Archive for the ‘Christian Living’ Category

Who Do We Need to Welcome Into Our Inn?

Monday, December 10th, 2012

Our pastor shared this story at Mass on Sunday:

As many parishes do at Christmas time, a parish in New York was having a pageant acting out the Nativity story. A little boy named Tom was taking part. He was mentally disabled, but was very excited to be in the pageant. He was playing an innkeeper and practiced his line over and over again until he had it down perfectly, “There is no room in the inn.”

The big night came and he was ready. When Mary and Joseph came up to him, he delivered his line just as he had practiced. Everything was going as planned, until the Holy Couple walked away from him sadly, at which point he called after them, “Wait! You can stay at my house.”

That little boy obviously had the spirit of hospitality alive and well within him. If he had been back in Bethlehem two thousand years ago, our Christmas story might have had a slightly different setting. But what about us, living today? Do we have that spirit of hospitality?

For some, it comes easily. Their door is always open. There is always enough food and one more is always welcome at the table. They have a special gift for making everyone feel welcome. I love those people and am so thankful for those that I know.

As an introvert, I’ve always struggled with hospitality. Quite honestly, people frequently stress me out, so inviting people into my home isn’t that easy. But as is often the case with our weaknesses, God has provided me with plenty of opportunities to practice it. And, I’m happy to report, I’m getting better. If only because it is such a weakness of mine, I make a concerted effort to be welcoming to anyone who wants to come to my home.

Sometimes it is easier to be open and welcoming with strangers, or those individuals we see rarely, than it is with family members. Sometimes, the people we need to be most hospitable with are the people who are closest to us. This can include those who live in our very own homes.

This time of year, we are called in a special way to be hospitable, to open the doors of our homes and our hearts. How often do we slam the door shut, claiming that “there is no room in the inn.” We are called to make room. Will we welcome Jesus, disguised as members of our own families, into our own inns?

What is the Thorn in Your Flesh?

Sunday, July 8th, 2012

That I, Paul, might not become too elated, because of the abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, an angel of Satan, to beat me, to keep me from being too elated. Three times I begged the Lord about this, that it might leave me, but he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.” 2 Cor 12:7-9

What is this “thorn in the flesh” that St. Paul speaks of in his second letter to the Corinthians? Bible scholars have speculated over the years – it could have been a physical illness, a spiritual temptation, or perhaps a certain person who simply made his life incredibly difficult. In the end, it really doesn’t matter, and perhaps that is why St. Paul was purposefully vague (the Holy Spirit at work!). If he had specified what, in particular, was bothering him so much, we might be inclined to brush off the verse and think it doesn’t apply to us. As it is, it has something to say to each and every one of us.

Every one of us has a “thorn in the flesh” – something that no matter how hard we try and no matter how much we beg God, just isn’t going away any time soon. I know I have mine – more than one, actually. There are the physical issues I struggle with, the temptations I find myself battling every single day of my life, the people who I always seem to clash with, the character flaws that I can’t seem to correct, the sins I find myself saying in confession over and over and over again, despite my resolution to “go and sin no more.”

And yet, perhaps, like St. Paul, those thorns in our flesh serve a purpose. I know mine help make me much more understanding and less judgmental. My physical difficulties help me to have patience with others. Is someone having a bad day? Perhaps they had some pain I can’t see and don’t know about. I try to give them the benefit of the doubt.
The people I find difficult to deal with? I’m sure that they find me a cross as well, and if not them, well, then there are probably others that do and I just don’t know about it. A little kindness and biting one’s tongue can go a long way.

I know I’m not perfect. I prove it every day of my life. Therefore, I will not be casting stones anytime soon, and when I’m tempted to be self-righteous at any time, I only have to remind myself of my own laundry list of sins and that temptation is usually put in check pretty quickly.

