Categories
Uncategorized

Rise and Walk

I know this might be a stretch, but indulge me. We all probably know the Gospel story of the ill man who sat for years at the pool of Bethesda (John 5:1-15). When Jesus came into the scene, he went up to the man and asked him a simple question, “do you want to be well?” Now, one would have thought he would immediately respond, “yes!”, but he didn’t. Instead, he gave his excuses as to why he never received his cure. Jesus could have challenged those excuses, but he didn’t. Instead, he called the man to “rise, take up your mat, and walk.” The man did just that.

As I was praying about this passage, I recalled the fact that so many people dealing with chronic illness could lessen or reverse the negative affects of these life-limiting diseases if they made changes to their diet and exercise routines. When we watch the news about the current pandemic sweeping the world, we’re told that so many people who are passing away have underlying health issues. As a person who has such health issues, hearing this has caused me to look closely at how I’m taking care of myself. Not just to avoid Covid-19, but checking on all areas of my health. It’s good to do these self care checks from time to time, but especially now.

When I was diagnosed with Type II diabetes ten years ago, I quickly realized I needed more exercise. I love nature, and it was spring, so I decided instead of buying a gym membership, I would purchase a good pair of walking shoes, and away I went. At first, just walking around my neighborhood was tough. But with persistence, I began going further and further, feeling better and better each day. It was amazing.

Friends, I know that some may say that with all the “stay at home” orders in place now throughout the country, it’s not a good time to start a new walking routine. I can’t speak for other states, but where I live, walking is permissible, as long as you are by yourself and avoid others.
I love the fact that in his autobiography, St. Ignatius referred to himself as the “pilgrim.” In his day, the vast majority of pilgrims walked to their destination. So, in my mind, tying Ignatian prayer and walking, especially out in nature, would be a great way to getting myself back in shape, both spiritually and physically.

So, as we move into Holy Week, by ourselves and without the opportunity to personally participate in all the rich liturgies of those days, I would like to encourage you to get off your couch and start walking (assuming your doctor has approved). There are some great articles about walking on the internet from places like Harvard, The Mayo Clinic, and the American Diabetes Association to give you ideas and methods to follow. Check them out. Be sure you check with your doctor first before making any changes to your exercise routine.

Friends, remember that simple changes, made consistently over time, can greatly improve all areas of your life. No more excuses. Rise up and get moving. We can use this present crisis as an opportunity to team up with God and get all areas of our lives healthy. Don’t miss this once in a lifetime chance.

Categories
Uncategorized

Prayer Changes Things

A great and holy priest friend of mine had a wonderful saying, which he shared with probably thousands of people throughout his lifetime. “Prayer changes things.” So simple, yet so true. Many of us turn to prayer when we are facing difficulties, but sadly some don’t have much of a daily prayer life. We need to step up our prayer! Yes, we are now faced with very serious difficulties, but there are also many good things going on in our world, worthy of our prayerful thanks. For many centuries, people have prayed before this image of Mary and Jesus. It was once a little shrine on a street in Rome, and people would stop and pray as they passed by. It’s known as Our Lady of The Way, “Madonna Della Strada” and it now resides in the Church of St. Ignatius (Gesu) in Rome. Ignatius often prayed before this image, asking for Mary’s intercession as he went about serving God’s people.

In order to step up our prayer, here are some links I find helpful. Many of us have more time right now. Pray at the beginning, middle, and end of each day, aim for at least 30 minutes. Build up to one hour. Remember, “prayer changes things.”

Discerning Hearts is a website is loaded with prayer and teaching. I love praying the Rosary and Divine Mercy Chaplet using this site, since it helps me feel part of a larger group.

Ignatian Spirituality is near and dear to my heart. Ignatius’ Daily Examen has helped countless people over five centuries to reflect on their daily lives to see where they both saw and missed God’s presence each day. The prayer’s five simple steps begin with gratitude, a gentle reminder that we have much to be thankful for.
I know many are struggling with the reality that we cannot currently go to Mass and receive communion. Do not despair, this too will pass. I would encourage you to use this present situation as a way of recognizing how often we fail to receive the Lord worthily, how we take His Presence for granted, how we don’t admit how much we need Him in our lives. During this time, please pray this prayer of Spiritual Communion. It will provide some consolation during these difficult days.

Finally, realize that churches all over the world, which probably includes yours, are providing lots of online content, including Daily Mass, Eucharistic Adoration, Prayers, etc. Take advantage of these opportunities to remain linked to your faith community.

