After I realized I was not going to make the Bridge club lesson, I knew it would be okay because I had already started something that I had been wanting to devote some time and effort to for a while, and that was my faith….
I was raised Catholic since birth and remember going to church and sitting in the front row with all six of my younger siblings every Sunday at 7 AM mass. I have raised my own children Catholic and attend mass (but we do sleep in.) Thomas and Jack have participated in the sacraments and school of religion program as well. However, because I was a working mom and Patrick was traveling, I had not devoted time to learning and growing spiritually myself since I started working again.
When my friend asked me to do a bible study with her at our church I was excited. I love our priest and come away every time I hear him on Sunday with a new and better perspective. He was leading a book study on Pope Francis’ new book called The Joy of Love. Amores Laetitia.
The first study on the Pope’s book started at the beginning of September. Father took a few chapters at a time explaining Pope Francis’ view on love, marriage and raising children.
My favorite part of the book is Chapter Four on Marriage and Five on Raising Children. Pope Francis talks about the passage of St. Paul and what it really means to be all of the qualities he describes in Corinthians; Patient, kind, not jealous or boastful, not arrogant or rude and forgiving.
In Chapter 5 I loved Pope Francis take on Moms: A mother who watches over her child with tenderness and compassion helps him or her to grow in confidence and to experience that the world is a good and welcoming place. This helps the child to grow in self-esteem and, in turn, to develop a capacity for intimacy and empathy.
One of the best tools, was that Father gave us a cheat sheet to explain some of the view points the Pope had that we might have a hard time understanding.
Pope Francis is known for being understanding, accepting and non judgmental and that comes through in the teachings of this book.
Some Catholics who might be turned off by the rigidness of the church, should read The Joy of Love, because it assured me that no matter who you are, and what difficult situation has come your way, God still has love for you and that the church should reflect that.
The 2nd study I am currently doing is a 10 week program through the Church of Resurrection called Alpha. I have to admit, at first I felt guilty that I was not in a Catholic Church, but rather a Methodist. But after meeting the people signed up and in our group, I knew I was in a place of people who were just like me. Religious and spiritual, yet curious. All had such diverse backgrounds and occupations and it was so interesting hearing everyone’s story and perspective on what we were learning. I had also come to find out that many Catholic parishes also have Alpha groups.
Last week was a powerful discussion on the power of forgiveness. There was a story in the lesson of a priest in the Germany concentration camp, Auschwitz, named Father Maximilian Kolbe that I went home thinking about (and still continue doing so.)
The short version is that a fellow prisoner escaped Auschwitz, which meant that 10 other prisoners had to die in the starvation chamber. The guards called out 10 names. One of the men called, Franciszek Gajowniczek, shouted out that he had a family to return to. When fellow prisoner, Father Maximilian Kolbe heard this, he offered to take his place. The guard, surprisingly agreed to let him do this.
While in the starvation chamber, Father Kolbe was a source of prayer and optimism, despite the horrible conditions; calming the other 9 prisoners while they slowly died a torturous death. Father Kolbe, finally after 2 weeks of torture when everyone else had already died, was injected with a substance to kill him.
The man he saved, Franciszek Gajowniczek, died 50 years later and was forever grateful to him. He visited the shrine in his honor at Auschwitz every year on the day of his passing, August 14th.
To me this was the greatest lesson for the love of God and fellow man that Father Kolbe taught the world. He would choose to suffer and die to save the life of another. Not only that, keeping his faith in God always in his mind and helping those around him.
His story spread quickly as Franciszek would continue telling about the man who saved his life.
He was canonized as Martyr by Pope John Paul II in 1981. You can read more details on the story I found online here.
The Alpha program will continue through October with a retreat towards the mid October.
Having the time to go to the Pope’s book study and Alpha lessons has enriched my life in a very positive way. I come out each week with new knowledge and perspectives that I might never have thought if I hadn’t been there. I have even started reading a book with my boys at night that was shared with me through one of the sessions called the Case For Christ. For a girl who has spent the last 7 years running on all 4 cylinders, it is good to slow down and think about what is REALLY important in life.