Most importantly, though, like St. Paul, our imperfections force us to depend on God. We need His mercy, His forgiveness, His understanding. We need Him to take us, all of us – even our weaknesses, and flaws, and somehow turn our failings and our trials into something good. If we were perfect, we wouldn’t need God. As it is, we can’t make it through a minute on our own. We must rely on His grace and trust that He knows what He is doing. Those thorns in our flesh may be an ever-present reality, but God can use even them for His glory.

Book Review: My Other Self

Monday, February 20th, 2012

My Other Self: Conversations with Christ on Living Your Faith
by Clarence J. Enzler
Notre Dame: Ave Maria Press, 2010

“My Other Self: Conversations with Christ on Living Your Faith” was originally published in 1957. It has been reprinted as part of Ave Maria Press’ Christian Classics line. The author, Clarence J. Enzler was a father of thirteen children who was ordained to the deaconate in 1972, four years before his death. He is best known for his “Everyone’s Way of the Cross.” In the introduction to “My Other Self,” his children bear witness to the fact that he was a man who truly lived his faith. They write, “he was a model Christian, an outstanding Catholic, a defender of the faith, a gifted and skilled writer, a fabulous husband and an unparalleled father. But most of all, he was a man of God.”

“My Other Self” was modeled after “The Imitation of Christ” by Thomas à Kempis, but updated to include more modern theological ideas – for example, the writings of St. Therese, the Little Flower. Enzler writes as if Jesus were speaking directly to the reader, instructing him on the way he should go. In reading these pages, it is easy to believe that it is, in fact, Jesus speaking to you, inviting you to turn your whole life over to Him. He does not promise that the road will be easy. In fact, it will involve suffering. But, it is the only way to true happiness. Those who seek happiness in sinful pursuits will be bitterly disappointed, because such happiness can never last. “A saint is a person who is happy – forever.”

Enzler speaks of the need for surrender and detachment, prayer, and developing virtue. His directions are simple and straightforward, always loving and very practical. Enzler makes holiness seem possible, even in the midst of our brokenness. Every page of this book contains wisdom and offers much to reflect on. “My Other Self” is the type of book one should refer to again and again as one progresses (or perhaps takes a step backward) on one’s spiritual journey and is in need of encouragement.

There are so many wonderful quotes in this book (I literally took pages of notes while reading), but here are a few thoughts to carry with you:

“If you would be holy, surrender yourself to me.”

“I send you nothing that is too heavy for you to bear. Everything is fitted precisely to your strength.”

“You must faithfully perform all your daily duties, big and little, out of love for me.”

“Strive to love me equally in all things: in sickness or health, life or death, wealth or poverty, pleasure or pain, consolations or desolations.”

“Do not complain, but do not hesitate to ask the Father for aid to bear your cross and your sufferings.”

“Patience with me is simply trust in me. To trust me completely is the utmost in patience.”

“I require action, but I must have action firmly founded on prayer. The more you lead a life of prayer, the more fruitful your work must inevitably become.”

“Sin is turning away from your King toward some other creature, living or inanimate.”

“Give your present and your future completely into my hands. Accept here and now all that my plan for you entails. This is a great sacrifice, but it is also a great joy.”

What is True Love?

Sunday, February 12th, 2012

This week a lot of tokens of affection will be exchanged. There is certainly nothing wrong with that. I’m not going to begrudge anyone their cards, candy, and flowers. There’s even a time and place for diamonds. I’m quite fond of gifts that involve chocolate myself! But, it is important to realize that love, true love, goes far beyond anything that can be given in a box.

One of the most beautiful expressions of love I’ve ever seen took place at a soccer game. It featured an older couple I had come to know through my parish. I had the pleasure of serving with them on our pre-cana team. At the time, they had been married thirty-five years and they were responsible for giving the talk on sexuality. I’m sure many of the young couples in the audience walking in wondered what a couple older than their parents could have to say about sexuality, but their fears were quickly allayed.

