The Priority of Faith

“It was revealed this week that, for the first time in its history, Harvard University, which had been founded for religious purposes … has admitted a freshman class in which atheists and agnostics outnumber professed Christians and Jews.”

Be Brace

Did that make you pause and read it again? Did it make you sad, mad or upset? I had all those emotions when I read it for the first time.

This statement has been heavily weighing on my heart since I read it on Thursday, September 18th in an article by Bishop Robert Barron, Auxiliary of Los Angeles. Incoming freshman, not graduating seniors from college. Incoming freshman, those sons and daughter that are leaving our homes for the first time to spread their wings as young adults. Incoming freshman, fresh from our homes where they should have received a foundation of faith.

I’m sure the rest of Bishop’s article was also informative and enlightening, but I still can’t get past the first sentence. Every day since September 18th, when I read those words, I ask myself, what can I do better. I have worked in Faith Formation for 14 years, these atheists and agnostics could have been in homes of families I ministered too. This is not a Catholic thing, it’s a faith thing…or a lack of faith thing.

I have to be part of the solution. I have to help parents provide the tools to foster faith. No matter how I plan and execute faith formation, the 30 hours a year I see the children is not enough to form their faith. As parents we have to model and mentor. We have to set rituals and traditions. We work hard to form our children’s social and moral characteristics. We, together, need to mold their souls. Those souls are yearning for God, where they belong!

Our days of forming our children pass quickly. They grow, it seems, over night. We blink and they are moving out and leaving us, which causes parents to think of what did we not pass on to them.

Faith…at least basic understanding of the Golden Rule, “do unto others they way you want them to do unto you” if practiced daily shows children the Golden Rule in action. We need to bring God into our homes and into our daily lives. No…let me correct that. God is already in our homes and daily lives. We need to open our hearts and recognize His work in our lives. He wants us to know Him and He wants to be in relationship with us.

How do we change that statistic?
How do we take responsibility for making the world a more peaceful place?
How do we instill in our children that God, Allah, I Am, Yahweh, whatever your tradition calls Him, freely give us LOVE?

First we can pray!
I have seen the power of prayer in my own life and in my work. Prayer makes a difference! Any type of prayer and any time for prayer works…just pray.

We can live as examples. Living our lives with our brothers and sisters in peace, compassion, and mercy shows our youth how they should live.

Have a missionary heart. As we encounter people on the streets, in restaurants, at work and in our own neighborhood, share the joy of faith with them. Reach out to those in need and give of your time, give of your talents, and give of your treasure, you will never regret a moment you spent helping others.

Love. Love is the foundation for everything. Share Love. Speak of Love. Show Love. Be Love. priority

I created ways to spread the Love of Christ and promote faith online. Check out my social avenues:
https://www.facebook.com/sjcyc
https://twitter.com/youthsjc

“Be on your guard, stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong.” 1 Corinthians 16:13

I see God’s grace and mission for me…to help others, especially the families I minister to, to develop a deeper relationship with Jesus Christ.

Facing Challenges

Two years free of chemo and I still feel effects. I wonder if the aches pains, loss of strength, chemo brain will ever be gone. The shooting pains that feel as it I am being electrocuted from the inside out…in random places all over my body. Headaches that remain for days, when I never got headaches before. These are my reminders of a turbulent time, snapping my mind to never forget my struggles and achievements. As I reflect back on 18 months of illness, I am grateful for every moment…the hard and the easy, the good and the bad, the despair and the joy. Illness can damage so much of us, spiritually, emotionally, physically and financially. It hits every part of our lives and each of our family members differently.

I grew so much in faith and learned many lessons. Our health is a blessing when it’s good or a curse when not. Our outlook plays a big part of our we attack any disease.I found support in my family, friends and faith. I pray that others are spared from the pain and anxieties that I experienced, however if you find yourself down this road I hope my lessons can help you. It may not be cancer, it may be multiple sclerosis, diabetes, arthritis, or a number of other ailments that surround us these days. You may be walking with a friend through these times or maybe a loved one. These are the things that matter most.

