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Keep it Civil

Blog by Associate Colette Parker

In case you haven’t noticed, there are some people vying to become the next president of the United States.

How could you NOT, you might ask.

I don’t know, I might answer (lol).

I wanted to get that laugh in, hoping a little levity will help during this contentious time in American politics.

I know things can get ugly – name-calling, nasty barbs, harsh criticism, etc. – but abusive or venomous language does not have to be the norm. We can choose a different path by reviving civility in a time of deepening political divisions.

We can choose to accept the fact that not everyone is going to agree with our political views. We can choose to disagree without disrespect. We can choose to use respectful dialogue, which can translate into modeling the Golden Rule – recognizing  the respective dignity of others.

Anyone who knows me, knows that I can be as passionate as the next person about my opinions. But I hope they also know that I am willing to listen intently to someone who does not share my opinion.  I listen intently because I believe engaging in dialogue goes beyond exchanging views – it requires a sharing of reasons for the perspective; it requires truth-seeking.

Can the exchange be stormy? Yes. Disagreements can be unsettling. But they don’t have to be toxic, if we come from a place of integrity and common respect with a willingness to listen.

Opinions are important, but how we express them is almost always more significant than what we say.

Paulo Coelho (a Brazilian lyricist and novelist) puts it this way: The world is changed by your example not by your opinion.

What kind of example will you set when expressing your political views?

Posted in Associate Blog, News

LET YOUR LIGHT SHINE

Blog by Associate Colette Parker

I don’t know about you, but there are times when I need some inspiration to propel me to keep moving forward.

Whether it’s the winter blues, our chaotic culture, the turbulent political climate, family turmoil, or something else causing confusion, discouragement, desperation, pain, sadness, or fatigue that makes our world seem like a dark place, we must always remember that there is light to be found if we look for it.

I used the word “inspiration” (instead of motivation) in the opening line because, for me, inspiration stirs the heart, mind, and spirit. It is usually during that “stirring” process that my passion and purpose is awakened – fueling me to move forward, forcing me to take account of my internal landscape.

Self-reflection (whether voluntary or involuntary) tends to take me to a place where I realize that the essence of who I am – the shining seed of my authentic self, the inner light that shines brightly – is enough to help me get through the darkness.

My experience has taught me that I might not be able to change what is happening and that I can’t control other people, but I can choose to handle adversity with grace, courage, and joy – I can choose to be a source of inspiration for others.

As a Christian, I take seriously the charge to bring light to dark places — to look for opportunities to lift up someone else. By allowing my own light to shine, I can help other people recognize the light that is within them.

If you are looking for some simple wisdom on how to be light in the world, I offer this inspirational quote from an unknown author:

Use your voice for kindness,

your ears for compassion,

your hands for charity,

your mind for truth,

and your heart for love.

Posted in Associate Blog, News

The Joy of Spiritual (Grand)Parenting

Blog be Associate Sal Ciferno, OPA

One of the greatest honors of my life befell me late last year.

My fourteen-year-old granddaughter asked me to be her confirmation sponsor. I was taken by surprise because my remembrance of confirmation sponsors was that they were gender specific and, as such, the field of qualified female candidates in our family is vast. It may be needless to say that my answer, in the affirmative, was spontaneous.

Forthwith, we began our journey — together with my daughter and her husband. We gathered documentation, attended classes to complete curriculum, and completed service hour requirements.

The next step was the confirmation retreat. While our candidates (including my granddaughter) spent the entire day in retreat, I (along with the other sponsors) participated for about four hours. We worked on team building exercises and communication skills. One of the suggestions for the retreat was for sponsors to write a letter of support to his/her confirmation candidate.

As I began my reflection on the content of my letter, many wonderful thoughts came to my mind. I immediately recalled fourteen years of growth and maturity and realized just how blessed I and my family are. I see a loving, lovely, kind, intelligent girl with a fantastic sense of humor and I totally love the person she has become.

With these thoughts in mind, I began drafting my letter, using 1 Chronicles 16:11… “Seek the Lord and His strength; seek His presence continually!” and Romans 12:9… “Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good.” as the foundation of my message.

I began my letter by reminding my granddaughter of how much she is loved by me and her family. I expressed to her that my love for her is immeasurable and yet is nothing compared to the love God has for her (as He does for all of us); and, quoted my late pastor, Father Crumbley: “without His love we would all cease to exist.”

I incorporated 1 Chronicles by reminding her that during this time of confirmation, it is important to adopt a prayer life, because it is the fuel for love and strength. I shared with her my simple daily prayer: “bless us, keep us, make us holy”.

As I continued, I began to realize that my granddaughter walks a very straight line. Our conversations about school, bullies, mean girls, and drugs are easily accepted topics for her. She has a beautiful heart and truly cares about the disenfranchised. This is where I began to understand that my role as her sponsor is to teach and guide her in the acceptance of her spiritual life.

It is truly my belief that her walk is already in accordance with Romans 12:9 because her love is genuine; she abhors what is evil; and she holds fast to what is good.