I’m sure that they had their share of struggles, but this couple was so in love, even after all those years, and their talk was always one of the most appreciated of the day. He still looked at her like she was the most beautiful woman in the room and she referred to him as “the cream in my coffee!” They were full of romance, and held hands and stood as close as the young engaged couples.

One of the stories they shared took place on a holy day. They had met each other for noon Mass at a downtown chapel and then went to a restaurant for lunch. The following weekend they were at a party, and a woman came up to them and said, “Wow, you are really his wife?” Apparently, this woman had seen them when they were leaving the restaurant. They had kissed twice before getting into their separate cars, and she just assumed that they were having an affair! They also shared stories of having candlelit dinners and slow-dancing in their living room, even during the years when it embarrassed their children.

Fast-forward ten years. The husband was suffering from dementia and assorted physical ailments. On a chilly New England Fall day, his wife had brought him to the soccer field to watch their grandson play, helped him into his wheelchair, and pushed him to the field. During the game, I happened to look over at them. She was standing behind him, leaning on his wheelchair, her face tired and worn from worry and exhaustion. I offered a prayer. And then, she covered his ears with her own mittened hands to keep them warm. That simple gesture represented a lifetime of true love and was worth more than a hundred diamond rings. He died a few months later, but the witness of their love was a blessing to all who saw it through their nearly fifty years of marriage.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. 1 Corinthians 13:4-7.

Time to Simplify . . . Again!

Sunday, January 8th, 2012

Two years ago during Lent, I embarked on a forty bags in forty days project. The idea, which came from Faith and Family, was to rid one’s house of forty bags of excess material goods – ideally through giving items away, although some items definitely deserve a place in the trash. I’ve decided it’s time to do it again. No, it isn’t Lent and I most likely won’t be able to accomplish my goal in forty days this time, but I desperately need to get rid of things.
While some people seem to be able to maintain well-ordered houses all the time, mine seems to attract clutter the way refrigerators attract magnets (did I mention that I have too many of those as well?).

Some of it, I have little control over. After all, I don’t live alone and I need to respect my husband’s and children’s needs and desires as well. I can encourage them to live more simply and to give away what they no longer need, but no matter how much I might want to, I cannot simply bag up all their possessions and bring them to the local thrift shop. Part of loving other people is making the sacrifice of living with their “stuff.”

Still, I can set a good example and reduce what is within my power to do so. Right now, the sheer amount of stuff is weighing me down. Mary Ann Otto writes of a similar problem in “Boxing Day,” featured in the January 2012 issue of U.S. Catholic:

We tend to store things long after they have outlived their usefulness. I am not sure why; perhaps we document our life with them. Maybe letting go of them reminds us of our own mortality, with the realization that we will not be taking a U-Haul with us into the next life.

Jesus warns us against storing up treasures on earth. There is a reason: I find the more I keep unnecessary items, the more difficult it is to be at peace and in solidarity with Christ’s teachings. I am often distracted by clutter, and there is little doubt others could benefit from my surplus possessions.

There is obviously nothing wrong with owning things. We all need some items – things that are necessary for life, as well as things that are simply beautiful and bring us pleasure, and those items which have a strong emotional value. Yet, most of us own many things that don’t fit into any of those categories, items that we don’t use and which could be doing someone else some good. Those are the items I’m seeking to rid my life of.

I want to live a generous life. This is one way to do that, a simple way to share what I have been blessed with. I have never regretted giving something away. I have found that generosity is always rewarded. If I am generous with others, I trust that when the time comes that I need something, others will be generous with me. I have definitely found that to be the case.

I know I will never completely get rid of all the extraneous items in my life. No doubt, a couple years from now, I will once again desperately need to do a major decluttering. It is one of those on-going battles. Letting go of things is not always easy, however, it is necessary, for both my mental and spiritual health. Let the bagging begin!

