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.

Chance encounter or Divine Intervention

When something happens do you chalk it up to chance? We say “What are the chances of that happening to me?” or “I’ve got a pretty good chance of that  happening today.”

Chance, according to Google, is “the occurrence and development of events in the absence of any obvious design.”

Maybe it’s not our “obvious design” but every occurrence is an ultimate design.

I don’t believe in luck or chance. I believe in divine intervention. Through life’s experiences I have come to believe everything happens for a reason. Even terrible tragedies and loss happen so that we can learn and grow. We are all moving through this life to reach the next life with our Lord Jesus and each step we take is His divine plan.

I was once asked by a teen at a youth ministry meeting “how can it be God’s plan when we have free will”. I reflected for a moment and then attempted to explain it as if your parent was sitting on a roof top watching you drive up. That parent can see all the different paths you can choose to get home and they can see that some of them are not safe. They see the path you are on will be a collision with another car and although they are screaming at the top of their lung for you to turn at the next street you can’t hear or you are choosing not to hear. Then someone steps into the street to cross the road and you slow and avoid two accidents, hitting the walker and the collision that was ahead. God sees all the different paths in front of us, some of the paths lead to Him, some of them do not. As we choose a path, he shifts to other paths and again places paths that lead to Him and paths that don’t. He never tires of leading us on the right path. He is the father in the prodigal son story; waiting, watching and praying for our return through all the free will choices we make.

I know God is omnipotent and omnipresent. I know He places obstacles in my path for His purpose. I have learned to trust in His movements through my life.

His presence was glaringly visible yesterday.

As I sat through a workshop at the beautiful campus of St Mary of the Lake University in Mundelein I sat with and meet six amazing women ministering in the life of the church. Each one had a story to tell of their journey listening to God’s voice in their life. The voice that led them to bible studies, RCIA, serving the poor, sheltering the homeless and the voice that led them into a new family at their parishes. They were enlightening stories of challenges and hope…and of JOY! I love sharing faith with such inspiring, strong women. The six of them sitting with me was God’s divine plan. But that is not the end of the story.

During our last break of the day, one of these women asked me a simple question about my water bottle.

You see, I carry every day a 24 oz Tervis water bottle with a pink ribbon design on it. I have two of them that were given as gifts to me during treatment so that I would always remember to hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. A habit I continue everyday. I’m a pretty routine person – each night I place the water bottle without the lid in the freezer half full. In the morning, I fill up the rest of the bottle with cold water…and it keeps cold until about 2:00 pm. (I prefer drinking cold water and ice cubes melt too quickly!) Yesterday was no different. I carried my water bottle into the workshop, little did I know it would spark a connection.

I have learned to not bring up the subject that I am thriving after breast cancer…I’ve seen too many people change their demeanor when they hear that, so I just allow it to come up organically if it is meant to. And yesterday it was meant to…God’s intervention.

This beautiful, kind, gentle woman asked ever so sweetly “pink ribbon…is that you?” I said yes and she said, I need to find one of those bottle for lymphoma, and I responded “you?” as she said “yes”.

My heart fluttered…I knew why I sat at that table, God needed us to meet…what a blessing it turned into.

After the workshop ended, we picked up our conversation. She had lymphoma years ago in her neck, arm pits, chest and abdomen (almost everywhere we have lymph nodes!)…and she bravely fought it into remission. Yet two months ago she explained that it had returned in her neck. She was beginning treatment on Monday. Monday is her mother’s birthday and she is an only child. Her eyes told of her fear of this vicious disease that lies within her. She asked if I would be back at a workshop in October and I said “no, but would see her in November”. Her eyes softened as she said “I’ll be in my month hospital stay in November.” Although the words did not come out of her mouth, I heard her crying for connection. I asked if I could stay in touch with her, which softened both of our faces…there was the connection she was searching for. Maybe it was a relief of someone who understands the fear of cancer or someone to cry with. I am blessed to do both or either.

