By Joyce Voss
Our parish was blessed with two storied and musical missions this past fall. In mid-October, Liz Owen began a journey with us in a “fresh return to Jesus.” That return involves change on our part as we develop a mind and heart that are “spiritually tough.” In Advent Julie Carrick through her music and personal stories helped us prepare for the coming of Jesus at Christmas, with a special emphasis on Reconciliation.
By using some Biblical stories, like the Prodigal Son, Liz spoke of God’s EXCESSIVE LOVE. Remember how the Prodigal Son demands his inheritance and then squanders it horribly. Despite this fantastic lack of love and respect, when the son returns home, his father runs to greet him. The father calls for a grand celebration. Like our God, he has no limits on his forgiveness to a son who is truly repentant. So, we know God will do His part in helping us change, but how do we do ours?
Regaling us with a tale she described as Nature’s discomfort factor, Liz showed us one way to prepare for change. Trudging through a Michigan forest to meet up with her family at a campsite, it began to rain and rain and rain. Liz then lost her way and became stranded for an entire night. Thankfully, rescue came early in the morning when her husband found her. It was a rescue from so much discomfort.
Isn’t DISCOMFORT something to be avoided? We love our comfort. Yet, there are times when sacrifice (discomfort) is needed. Are we willing to enter that experience or are we addicted to comfort? Does longing for comfort keep us from taking that step to get closer to Our Lord? God allows suffering, not as a punishment but as a formation; suffering can lead us to change. Saints, she reminded us, are like people in the woods, working hard to meet their challenges.
Many other stories and beautiful songs were included highlighting other topics like the Beauty of God’s world, getting creative with our spirituality and the great value each person possesses.
When Julie Carrick arrived in December, she brought us lyrical songs and tales of life altering moments. Savior and Sustenance was her overall theme. One of her first suggestions was to meditate on a single word from Scripture, like “Bread,” “Joy,” “Praise,” or “Conceive,” to spiritually hear the Lord and to open wide the heart.
During the mission, the Sacrament of Reconciliation was available to anyone present. So much is done to prepare for Christmas with food, gifts, cards, gatherings. These are good, but what is the one really important preparation. It is the welcoming of Jesus into the world. As we get ready for the Coming of Christ, how important it is to scrub our soul and allow it to be filled with the Joy of our union with Christ.
Julie spent time talking of our priests who are the voice of God and asked us to pray for vocations. Sharing some shocking statistics with us, we learned that in 1970 there were 410,728 priests serving 653.6 million people. In 2017 there were 414, 582 priests serving 1.229 BILLION people. Nearly 5000 less serving an unbelievably larger number.
As she closed her second session, Julie talked of becoming a Living Monstrance. A monstrance is a transparent holder in which the consecrated Host is exposed for veneration. Do we not hold Jesus within ourselves when we receive the Eucharist? Our transparency then is how we bring Jesus to others by the lives we lead.
During a period of personal adoration, Julie said she wrote her final song of the Mission. It revealed to us that in adoration, we are not just looking at Him. He is looking at us and notices everything about us. Nothing is hidden from His loving gaze. Then He waits to hear what is in our hearts.
Glory, glory be…both missions were spiritually energizing!