Our Lady of the Way, Pray for Us!

Categories
Uncategorized

It’s Time To Act

Since I began this blog several years ago, one of my main goals was to help people make the connection between spirituality and health. Many of us have heard these lines from St. Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians, “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been purchased at a price. Therefore, glorify God in your body” (19-20). I’ve always been struck by the challenge of glorifying God in (with) our body, and how difficult it is to live that out each day. I know it is for me.

Friends, our world is now confronted with the very serious and deadly Corona virus. Over the last several weeks, I’ve heard that when someone dies from this virus, it’s often because they had “existing health problems.” Although I’m no expert and cannot say for certain, my guess is that many of these “existing health problems” are those same chronic health issues which lead me to create this blog. Over ten years ago, I was diagnosed with Type II diabetes. I was obese, and was not taking care of my physical body in the way one should if they are attempting to bring glory to God through it. I could go on and on, but for now I want to tell you that I prayed very hard for a solution, and in the end, prayer was a huge part of the solution. So was changing my diet and exercising every day. Prayer, Diet and Exercise. What seemed like an insurmountable mountain turned out to be something I could get to the other side of, but it didn’t take place overnight and certainly wasn’t easy. It took months, and then, once I got to the other side and was healthy again in all areas of my life (body, mind, and spirit), I realized I needed to share what I had done with others, trusting that what happened to me was doable for others.
Over the years, I’ve learned that small changes, done consistently over time, can greatly help people get well in all areas of their lives. If you are suffering from a chronic illness but have not really made those necessary changes to improve, now is the time to act. Today! This morning in my own prayer, I made a commitment to start writing on this blog daily from now until Divine Mercy Sunday (April 19th), offering suggestions on what you can do right now to get yourself back on track in all areas of your life. We have to take personal responsibility for ourselves, and during this time of uncertainty, we can begin our journey to health. We can do this. God wants us well.

Categories
Uncategorized

2020 Check In

About six weeks ago, many of us, including me, began thinking about changes we wanted to make in the New Year.  Maybe you thought that you wanted to change your diet, get more exercise, save more money, get more prayer time in, be a kinder person, stop watching the news, etc., etc., etc..  Always with the best of intentions, we kick off these resolutions January 1st (or maybe we wait till the 2nd), and boldly begin.  Then, a day or week later, life seems to get in the way for some of us (statistics say it’s not some, but most), and all that boldness falls away. If you’ve been able to stick with it and have met with success, congratulations!  Well done!  Keep going!  If you haven’t stuck with those resolutions, its time to get back on track.  All is not lost!

As I talk with people, it sounds like implementing their New Year resolutions have met with some roadblocks and they have struggled, if not given up.  If this is  you, it’s time to review your goals, pray about them, talk them over with a friend, keep those goals or set some new ones, but get back on track before February is over.  That gives you more than two weeks for your reset.

One of my goals this year was to do a better job at consistently posting on this blog.  Well, its not hard to see that this is my first 2020 post, so I’m taking my own advice to get going.  As far as diet and exercise, I’ve given myself till the end of February to get back on track.  We have more than ten months left in this New Year.  That’s more than enough time to end up right where we wanted to be on December 31st.

Let’s pray for each other, that we follow the Lord’s lead and boldly move forward in faith, trusting that God has a 2020 plan for us, and it is very good.

Categories
Uncategorized

Being Thankful

I’m a little late with getting this Thanksgiving post up.  I have a good excuse in that, in the not too distant future, this site will be migrating back to WordPress, and with nearly 2,000 posts done over several years, there’s some back work which needed to be done. I didn’t want to create extra work for the person helping me (thanks!), so I haven’t been doing much posting lately.  All that will change in the near future, and I’m very excited for what’s on the horizon.

Back to being thankful.  Overall, it’s been a great year, but there are some things which I recognize as wonderful events needing an extra dose of thankfulness and gratitude.

At the beginning of 2019, I was talking with a friend of mine, and he told me about an upcoming Ignatian Spiritual Conference being led by Fr. Joe Tetlow SJ.  I had heard from others that, given his advanced age, he wasn’t active anymore. Wrong.  Let me just say this amazing Jesuit priest is very much active and the knowledge I’ve gained from him this year has been transformative.  Lucky for me that I attended not one but two conferences with Fr. Tetlow and his team, both taking place at Montserrat Retreat Center in Dallas.  These events were completely unexpected gifts, for which I’m especially thankful.  Over the next year, you’ll be reading here about some of the graces flowing from my learning.