Finding God in the Everyday

Sunday, January 1st, 2012

Time has gone by quickly, but it has been eight years since I started The Spiritual Woman website. While my blog has largely supplanted the website, my mission has remained the same – I have always wanted to help women find God in the everyday busyness of their lives.

I walk in those shoes. I know how crazy life can be – how hard it is to pray and focus on God when children (especially young children) need your attention, and your to-do list is overflowing with tasks. I know how easy it is to serve everyone else and forget to nurture yourself.

But, we women need to feed the well first. If we aren’t rooted in God, then we can’t go out and serve our families to the best of our abilities. God matters. Prayer matters (even if it happens while showering, or pushing a stroller, or making supper). God is there with us in the housework and the childcare and the hundreds of tasks that fill our days. We just need to pay attention.

Aileen O’Donoghue offered this take on the subject in her reflection for December 31, 2011 in Posted in Christian Living | No Comments »

More Than 100 Reasons to Be Thankful, Even in Hard Times

Sunday, November 20th, 2011

by Patrice Fagnant-MacArthur
Two years ago, I asked many people, both young and old, what they were thankful for in order to compile a list of 100 reasons to be thankful, even in hard times. While some time has passed since I put together that list, times are definitely still hard and the list is definitely still relevant. Looking it over, however, I decided that there were some things I would personally like to add to the list.

For many people, this has been the year of weather-related disasters. My own area of western Massachusetts has seen a tornado, microburst, hurricane, and an October snowstorm which caused an incredible amount of damage. The Federal Emergency Management Agency has been here way more than we would like. After losing our power for a full week, this year I am definitely thankful for the basics – electricity, hot water, heat, and being able to do the laundry. I am also incredibly thankful for good neighbors and friends who made going through that experience much easier. I am also very thankful for all the electrical workers and tree-removal people who came from far and wide to help – after the tornado and after the snowstorm.

In technological developments, while I don’t personally own either one, smartphones and tablet computers are constantly evolving and changing our world. I’m thankful for them as well. I’m also thankful for more traditional means of getting information. I still love to read my newspaper every morning and my children enjoy the comics. I hope that they continuing publishing for a long time to come.

That being said, I now offer you the original list. I encourage you to add your own reasons to be thankful in the comments section. No matter how hard life gets, we all have much to be thankful for. I wish you all a very Happy Thanksgiving!

