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Bible Reflections View Comments

Love and Faith in Tough Times
By Diane M. Houdek
Source: Bringing Home the Word
Published: Sunday, August 18, 2013
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Perhaps you’ve heard someone say, “Friends are the family you choose.” We might say that about people who share our religious beliefs. We have an image of faith being passed down in families, almost part of our genetic identity. This is especially true in cultures that are traditionally Catholic. Today’s Gospel reminds us that even at the time of Jesus, this wasn’t always the case.

“From now on a household of five will be divided, three against two and two against three.” These words from Luke’s Gospel can startle us. We’re so familiar with Jesus preaching a message of peace and love that these words about division and conflict seem harsh, even frightening.

Jesus’s words offer a kind of tough love, a comfort to those who are struggling with family issues and questions of religious expression. They name a reality that many people experience but feel guilty about. To hear Jesus himself say that following him may break even the most sacred bond of family ties can offer hope in the midst of darkness.

Religious identity, and the deeper questions of faith that accompany it, can be a stormy time for many people. Certainly for the early Christian community, people were confronted with the realization that they were no longer welcome in synagogues because of their commitment to the way of Christ. The reality of the communities that produced the Gospels was that people were being rejected by their families of blood and searching for new family ties with those who shared their belief in Jesus as the Messiah.

Many people who come into our Catholic faith from other denominations, other religions, or no religion find themselves wrestling with objections from family members, even rejection. Hearing Jesus’s words today at least gives these people a sense of not being alone in their struggle, as well as some assurance that faith in Christ is worth the price.

Even lifelong Catholics find themselves going through transitions in their faith and their Catholic identity. Sometimes it’s more difficult for these “cradle Catholics,” because there’s no ritual for claiming an adult commitment to one’s religion.

Polls and studies over the years have shown that many people drift away from the Church in their young adult years. They may have been raised Catholic, gone to Catholic schools, but the pressures of being away from home, the fascination with learning new things and encountering new cultures, can distract them from things they took for granted. Often they return to church when they marry or have children, or when they go through some life crisis.

Sometimes young Catholics find themselves searching for a more intense expression of religion than their parents have. Religion can be a way to carve out a distinct identity, a way of being in the world that’s not the same as we had growing up. This can lead to conflict and confusion.

The key, perhaps, is to focus not on the division, not on the conflict, but on the ultimate goal: a deeper commitment to Christ, a closer relationship with his followers, whoever and wherever they are. We will find the love and faith we need if we focus on Christ.


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Angela Merici: Angela has the double distinction of founding the first teaching congregation of women in the Church and what is now called a “secular institute” of religious women. 
<p>As a young woman she became a member of the Third Order of St. Francis (now known as the Secular Franciscan Order), and lived a life of great austerity, wishing, like St. Francis, to own nothing, not even a bed. Early in life she was appalled at the ignorance among poorer children, whose parents could not or would not teach them the elements of religion. Angela’s charming manner and good looks complemented her natural qualities of leadership. Others joined her in giving regular instruction to the little girls of their neighborhood. </p><p>She was invited to live with a family in Brescia (where, she had been told in a vision, she would one day found a religious community). Her work continued and became well known. She became the center of a group of people with similar ideals. </p><p>She eagerly took the opportunity for a trip to the Holy Land. When they had gotten as far as Crete, she was struck with blindness. Her friends wanted to return home, but she insisted on going through with the pilgrimage, and visited the sacred shrines with as much devotion and enthusiasm as if she had her sight. On the way back, while praying before a crucifix, her sight was restored at the same place where it had been lost. </p><p>At 57, she organized a group of 12 girls to help her in catechetical work. Four years later the group had increased to 28. She formed them into the Company of St. Ursula (patroness of medieval universities and venerated as a leader of women) for the purpose of re-Christianizing family life through solid Christian education of future wives and mothers. The members continued to live at home, had no special habit and took no formal vows, though the early Rule prescribed the practice of virginity, poverty and obedience. The idea of a teaching congregation of women was new and took time to develop. The community thus existed as a “secular institute” until some years after Angela’s death.</p> American Catholic Blog I hear far more people discuss the presence of evil in their lives than they do the supreme power of grace. God is bigger than evil!

 
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