In early October my great niece Maeve was born.  She came a month early, and as to be expected, there were some initial health issues.  Thankfully, she’s doing great now and I have loved to see all the photos coming via text.  Little Maeve is the first baby born in our family in about ten years, and I’m looking forward to meeting her at Christmas.  Such a gift!

Also in October, I met for the first time with a nutritionist.  I was encouraged by my diabetes specialist to make the appointment, and I’m really grateful I did.  It’s been ten years since my initial diagnosis of type II diabetes, and although my numbers are good, they are not where I need them to be.  My doctor thought setting some new nutrition goals were in order, so the appointment was important.  When I arrived, the nutritionist told me that the appointments after me had cancelled, so he had some extra time to talk.  He was so helpful and had great advice.  Although I have been slow to implement some of his suggestions, I’m using the Advent season to get on track.  I know that the holidays are not the best time to make dietary changes, but I’m up for the challenge.  I want to set the stage for the New Year.

Well that’s enough for today, the First Sunday in Advent.  Hard to believe how fast 2019 went by and I’m guessing it will be the same for 2020.  Let’s use the Advent season to reflect on all the ways God has blessed us this year, rather than focus on all the negativity and craziness which seems to permeate everything right now.

Categories
Uncategorized

I Like To See The Sun Rise

I recently came across a  blog post which mentioned a new movie called I Like To See The Sun Rise.  The movie is about the life of Saint John Paul II, and the title comes from the response John Paul gave when asked “Holy Father, why do you get up so early each day?”  After all these years of reading John Paul’s writings and also stories written about him, I was surprised that this is a quote I’d never heard before.

It resonates so much with me because I too love to see the sun come up each day.  I was at a meeting earlier this week and each participant was asked “how do you find God in all things?”  For me, dawn is one of the most profound ways I find God, and it’s rooted in St. Ignatius’s Daily Examen prayer.  The last point in this five-point prayer is a call to look toward the day to come. So often we get stuck in the messes of yesterday, trapped in what could have, should have, ought to have been.  Friends, yesterday is gone.  Of course, we need to seek and give forgiveness as needed, but Ignatius also challenges in the beginning of the Examen to always be grateful for the gifts given to us.  In our culture today, it seems as though many are so focused on the negative that we loose sight of the positive.  That’s no way to live as a Christian.

As I’m typing these words, I can see the sun coming up through my window.  It’s going to be a good day.  Like St. John Paul II, my day actually began a few hours ago.  Like him, I’m an early riser and I enjoy some uninterrupted prayer time, sipping my coffee and thinking not only of yesterday and praying for those in need, but also thinking about the day to come, and how I might be a better person throughout the day, seeking God in all things and rejoicing that I have eyes to see and ears to hear.  As St. Theresa of Calcutta used to say, we don’t have to do great things.  Just do little things with great love. I don’t know about you, but if we could all live out that quote, we could change the world, one sunrise at a time.

Categories
Uncategorized

Summer’s End

In my area, kids are going back to school today, which generally marks the end of summer.  It seems like it flew by this year, and I feel grateful that I was able to get a little R and R in this past week.  My sister came in to visit, and we decided to head to a place where neither of us had been.  Solomons Island is in Southern Maryland, just a little over two hours away from where I live.  It’s not a big resort town like Ocean City, and for that, we were happy.  After settling into our hotel, off we went to explore the island, just an easy 30 minute walk down the road.  We were surprised that it wasn’t more crowded, given that it was Labor Day weekend, but we were happy to do our part for the local economy.  I’m sure the shop/restaurant owners were hoping for the place to be packed with tourists.  Maybe next year.  Anyway, we did a lot during our three days.  From dockside meals, a boat trip, looking for fossils at Calvert Cliffs, more walking miles than I can count, and capturing beautiful sunrises and sunsets, we ended our trip with a hope to return in the not too distant future.

I hope you had the chance for some down time during the last few months.  If not, fall is great time to get out and explore.  We all need downtime, especially in these crazy days.  Even if it’s just an overnight, or maybe a weekend, make some plans.  Find a new place to explore, and savor your time there.  You just never know if you’ll have the same chance again.