She gave me her cell and email as we hugged goodbye. I don’t know what plans God has for this relationship, but I do know that He created a connection that I am called to nuture. My thoughts throughout today have been on prayers to releave her anxieties and put her complete trust in the Lord. I texted her today the words I remember a dear friend sent to me before my first treatment: “don’t tell your God how big your mountain is…tell you mountain how big your God is”

God’s Divine Intervention…watch for it…it presents itself in many places throughout your day…see them and embrace them

Divine Intervention

Thank you Lord the the grace of a new friendship during storms in her life. Help the sun and Son to break through her darkness. If I can be a small drop of grace in her life, I am honored to do so. Thank you for the grace of divine intervention in my life and the presence to see your hand within it.

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

Taking up my cross

Why do so many suffer? Why does anyone even have to?Wooden Cross

We have been paying for the sin of eating that apple for a long time.
Sin was brought into this world through a simple act, but this Lent we can choose to look beyond the sin; to look beyond the suffering. To cast our eyes of heaven and remember there is a paradise waiting for us.

I know suffering. I have been in pain. Physical pain through 17 months of treatments and many tests before, throughout and continuing. I have had the emotional pain of losing loved ones. But there is always mountain tops to help us with the valleys. I choose this Lent to focus on the blessings. I want to focus on the graces and the joys of my life. It’s a choice, it’s a decision I make each day. And you have the same choice too. You can choose to remain in the suffering or depression of our lives or you can choose to look upward and change your view.

Christ suffered…He did not have to, He’s God…He could have chosen a million other scenarios to come into the world. But He chose a lowly stable to be born in and a brutal cross to die on. He accepted this path for His life. My suffering can never be as horrible. Lent is calling me to reflect on Christ’s life and I can’t do that without reflecting on everything He gave for me…and you.

So I will take up my cross everyday, no matter how heavy. At the end of the day, I also know that I can lay my cross at the feet of Jesus and He willingly takes it from me. I pray my life gives glory to the graces that have been given me.

Grace embraced today through the kindness of the medical professionals that helped my daughter with her pain this past week while fighting a violent flu, while her parents can’t get to her in Arizona. I love and miss you Jaclyn.

If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. Luke 9:24

Prayer

prayer-on-my-kneesPope Francis this past week told the pilgrims at World Youth Day in Rio, “learn to pray everyday: this is the way to know Jesus and invite him into your lives“.

If you did not know how to pray before, everyone learns how to when the hear the words “You have cancer.”

No matter where you are or what you are doing, you lift up your prayers to the Lord.

Some may call God by other names, but just as I have many names (Janet, Mom, wife, sister, daughter, aunt, friend, coworker), God has many names. The incredible thing about God is He loves each one of us completely and hears each one of our cries with a merciful heart, through our calling out to him.

Prayer has been a foundation in my life since childhood. I always knew I had a guardian angel watching over me and felt the presence of God with me. I had a sister that passed away at the age of two, just 16 months before I was born and I always pictured she was my guardian angel. Jesus loves the little children, so having her at the feet of Jesus enabled me to focus on goodness and truth as I grew. I was just an ordinary child, the third of six children growing up. Of course we had our share of fights, but we stuck together. My three sisters and two brothers were more important to me than anyone. We were a big gang when we vacationed (usually camping) or spent the summers at the pool, but we were placed on this earth together…to take care and watch out for each other. And we did.

But it was not until I became a mother that my prayer life kicked into the forefront of everyday life. When I discovered I was expecting I began praying daily…and have not stopped every 26 years later. I learned that the Lord guides my marriage, my children and my life. I can communicate with him, I can disagree with him, I can praise him and I can rejoice with him…but I can not control the path he has in store for me. No matter how hard I have tried in the past – and I have tried!

I enjoy experiencing all types of prayers; alone and with others. Bible studies, meditation, spontaneous, retreats, songs, poems, prayers of the church, memorized, adoration, praying with my husband and so many other forms. This foundation that was built over my the course of my life was essential to living through the past year and a half. I prayed for the medical personnel and my family and friends. I prayed that I would be healed so that I am able to show the Lord’s power and glory. I prayed that I would be able to know the grandchildren that He has planned for me (then I switched to praying that my grandchildren will know me too!) I prayed for other cancer patients and those facing life changing illnesses and in a special way for those facing these challenges without the support of family and friends.

Prayer changes everything…because it first changes you.

May you find time today to pray and be changed.

Rejoicing in hope, persevering in tribulation, devoted to prayer. Romans 12:12

Grace embraced through the growth that I have experienced in times of tribulations and in times of prayer.

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.