So, as it goes in the world of grandfathers, I don’t believe that there is any prouder grandfather than I.

Posted in Associate Blog, News

Prayer as Relationship

Blog by Associate Frank Bevvino

I attended a men’s retreat a few months ago at the Dominican Retreat Center in Niskayuna, NY. Fr. William Sheehan, OMI, was the retreat leader. During the retreat, he said “all prayer is relationship”.

Since then, those words have reverberated within me. It is a simple concept, which at its core is really why we pray at all. What does it mean to have a relationship with God? –certainly not that we need to find God because God is never absent from us. It is our responsibility through Baptism to discover God.

Prayer is our reaching out to acknowledge God’s presence in our life. Prayer, or communication, is being present to the Lord. Our prayers come in many forms: petitions, expressions of gratitude, contemplation on scripture readings and reflection on events in a particular day. God already knows all about us. It is we who need to get to know God.

As it is with God, communication is essential in getting to know others. As we spend time with family and friends, we experience their wants and needs, their social and political leanings. Families exist not only in the biological sense but also in our social and religious communities.

In the first half of the 20th Century, parish communities developed into families which grew as they shared common interests. The more people interacted, the more they became aware of each other’s needs and wishes and the closer they drew together in relationship the more they committed to meeting the needs of those in their families.

Sharing became the common bond that kept them together. Soon, that relationship building dynamic extended beyond the parish community and out into the larger community. Interactive community creates relationships that transcend communal prayer and grow into a friendly and caring community.

February is the month of the Holy Family. We can take heed to the words “prayer as relationship” by applying them to our parish community, family, friends and the wider community. St Paul tells us that, collectively, we form the Body of Christ. Our relationship with God can grow exponentially as we interact with others in our human family.

A relationship with God is essentially grown by expanding our love to each other and becoming the Christ to each other. “For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit.”(1Cor 12:12-13)

Posted in Associate Blog, News

How Amazing to Touch a Moment in History

Blog by Associate Vicky Ortega

I love old books and documents; and as a government employee, I help make records available to the public, including documents with historical value.

I recently had an opportunity to touch such a historic document. The experience was amazing!

On January 17, 1964, the City and County of Denver entered into a contract with the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., under which Dr. King asked to provide lectures and question-answer sessions in the Denver community.

The Denver Commission on Community Relations, whose powers and duties included developing educational campaigns devoted to “teaching the need for eliminating group prejudice, intolerance, bigotry, disorder, and discrimination”, agreed to pay Dr. King the total sum of $200.00 at the rate of $20.00 per hour for his services.

I couldn’t take my eyes off the signatures, especially that of Dr. King.  The blue ink was still vivid on the page fifty-six years after Dr. King’s hand touched the page to sign it.

As I gazed at Dr. King’s signature, many things raced through my mind.  I was born in July 1964.  I wondered what it was like to listen to Dr. King speak in person about civil rights and equality. I tried to imagine the community meetings and lectures where he discussed his quest to eliminate prejudice, intolerance, and racial discrimination in this country.

I wondered how city and state government officials responded to his presence in Denver, especially since it was well known that some government officials were also members of the KKK in the 1920s and 30s. I thought about the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 on July 2, 1964, and the Nobel Peace Prize that was awarded to Dr. King on November 11, 1964.

Returning to the present, I thought of all the things we do currently to celebrate Dr. King’s life including the Denver “Marade” which is a combination of a march and a parade where thousands of people gather on Dr. King’s holiday to remember his legacy and to continue the pursuit for peace and justice. We also pray the same prayers Dr. King offered in the hopes of opening hearts, minds, and spirits.

A few days afterward, I was in morning prayer and found myself drawn to the words in Psalm 78 where the Psalmist advises us, among other things, to stay faithful to God by teaching lessons learned from the past to the next generations. The psalm powerfully reminds us to reach out to the next generations so they will learn to place their trust and hope in God for themselves and for each other.

News reports indicate that Dr. King told the people of Denver, “The shape of our world today does not afford our nation the luxury of an anemic democracy.”  He emphasized that “We made of this world a neighborhood. Now we must make of it a brotherhood. We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools.”  He decried “the appalling silence of the good people” in the fight for better civil rights laws.

One such article can be found here.

Yes, it was exciting to touch the same document that Dr. King once touched.

It was sobering to realize that today we face the same reality where the silence of good people will be the greatest tragedy of our times. There is little doubt that our world is at a point of historic social and environmental transitions. The clamor of bad actors seems to be as strident and as loud today as it was in 1964.

It is necessary to continue to learn from this country’s sorry history of prejudice, intolerance, discrimination, and injustices. We have made a world that desperately needs to hear a voice that inspires all of us to work for equality among all God’s people.

The psalm motivates us to keep reaching out, with love and respect, to the next generations in our communities so they too will work to energize anemic neighborhoods and to promote peace and justice for all people.

Keep Hope alive!  Keep Faith alive! Let’s do this for ourselves, the next generations, and for God.

Posted in Associate Blog