  • Prayer. Begin and end each day with prayer. Prayer helps center us and calms our fears. Knowing that the Lord hears us and lifts us can change your attitude instantly. Prayers we learned as child or just talking to God and laying our burdens at his feet.
  • Be Thankful. When facing a life-threatening illness you quickly become mortal. You see the end that you don’t want to even come close to. You realize no one should take life for granted. Be thankful for every breath, every moment and every memory you make. They are what you are living for. Even the moments of hardship will bring the joy of life to the forefront. Every leaf that blows past my feet as I walk is a gift of God’s great creativeness. Every call from my children is a moment of heavenly music. Visits with my mother playing Phase Ten and talking is grace of presence.
  • Relax. Take time to be still, to clear your mind and rest your body. Give yourself a break and stop all the busyness around you. Close your eyes, meditate and relax. Your body needs to rejuvenate, you need to pause….there is a power in pausing. The worries of the day will take care of themselves in due time.

I just finished reading Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor E. Frankl. A powerful story everyone should read. Frankl saw three possible sources for meaning: “in work (doing something significant) in love (caring for another person) and in courage during difficult times. Suffering in and of itself is meaningless; we give our suffering meaning by the way in which we respond to it.” Frankl found meaning even in the most horrific situation of a concentration camp. My struggles pale in comparison to his daily norm while imprisoned. But my struggles are my struggles, how I react is my choice. He also states the “forces beyond your control can take away everything you possess except one thing, your freedom to choose how you will respond to the situation. You cannot control what happens to you in life, but you can always control what you will feel and do about what happens to you.”

mansearchformeaning

The decisions we make each day are influenced by the faith we have. A life of prayer, thankfulness and time alone gives us the strength to face what lies ahead. Scripture tells us in Matthew 6:25-27, 33a, 34a

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat [or drink], or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds in the sky; they do not sow or reap, they gather nothing into barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are not you more important than they? Can any of you by worrying add a single moment to your life-span?  But seek first the kingdom [of God] and his righteousness.  Do not worry about tomorrow; tomorrow will take care of itself.”

Matthew 6-34

Grace embraced through lifes struggles produces great joy if you choose to respond in joy and love! May your journey be embraced by grace.

Relish this remarkable life

Grace fills my life and surrounds me with God’s eternal love.
How can we capture the love that Christ offers us and share it with others?

Grace dice

This blog began as my diary for a journey I never intended to take, but a journey which I was chosen to take. It often can be personal and when I type I forget that others will read it, but that is when we are most honest with ourselves. I believe with all my soul that my breast cancer journey was a blessing, not a cure. Was it easy…Absolutely Not! Was it necessary…NO! But was it fruitful…YES!

This coming week I celebrate my 3 year anniversary of being cancer free. May 4, 2012 doctors took part of me, which created a roller coaster of emotions for me as I dress each day being reminded of what was taken. But on May 4, 2012 doctors also took the ugly darkness that threatened me. With the darkness gone, I focused on the LIGHT!

The tumor removed had a 50/50 chance of returning within the first 3 years! And by God’s grace I will hit that marker on Monday! Praise God! Now it drops to 30%…but I’ll look at the opposite…70% it will never return!

Although I have not blogged in a while. I am hoping this blog begins to transform into sharing grace moments in everyday life. Grace is all around us, it is within us and it forever embraces us. It is in sharing the grace moments that we strengthen each other, carry each other and inspire each other.

MIT meteorologist, Edward Lorenz, created one of the most intriguing ideas that moved from lab to pop culture: the “butterfly effect,” the concept that small events can have large, widespread consequences. In a world that can be cynical, depressing and negative; I can only effect those around me..or do does it? What would happen in a world where all our “wings” were spreading grace to others? I would give anything to see that world!

