust body than countless riches.

There is no wealth better than health of body,

and there is no gladness above joy of heart.

As we carry out our last-minute chores, cleaning and Christmas preparations, may we acknowledge that our celebration need not be perfect—it needs to be focussed on celebrating our Saviour’s birth and on sharing God’s love with our loved ones, friends and neighbours. And may we carry with us into the year ahead the knowledge that we can accept others’ help.

Speaking of the new year, I’m taking a short break from this blog to spend more time with my family over the holidays, but I’ll be back on January 2nd!

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

In December, our society promotes excess and charity all at once.

On the one hand, we have all forms of advertising encouraging us to “Buy! Buy! Buy!” all the wonderful items stores have in stock for the holiday season, ranging from food and décor items to gifts for others to things we should treat ourselves to.

On the other hand, in this season of giving, we’re encouraged to give to those less fortunate—to contribute to food banks and food hampers, to charities that support families or the homeless or that target a particular disease, or to international aid organizations, for example. In short, we’re asked to give in a way that shows love not only for our family and friends but also for our neighbours, wherever they may be.

Giving to others gives us the chance to show generosity, thoughtfulness and creativity. I love giving people just what they wanted and surprising them with thoughtful gifts, homemade or not. But that giving should not put us into credit-card debt or mean we’re knee-deep in wrapping paper on Christmas morning.

And we can bring together giving to others and giving to charity: we can give someone the opportunity to provide a microloan or the gift of livestock, school supplies, medical care, and so on, to someone in another country through an international aid organization. Or we can make a donation to a charity in honour of that person.

As we plan our family and charitable giving, we need to remember—as our priest reminded us during his homily yesterday—that we should not become so caught up in our material preparations for Christmas that we forget about our spiritual preparations. So we read in The Confirmed Catholic’s Companion: A Guide to Abundant Living by Mary Kathleen Glavich, SND:

It’s hard to live the four weeks of Advent as they are intended—as a season of quiet joy and anticipation. During Advent we ponder the comings of Jesus in history (Bethlehem), in mystery (everyday in the Eucharist), and in majesty (at the end of time).

As we journey through Advent, I pray that, more than giving and receiving gifts, we would anticipate celebrating Jesus’ coming to us as an infant born to take away our sins and spend time seeking God, who reminds us in Jeremiah 29:13-14*, “You will seek me and find me; when you seek me with all your heart, I will be found by you, says the LORD. . .”

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

Spring arrived yesterday—even in the National Capital Region, though you wouldn’t know it from looking at this week’s fresh snow.

There are certain rites we associate with this season, like spring cleaning. In my house, this will include a toy cleanup and purge, since my son will soon turn 13 and doesn’t play with many of his toys anymore.

Maybe spring cleaning should go beyond dusting for cobwebs and cleaning out junk drawers to taking a closer look at our spiritual life.

Our culture tells us many things can make us happy: food, alcohol, money, power, the “right” house or car, and even plastic surgery. But even if these things could make us happy, let’s face it—happiness is fleeting. What lasts is joy.

My parish church recently held a mission. As the Redemptorist priest speaking during the mission reminded the congregation, Jesus said, “These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full” (John 15:11*). The priest noted that many people attend Mass regularly and try to follow Jesus’ teachings yet don’t seem to know what joy is.

It’s often said that Christians are an Easter people. So shouldn’t we be filled with the joy that comes from knowing our Saviour who loves us and died to save us from our sins, who sent us the Holy Spirit as a counsellor, and who gives us strength to “do all things” (see Philippians 4:13)? And shouldn’t this joy be something others can notice?

There are people in my parish—fellow parishioners as well as priests—who seem calm even when life is busy and stressful, who naturally put other people at ease, who live out their faith without trying to call attention to themselves, who just seem content. They share not only their treasure but also their time and talents with the parish and clearly enjoy serving the Church and the Lord. They just radiate joy. Read the rest of this entry »

(F)or behold, the winter is past,

the rain is over and gone.

The flowers appear on the earth,

the time of pruning has come,

and the voice of the turtledove

is heard in our land.

(Song of Solomon: 2:11-12, Holy Bible, Revised Standard Version, Second Catholic Edition)

With its grimy snow and slush slowly melting to reveal mud and dormant grass, March is not my favourite month.

But I like the idea of taking out my running shoes and putting away winter boots that look like Rescue Heroes footwear. And the start of spring makes me look forward to seeing the flowers I’ve planted poke through the soil at the end of April. (Well, this is Ottawa, so I’d better err on the side of caution and say the middle of May.)

Anticipation makes things more enjoyable. Like when you look forward to eating some good chocolate at the end of Lent and finally savour that melt-in-your-mouth candy.

At this time last year, my husband and I were anticipating joining the Church and receiving Holy Communion at the Easter Vigil, after months of RCIA preparation. Not only did I have the joy of receiving the Eucharist at Easter, but I also felt a new sense of belonging as many people told us how happy they were for us.

I’m more involved in the life of the parish now: I’m a lector (I’ll be reading at the Easter Vigil) and I’m helping out with First Eucharist. This year, I’ll see the anticipation in the faces of our RCIA candidates at Easter and the excitement of the Grade 2 children as they prepare to receive the Eucharist for the first time in the weeks that follow, and the joy all of them will take in participating fully in the Mass.

But what comes after the Easter Vigil or First Eucharist?

I hope that anticipation gives way to joy at being able to receive the Eucharist, where Jesus is truly present. I hope people would choose to take an active role in their parish by volunteering, supporting parish initiatives and attending social functions. I hope faith would be part of their daily lives and not something saved for Sundays.

I pray that we would look forward to welcoming the newest members of the Church at Easter and encourage the children celebrating First Eucharist—and that God would guide the cardinals as they prepare to choose the new head of the Church.

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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