Categories
Uncategorized

The Feast of St. Ignatius

July 31st is the day the Church throughout the world recognizes and honors St. Ignatius of Loyola. It was only about ten years ago that I  got to know Ignatius and the spirituality that developed out of his powerful conversion and his experiences he wrote down in a notebook, later to be known as the Spiritual Exercises. Now, I’ve adopted his spirituality as my own, and I share what I know with others, the goal being to recognize God’s presence all around us and to live our lives as faithful companions of Jesus. It’s a good way to live!

“There are very few who realize what God would make of them if they
abandoned themselves entirely to His hands, and let themselves be formed by His
grace.

A thick and shapeless tree trunk would never believe
that it could become a statue, admired as a miracle of sculpture… and would
never consent to submit itself to the chisel of the sculptor who, as St.
Augustine says, sees by his genius what he can make of it.

Many people who, we see, now scarcely live as Christians,
do not understand that they could become saints, if they would let themselves
be formed by the grace of God, if they did not ruin His plans by resisting the
work which He wants to do.”

Ignatius of Loyola

(in a letter to Ascanio Colonna, Rome, April 25, 1543)

Categories
Uncategorized

Healthy Kale

I don’t know about you, but I’m always looking for books which can help me improve my health.  And there are plenty to choose from, some good and helpful, while others are pretty bad and not worth buying.  Recently, I came across Genius Foods by Max Lugavere and Paul Grewal, and its a book which I want to recommend to you.  It is well written and researched.  The book came about because Lugavere was trying to understand the causes of  his mother’s early-onset dementia.  He’s made it is mission to find ways we can improve our brain/overall health by focusing on what foods we  should eat and what foods we should avoid.   The title of Chapter Three is “Overfed, Yet Starving,”  and the focus is on the fact that the vast majority of food most of us eat provides little/no nutritional support needed by our bodies for good health.  Because our bodies are starving for these nutrients, we eat more and more food, but for most of us, this food has been highly processed and loaded with sugar and carbs.  The research out there shows that such a diet affects not only or mental health, but, as the obesity epidemic makes visibly clear, our physical health as well.    The book focuses on a number of healthy foods which the authors call “Genius Foods,” hence the title. They recommend consuming a variety of them on a daily basis.  One of the foods they recommend are dark leafy greens.  The authors note “they are low in sugar and packed with vitamins, minerals, and other phytonutrients that the brain desperately needs to function properly.”  One of my favorite greens they recommend is kale.

Now, I haven’t always eaten kale, but I grew to really liking it after a Dietitian I brought in for one of my retreats gave a demonstration on how to properly prepare it.  She made a tasty salad, making the kale  tender by massaging them with her hands to break down the sometimes tough and fibrous leaves.  Delicious, and a joy to eat!  I’ll have to find that recipe….

For the last three years, I’ve been growing kale in my window box planter shown in the photo.  Granted, the kale doesn’t grow as large this way, but it’s perfect for me.  When the leaves get about 8-12 inches long, I cut them at the base with a pair of scissors.  Within a few days, the leaves are growing again, so I’m able to get several cuts over the span of a couple of months.

Genius Foods includes a simple and tasty recipe called “Cheesy” Kale Salad.  At this time of summer, kale is very easy to grow or find at a store/farmer’s market.  I hope you’ll give the recipe a try.

“Cheesy” Kale Salad  (serves 2-3)

1 bunch kale, center ribs and stems removed (reserve these for juicing or eating later)

2 tb. extra virgin olive oil

2 tb. apple cider vinegar

1/2 green bell pepper, chopped

1/4 cup nutritional yeast (or Parmesan)

1 tsp. garlic powder

3/4 tsp. salt

What to do:

1 Tear the kale leaves into small pieces and place them in a large bowl.  Add the oil and vinegar and stir or massage it into the leaves to start to soften them.  Add the green pepper, then the nutritional yeast, garlic powder and salt.  Toss until everything is well combined.

Eat as is, or mix in some anchovies.  Or throw a grass-fed beef patty on top.

Categories
Uncategorized

31 Days With Ignatius of Loyola

Every year around this time, Loyola Press offers people who want to grow deeper in their understanding of the spirituality of St. Ignatius a fantastic opportunity. Throughout the thirty-one days of July,  their microsite will give you some fantastic insights to reflect on and maybe integrate into your daily life.  You can click the link below and start your 31 day journey, starting July 1st.  Don’t worry if you get a late start.  There’s something for everyone, and I hope you’ll commit at least a little bit of your day to pondering what you read on 31 Days With Saint Ignatius.  Enjoy!