Last weekend I embraced grace is a simple meal. Okay pizza at Giordano’s may be simple, but there was nothing simple about getting 17 of us together! Kevin and I along with our son and his fiance met in Naperville with some of the Caschetta cousins. Two nieces and a nephew, their spouses and children (7 children…5 under the age of 6 years old)…what a beautiful and wonderful family. The craziness even prevented us from snapping a picture together, but the grace flowed throughout the table.

Catching up with their lives and watching the little cousins laugh was grace enough for me. As Kevin and I sat at one end of the long table, I realized the incredible family we have. As my children’s generation begin families and I sit in my empty nest with Kevin, I am able to reflect on all the amazing things God has provided for our family.

Seeing Lindsay, Nick and Britt in strong marriages, facing the challenges of raising children while balancing work and home makes me feel blessed. The fact that these extremely busy 30 somethings were able to make time for us touched my heart deeply. What a gift to spend time with family! I love all my big crazy family!!

God is a family, one in the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. He created us to flourish in families, even mucky families. We are able to choose our actions and reactions to whatever life throws at us. When you do it from a place of faith, God gives us wiper blades to get the musky-ness out of our line of sight. It’s not gone, there is just a clearer vision within.

Life experiences help us to also see much clearer. I honestly don’t know how I would have handled breast cancer at 25 or 35. There were so many wonderful friends, mentors, bible study members, teachers, priests and family that taught me vital lessons throughout my life…and created the person I am still working on today. Thank you.

Each step we travel, especially if we have God at our side and entwined in our lives, is a stepping stone to a grace filled life. Travel with me on this journey!

Every year, I snuggle with my daughter and husband and watch About Time. It is a beautiful story about family, love and life. In the closing moments of the movie, the main character says “we are traveling through this life together, every day of our lives, all we can do is do our best to relish this remarkable life.”

Grace embraced through lives small steps each day with people we love and people we have yet to meet and love. Our wings bring grace to so many, every day of our incredible, remarkable lives. Enjoy a grace embraced life!

“But by the grace of God, I am what I am, and his grace to me has not been ineffective.” 1 Corinthians 15:10

The Almighty Physician

If you have ever faced an illness you understand when I talk about all the physicians necessary to care for you.almightydoctor

Over the past two years I have met with a gynecologist, breast surgeon, radiologists, cardiologist, oncologist, internal medicine, nuclear medicine, dermatologist, otolaryngologist, gastroenterologist, dentist, ophthalmologist, oncology radiologists, generalist, podiatrist, nephrologist and I’m sure I am forgetting someone (sorry). Each of these doctors were wonderful and a specialist in their field. I am so blessed to have the top-notch professional available at the University of Chicago Medical Center. Although they may have helped me along the way, the only true physician I needed was the Almighty Physician.

When I sat back and allowed The Physician to treat me, not only was I treated physically, but also emotionally and spiritually.

Now I see the scar that a surgeon left, but The Physician healed.
I have neuropathy in my feet left from treatment, but The Physician knows my pain.
He was there in the surgery, He was there for each appointment, walking right next to me.
He knows what I feel, what I need and what I can carry…and I will continue to trust Him with my life.
He is my constant, always faithful and always present.

Grace embraced through the moments I remember to pause and acknowledge the healing touch of our Lord Jesus.

“Those who are healthy do not need a physician, but the sick do” Luke 5:32

Ashes to remind us

AshWednesday

Today begins Lent…what does Lent mean to me. As I approach my second anniversary of becoming a survivor, I see this Lent as another opportunity to deepen my faith as I reflect on my past year. Lent is about looking inward and changing our lives to better serve our heavenly Father. So I have to ask how can I change this Lent?

Here’s a lot of ideas for your Lenten journey.

Today’s scripture tells us…”Even now, says the LORD, return to me with your whole heart, with fasting, and weeping, and mourning; Rend your hearts, not your garments,
and return to the LORD, your God. For gracious and merciful is he, slow to anger, rich in kindness, and relenting in punishment.”