I am thankful for . . .
1. The health of my family.
2. Taking naps on the couch or in the backyard.
3. Driving the scenic route.
4. Community events open to the public.
5. My (flawed) relationships with God and my family, both immediate and extended. Flawed relationships are much better than none at all!
6. My wife and I have grown together and I am constantly grateful and impressed as she matures.
7. The Word of God.
8. Brief and productive meetings.
9. Quilts and blankets, to keep me warm.
10. My wonderful family and for my best friend, who has always been there with quiet support, encouragement, and words of wisdom, through thick and thin since the day we met.
11. The incredible diversity of people on this planet.
12. Co-workers who don’t mind switching their days off to help you out.
13. Toys.
14. Dirty dishes because it means we have eaten. Thank you for baby giggles; they keep me sane.
15. That God made me.
16. Teddy bears.
17. The feel of a child’s hand in mine.
18. Waking up when you need to even when the alarm doesn’t go off.
19. Babies.
20. The day being silent now that it’s over for the little ones.
21. Movies and CDs being available at libraries.
22. The convenience of e-mail.
23. Wrinkle-free clothing.
24. Christmas lights.
25. Friends who care about me enough to tell me when I am being stupid.
26. Our Veterans.
27. Books, because I can experience the world, learn new things, laugh, cry and connect without ever leaving my couch.
28. My job, especially in this economy.
29. Religious leaders.
30. Volunteers.
31. A cup of hot cocoa on a cold day.
32. Family and friends; love them all!
33. The smell of homemade desserts baking in the oven.
34. Listening to beautiful music.
35. Friends meeting over a cup of tea; a fire in the hearth; a friendly game of Scrabble.
36. My kids, who can always make me laugh.
37. Being friends with my parents.
38. Every member of my family, especially for my mom who is a constant source of support, encouragement and friendship.
39. Enjoyable conversation between friends.
40. Hugs.
41. My family, having a job, having health insurance, and being loved as much as I am.
42. My health, even if I complain about certain aches and pains!
43. My family, my fiancé and being able to go to college.
44. Having a roof over my head.
45. Finding a dollar in an old coat you haven’t worn in years.
46. Enjoyable hobbies and pursuits in life.
47. The forgiveness of God.
48. Schools and colleges.
49. A dictionary & thesaurus, both within arm’s reach.
50. Repairing an object yourself and having it come out perfectly.
51. Hot showers after a hard day of work to ease away the stress of the day.
52. The express line at the grocery store.
53. The generosity of strangers.
54. “Chick Flicks” vs. “Action Movies” and explaining why yours is more enjoyable to the “other team”.
55. Tossed aside treasures at tag sales or wherever they may be found.
56. Duct-Tape!
57. Good role-models we can point to for children to aspire to emulate.
58. Indoor plumbing – imagine life without it.
59. Date nights.
60. Inspiring words that lift our souls in times of crisis.
61. Youth and amateur sports leagues to both watch and play in.
62. People who obey traffic regulations.
63. The trials and losses in my life for they have helped me become a stronger and better person!
64. Our favorite instructors and teachers.
65. People who enjoy reading what we write.
66. Chocolate!
67. Hidden places that you can sneak away to.
68. Health care workers.
69. Internet Maps and GPS devices.
70. Lucky old coins and favorite treasures, both precious and humble.
71. The spring that will come after the winter.
72. All those who came before us great and small have a story to tell. That is what history is all about. So I am thankful to be able to know and learn their stories.
73. Old libraries and their treasures which lay hidden and wait to be re-discovered.
74. People with interesting personalities who make the world better or at the very least, more interesting.
75. Brothers and sisters.
76. Word processing software.
77. Sitting in an open field on a crystal clear night and enjoying the celestial display above.
78. Our furry four-legged friends who have chosen to live their lives with us.
79. Being able to sit at a computer and just watch music videos when we are supposed to be working.
80. Sunrises, sunsets, ocean waves, hidden forests, mossy rocks and mountain streams and all the other wonderments of nature.
81. Our Guardian Angels who stay with us even when we try to refuse their help.
82. A child’s laughter.
83. The wisdom of elders.
84. Works of art.
85. Those perfect parking places which sometimes we are lucky enough to get.
86. The creative minds of others and what they share with us all.
87. Photos, for capturing a moment in time.
88. Relaxing periods of quiet during a busy day.
89. To live in a free country.
90. Bookmarks! No need to fold pages!
91. Museums.
92. Social Networking sites. I’ve always wanted to know what people I haven’t seen since grade school are up to.
93. Sweaters, hats, scarves and gloves.
94. Search engine searches that actually turn up useful results.
95. Good listeners.
96. Parks.
97. Hand-written letters.
98. Bread, the universal side to any meal.
99. Buy one, get two free sales.
100. People who commit their lives to protecting and preserving our cities, states and country.

Reconciliation: Maintenance for the Soul

Sunday, November 13th, 2011

How do you think of the Sacrament of Reconciliation? If you are like most Catholics, you probably think of it as little as possible! Or, perhaps, you think of it as something good to have available in the event you do something really, really wrong, but not something you need to concern yourself with otherwise. Or, maybe, you go every year during Lent as part of your Easter duties. You feel it is good to get that fresh start once a year.

As hard as it is to believe, the first Sunday of Advent is right around the corner. The start of a new liturgical year is a good time to take stock of one’s spiritual life. What if, this year, you changed how you think about going to Confession?
I have been reading Seven from Heaven: How the Sacraments Can Heal, Nurture, and Protect Your Family Today, a soon-to-be-published book by Elizabeth Ficocelli. She discusses many reasons why the Sacrament of Reconciliation needs to play a more important role in our spiritual well-being.

