Recently ABC’s Good Morning America aired a special series called “What Your Teens Don’t Want You to Know.” In case you missed it, the informative and enlightening series was about teens, their cell phones and social media. As a parent of a thirteen year old daughter, this was a very eye-opening interview. It’s agreed that most parents are concerned about their teen’s use of social media but since it is not something we grew up with, nor is it something we completely understand, many parents (myself included) are a little unsure of this new virtual territory. I believe there is a lot of good that can come from social media but I would be naive to think that it is completely safe and that my child wouldn’t be tempted to engage in activity on it that may get her into trouble. In the series “What Your Teens Don’t Want You to Know,” GMA correspondent T.J Holmes, met with a group of parents and their teenage daughters to discuss phones and social media. The parents in the interview discovered was that their daughters had downloaded “ghost” apps (apps that are not what they seem) on their phones. These apps have secret codes that allow users to send text messages or pictures that are hidden unless you have the code. One app in particular, Calculator+, appears to be just a regular calculator but once you put in your secret code, the hidden app is revealed. By using this app, teens can store private pictures and messages without their parent’s knowledge. The girls in the GMA interview also shared they each have a second Instagram account their parents don't know about. The account called a Finstagram (fake Instagram) and is for their friends' eyes only. "It's basically a fake Instagram that you use to, like, post embarrassing photos of your friends," explained one of the girls.”
With Holy Week and the Triduum just around the corner, I have been thinking about how quickly we set the Easter Season aside and get on with “ordinary” time even when the Church continues the 50 days of celebration. What’s really sad is that we are called to be Easter people all year round. And we just don’t seem to get it. I mean, Resurrection has happened, we are redeemed, Jesus showed us love conquers hate, light conquers dark, and grace conquers sin. We should be shouting “Alleluia!”
Imagine what it must have been like being Mary and Joseph and parenting the young Jesus. Imagine that you are a cousin of Jesus and you know his true identity even when you are both children. Imagine that you are a Roman soldier charged with killing anyone who is a threat to the Roman Empire and King Herod. How would you respond?
Lent has this tendency to surprise me. It seems to just come out of nowhere. And with little less than a week away from Ash Wednesday, I find myself in the same situation.
Each year I embark on Lent as some great adventure that will help me encounter God in new and surprising ways. As I'm still discerning what practices to take on this Lent, the theme of mercy has piqued my interest. With all the lively buzz around the Jubilee Year of Mercy, I want this Lent to reflect this important time. Not that mercy isn't important during other times of the year, but this Jubilee Year is an important reminder of the challenge of being a Christian. It's about giving and loving when it's inconvenient. It's about not counting the cost in serving others. It's about recognizing Jesus in every person we meet.
On New Year’s Eve we are all excited about our resolutions and promises to make this year the best yet. Well, it’s almost the end of January and how many of us have stuck to our resolutions? In my opinion, that’s the problem with resolutions; they are hard to keep. In fact, they may even cause us more stress because we set our expectations so high and then when we don’t keep our resolutions we feel like a failure. Resolution sounds a lot like the big “c” word – commitment and we all know that we don’t have time to commit to one more activity in our busy lives. In fact, the very word “resolution” actually means “to make a firm decision to do or not do something or the action of solving a problem.” Thus, to set a resolution each year declares that there is something broken in our lives and we need to fix it.
As 2016 begins, I have been thinking a lot about solidarity. It’s such a vital part of our Catholic identity. Jesus taught us by word and action what it means to stand with our brothers and sisters—especially those in need—who are not part of our inner circle. And our own U.S. Catholic Bishops call solidarity one of the seven basic foundations of Catholic social teaching. Yet there is so much division in our world and in our country—between countries and continents, between people of different races or religious beliefs, between political parties, between conservatives and liberals, even between neighbors and neighborhoods. It makes me wonder how often we as Church and as individuals practice solidarity. How are we teaching and modeling this virtue in our ministry?
There's much excitement and anticipation for the upcoming Jubilee Year of Mercy. The Holy Father will begin the Jubilee Year by opening the Holy Doors on December 8, 2015. With lots happening around us, be sure to set some time aside to discern how we will personally live out this Year of Mercy.
Well, that’s exactly what just happened! Last month a very significant event quietly occurred in the United States. I say “quiet” because as amazing as this event was, there was hardly any media recognition about it. In October of 2015, Nobel Peace Laureates, religious leaders, global thinkers, and interfaith activists gathered in Salt Lake City for the Parliament of the World’s Religions (Congress of the Religions). The Parliament is the oldest (1893), the largest, and the most inclusive gathering of people of all faith and traditions. Traditionally, the Parliament occurs every five years. This year 10,000 people, 80 nations, and 50 different faiths came together to learn, dialogue, and pray with each other.
Photo by Leticia Bertin on Flickr
If ever there was an opportunity for us to celebrate and be grateful for God’s mercy and compassion and forgiveness, it’s now. Carpe diem! Seize the day! Since Pope Francis announced a Jubilee Year of Mercy beginning December 8th on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, and ending on November 20th of 2016, we’ve probably all been thinking about how we can weave the theme of mercy into our evangelization and catechesis. But before we get there, maybe there’s a preliminary step!
I think the first thing I need to keep in mind is to not create ways I can use the Jubilee Year of Mercy in my ministry. (That will come later.) I believe Pope Francis is calling me to show mercy myself. I have the audacity to pray the Lord’s Prayer every day. Sometimes I don’t pay attention to the fact that I am asking God to forgive me only to the degree I forgive others. No more, no less. It’s a scary thought. I am certain I’d rather be judged by God than by me. So perhaps the best way I can enter into the Year of Mercy is to become a person of mercy, to forgive, to offer mercy when I really want justice, and to have a more compassionate heart. What do you think?