I am so thankful for the gracious Lord – fasting is about offering myself to the Lord for all the goodness He has given my life.

Happy Lent, may it be joy filled as you journey towards Easter!

“We are ambassadors for Christ, as if God were appealing through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.”

Grace embraced through the opportunities to serve in ministry

Anniversary thoughts

Today begins the Anniversary march. You know when you experience the “firsts” of everything.1anni

One year ago today I found my lump. Although I say “my”, I never took ownership of it. It was a foreigner in my body and as soon as I felt it I wanted it out. I remember telling my husband and he said lovely “it’s probably nothing”. I know he was trying to calm my fears and comfort me. But the one thing I was not was fearful.

I was with my father on November 24, 2006 when the doctor drained the fluid from his lungs and told him the tests were stage 4 lymphoma. He looked at my mother and lovely said “we’ve had a great life”. He would fight with everything he had, but he was not fearful but calm in those first few moments.

I remember thinking immediately of my dad and how strong he was and how faith-filled he was. And I felt the same way. I was not fearful, but I was concerned. Yet, I felt a peace over me. As if the Lord was saying to me “I’ve got this”. And I believed…

“It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority” Acts 1:7

And I have always trusted in my Lord…and He has never failed me.

I trusted His plan is so much better than any plan I could imagine.
I trusted His timing is perfect and that I will not be disappointed.
I trusted His healing power to guide those ministering to me.
I trusted His joy in seeing His glory in all that I would undergo.

And He exceed any expectations I could have imagined.

I would not wish this journey on anyone and I would not choose to go through it again. But I was so blessed with each step of this journey. You have read before all those that have helped me. But spiritually nothing compares to the depth of the relationship between Jesus and me.

He hears from me daily and many times throughout the day.

And I hear from Him more than ever…
I hear his voice in the friends that have reached out to me.
I hear his voice in the family that have cared for me.
I hear his voice in the doctors as they treat me.
I hear his voice in all the support techs and nurses that have shown amazing kindness.

His grace surrounds me.

When I began this blog I named it Grace Embraced, because I knew I felt grace filled moments as I walked those first few weeks alone with my husband and children. Now I know God named this Grace Embraced because He planned on filling every moment of my life with grace, as He has always done…but my eyes are now wide open and I can clearly see the grace as it flows around me.

Grace is Love.
And
Love is God.

To all the wonderful women in my life…for me, do a self-exam this evening…be aware of your own body…don’t put off until tomorrow…I love you all too much to not remind you…

So even on this anniversary that no one wants to remember, and as I approach the first anniversary of surgery and first anniversary of chemo, etc. I remember my dad’s words “we’ve had a good life” and I’m still enjoying it! Thanks Dad for looking down on me and Praise to the Lord for his goodness endures forever and flows over me we grace! According to my medical oncologist, my chances are statistically 50/50 that I will be here for more than 5 years. But my God knows statistics don’t hold any value with Him and I will continue to embrace and follow Him!

Grace embraced through you all; and you all are embraced with all the graces I have received, because I cannot receive them without sharing them with you.

“the day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.” Matthew 24:36

Light in a dark desert

English: Leaving traces on soft sand dunes in ...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I am in a desert
thirsty with parched lips
hungry for something I can’t place
seeking answers and moreI am in a desert
looking for light amongst the reality of disease
searching for hope among doubt
reaching for faith among death

I am in a desert
surrounded by loving friends and family
but still alone
walking through doubt and fear alone

I am in a desert
I am not alone
I have hope
I have faith
I have love
I have Christ
 by Janet Caschetta

Last week a dark day hit me like a brick wall. I really had not experienced this yet through my five month ordeal. But there was a fellow survivor who lost her battle with breast cancer after two years and as I read her bio on the breastcancer.org website, I realized her diagnosis was almost identical to mine. She was Stage 3c, ER-, PR-, HER2+, mastectomy, chemo, radiation…fighting all the way. And it hit me hard.