The Sacrament of Reconciliation a sacrament of healing. When we are sick, we seek out a doctor to help us. When we are spiritually ill due to sin, going to Confession helps to heal our soul. It helps to restore our relationship with God, other people, and the Church. As Ficocelli rightly states, “What we do (or what we fail to do) affects the entire community of believers, as well as the spiritual well-being of the Church.” There is no such thing as a “personal” sin that hurts no one but the person committing it. All sin has a communal dimension.

We don’t only go to the doctor when we are sick, however. We also go in for periodic check-ups, just to make sure everything is working well and that there are no underlying issues lurking under the surface, waiting to cause problems. So it should also be with taking advantage of going to Confession.

None of us is perfect. We always have some sins on our soul. If left untended, those “minor” issues can lead to bigger problems. Reconciliation can help us keep those habitual sins under control. It provides us with God’s grace to do better and root out the sources of sin in our lives. Ficocelli encourages us “to stop thinking of the sacrament as something reserved for grave situations, and begin regarding it as an important source of grace to help us avoid sins and grow in holiness.”

Many years ago, it was a common practice for families to go to Confession every Saturday. Ficocelli shares a wonderful story of such a family. It happened that every Saturday the mother did the laundry and washed all the sheets. When the children came home from getting their souls cleaned, they were able to climb into fresh, clean beds. “The children equated Confession with the feeling of being washed clean and starting the new week fresh and new, just like their bed sheets.”

Perhaps for this coming year, you could start making going to Confession at least once a month a family affair. Children need to go to Confession regularly just as much as adults do. They need the help that it provides and it is good for them to be in the habit of going to Confession for when the more serious temptations and sins of the teen years come into play.

Yes, going to Confession can be difficult. It is humbling and forces us to face our own weakness, but I have generally found that the more frequently you go, the easier it becomes. You start to look forward to that periodic soul cleaning. Attending the Sacrament of Reconciliation regularly is an important part of keeping one’s soul in good working order. Don’t neglect this essential maintenance tool.

Is Making Sacrifices “Stupid?”

Sunday, October 2nd, 2011

I’m really not one to talk about voluntary sacrifices I make – the whole “do not let your right hand know what your left hand is doing” thing. It’s something between me and God. But, I happened to casually mention to a friend that I was basically doing another Lent for 40 Days for Life, which began September 28th and runs through November 6th. The response? “Wow! That’s really stupid.”

It was not that this individual thought that the pro-life movement was stupid . No, this person is staunchly pro-life. Rather, it was the idea that I thought that my giving up something would in any way help the cause.

At first, I was deeply offended. As I thought more about it, however, I realized that most people probably share my friend’s opinion and it was worth giving some time (and a column!) to. Do our sacrifices actually matter or I am simply denying myself needlessly? If they do matter, how does it work?

Obviously, this kind of sacrifice is different than the Lenten version, which is done in a spirit of mortification and penance – to acknowledge and make reparation for one’s own sinfulness and attachment to worldly goods and to focus more on God and prayer. This type of sacrifice isn’t being offered up for oneself, but rather for another.

The answer lies in the Catholic belief in the Communion of Saints. We profess this every week when we say the Nicene Creed at Mass: “We believe in the Communion of Saints,” but what does that actually mean? It means that all of us – those in heaven, those in purgatory, and those of us struggling here on earth are all interconnected.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church states the following:
The Christian who seeks to purify himself of his sin and to become holy with the help of God’s grace is not alone. “The life of each of God’s children is joined in Christ and through Christ in a wonderful way to the life of all the other Christian brethren in the supernatural unity of the Mystical Body of Christ, as in a single mystical person.”

In the communion of saints, “a perennial link of charity exists between the faithful who have already reached their heavenly home, those who are expiating their sins in purgatory and those who are still pilgrims on earth. Between them there is, too, an abundant exchange of all good things.

In this wonderful exchange, the holiness of one profits others, well beyond the harm that the sin of one could cause others. Thus recourse to the communion of saints lets the contrite sinner be more promptly and efficaciously purified of the punishments for sin. (1474-1475)

Therefore, the good acts of one can indeed help someone else. Pope Benedict XVI emphasized this idea in his Lenten message for 2009. He stated that “by freely embracing an act of self-denial for the sake of another, we make a statement that our brother or sister in need is not a stranger.” In the case of “Forty Days for Life,” those participating are offering sacrifices and prayers to help unborn children and their mothers, all of whom are most certainly part of the Communion of Saints.

A belief in the value of sacrifice to help another person takes faith. Like many other situations, we may never see the fruit of our actions. People may indeed think that we are being dumb and denying ourselves needlessly. We trust in God and in his mercy and humbly offer our small gifts of self-denial. In the end, God’s opinion is the only one that truly matters.

Lessons from Rosh Hashanah

Sunday, September 25th, 2011

The Lord said to Moses, “Tell the Israelites: On the first day of the seventh month you shall keep a Sabbath rest, with a sacred assembly and with the trumpet blasts as a reminder; you shall then do no sort of work, and you shall offer the oblation to the Lord.” (Leviticus 23:23-25)

I’m embarrassed to admit how little I actually know about Judaism, but I’m always interested in learning more. An article in The Springfield Republican about Rosh Hashanah by Rabbi Max Davis set me on a mission to find out more about the Holy Day of the Jewish New Year.

The creation of this Holy Day by the Lord is recorded in the book of Leviticus. Rosh Hashanah literally means “Head of the Year” and will be celebrated this year the evening of September 28th through the evening of September 30th. The Jewish people are beginning the year 5772 on their calendar. Rosh Hashanah is known by a few other names. It is referred to as Yom Ha-Zikkaron (the day of remembrance) or Yom Teruah (the day of the sounding of the shofar). It is also known as Yom HaDin which translates as “Judgment Day.” As Rabbi Davis states, “It is considered a judgment day of sorts, the days upon which God scrutinizes our deeds of the previous year and notes whether or not we have lived up to our potential.”

One of those areas of living up to our potential is in the realm of our personal relationships. Rabbi Davis continues, “Rosh Hashanah celebrates the fact that it is never too late to attempt to repair our friendships, even if they are stale or sour. Rosh Hashanah bids us to seek forgiveness from the Almighty as well as from fellow mortals – and be willing to grant forgiveness too whenever possible. We are urged to mend our fractured relationships through prayer, dialogue and most importantly, through pushing ourselves to look in the mirror and admit fault when we see it.”http://www.blogger.com/img/blank.gif

One of the customs that is part of Rosh Hashanah is Tashlikh (“casting off”). According to Judaism 101, “We walk to flowing water, such as a creek or river, on the afternoon of the first day and empty our pockets into the river, symbolically casting off our sins. Small pieces of bread are commonly put in the pocket to cast off.”

We Catholics have the wonderful gift of the Sacrament of Confession for casting off our sins, but we can always use the reminder to repair our human relationships. It is a sad fact of life, but we all hurt, and are hurt by, those we care about. We let important relationships fade because of these hurts – it sometimes seems easier to walk away then deal with the messiness of human life. We hate to have to admit we were wrong.

“I’m sorry” can be the hardest words to say. “I forgive you” falls into that category as well. Yet, those two statements, provided that the meaning behind them is genuine, can go a long way in healing our wounded relationships.

Rosh Hashanah is a Jewish Holy Day, but we can all take a lesson from it. What relationships do we need to heal? What apologies do we need to offer? What forgiveness do we need to extend? This is the time to begin anew.