I have been so optimistic. Have I been living with blinder covering my eyes? Can my fate be the same? I felt I have been very proactive in learning about my type of cancer and treatments. I am not afraid to ask questions and read solid medical information online. But this loss opened my eyes to the possibility of not being here to see my children find the person God has chosen for them, to see their weddings, to know my grandchildren, to continue to ministry to others, to share my faith, to survive. It was a dark desert journey.

I have not been able to write about this, because I was still working through those feelings. I wept most of that night with my husband, who so tenderly and patiently walked with me as tears flowed and comforted me through the night. I had my “Garden of Gethsemane” moment. I needed to be realistic; I needed to face the possibility. Then I needed to offer it to the Lord and trust His will to be done. My heart knew this, but my head needed reassurance.

As I drove to work the next morning, the Christian station was interviewing a man who survived so much more. His wife and he were in a horrific car accident with critical conditions for months and rehabilitation for years. Now I never put on the radio, but I had finished my Rosary and Divine Chaplet prayers and felt a pull to turn it on. God was speaking to me through the challenges others faced and I knew He was telling me I too will survive.

Then at Sunday Mass the sermon was on First Kings 19:4-8. Elijah cried out “This is enough O Lord” and the Lord sent food for Elijah’s journey and ordered him to “get up and eat, else the journey will be too long” Elijah was strengthen and continued to the mountain of God. I too was strengthened that the Lord was encouraging me to be strong in faith, that Elijah survived what God was asking him to journey through and I too will walk this journey with God. I knew that I was not alone.

Then at my chemo treatment last week, my oncologist stopped to visit and I asked the question both Kevin and I had not asked yet. “How will we measure if the cancer is gone or if it’s returned?” Her answer was immediate and confident. “The cancer is gone, we removed it all, got clear margins. But it was aggressive, so this 15 months is to make sure any tiny remnants do not have any chance to grow.” Her positive, confident, immediate answer was yet another sign, my worries were to be put aside.

Finally, on a staff retreat, we talked much about what Eucharist means to each of us. So many wonderful images and stories were shared on how Communion strengths us and nourishes us for our journey. As a reminded of Christ’s death and resurrection, I received inspiration and great hope of Christ’s presence in my life in so many ways.

Okay, okay Lord, I will share on graceembraced my deep struggle these past few weeks and my journey through that desert darkness.

Although I think I needed to finally face the possible reality of this disease, I was comforted over and over of the power of my faith.

The day after my surgery in May, Kevin stopped at Naturally Yours in Willowbrook for a camisole for me to wear home from the hospital. Yet the better gift was the beautiful matching beaded bracelet he bought for Jaclyn and I. It is a Psalm 23 bracelet with each bead representing a verse. Last night, relaxing in a bath, I focused on Verse 2  “He shall lead me”. That was the final reassurance I needed.

He will lead me. He is not walking next to me or behind me. He is leading me. He is in front of me, pushing all the brush and poison ivy out of my path. He is clearing the way to get through my journey of cancer. He is leading me to the beautiful meadow of amazing green pastures that await me. He is asking me to get up from the Garden and trust in His will. And I am happily, willingly following with a renewed outlook on the graces and blessings I am receiving along the way.

A dear friend Kathy took me to my last chemo treatment. She was the first friend to share this experience with me. I am so grateful for my daughter and son who took the first two months of treatments as well as my sisters Toni, Teri; my brother Don and niece Brook. The three to four hours of sitting in an uncomfortable chair as toxins drip through my body can’t be the first way anyone wants to spend a Thursday afternoon, but the blessing is all mine. I loved visiting and catching up with Kathy’s life and look forward to all the other friends that “signed up for the task”. Their patience and love is greatly appreciated. Three weekly Taxol/Herceptin treatments down – Nine to go…a light at the end of this tunnel! And then on to the next set of treatments.

Psalm 23 2: He leads me to quiet waters…

Grace embraced: Thank you Lord for all the reminders and messages you continue to send me through strangers, friends and family. I am truly blessed.