Community

Last week, I joined a Lenten small group. There’s only five of us and we’re reading “Give Up Worry for Lent! 40 Days to Finding Peace in Christ” by Gary Zimak. As someone with anxiety, this small group was simultaneously calling out to me and scaring me away. What better time than Lent to work on my faithful solution to my anxiety?

At the same time, the thought of a small group was uncomfortable enough without having to talk about our struggles. I couldn’t be alone. I mean, a small group where worriers have to talk about their worries? Hilariously, I just imagined a group of us, sitting there, too much in our heads to actually talk out loud.

The reality of the small group was actually extremely comforting. I was finally surrounded by people that understood what I was going through. I know I am not alone, but sometimes it can feel that way. My loved ones try to understand what I am going through, but they can’t always put themselves in my shoes. You can’t fully understand the illogical feelings of depression and anxiety if you don’t have it.

But these people, these four others that also had the courage to say yes to a small group? They understood.

One of the questions we discussed was what we do when we’re worrying and how we cope with worrying. Personally, when I feel worried about something, I just focus on something else. Sounds great in theory, but in reality, it just means that we find ourselves focusing on anything but the actual issues in our lives, both big and small.

However, this group wasn’t all about agreeing with each other on how to avoid life. It’s about living a spiritually worry-free life through Christ. This meant that we shared how we coped with our worries and how our faith helps us. For example, in college, I found that talking to myself helped me put things into perspective and work through things. Now I talk to God in an out-loud conversation. I know that he is listening and is planting small seeds of confidence and trust while I talk to myself.

One of my peers also told me about how they talk with the people that they are close to. I find it hard to do so in fear of being judged and rejected, but she went on to say that the conversations with loved ones have been the most calming and fulfilling. This weekend, I tried having that conversation with a loved one and she was right. The people that surround me are there because God handpicked them as my family and friends. They have the same beliefs as me and only want the best for me.

This experience made me realize that although I have found a way to use God’s strength instead of my own, I still have trouble asking others (humans) for help. But God did not put me in a bubble. He put me in a community. As Catholics, we are a part of a community of faith, meant to help each other through the hard times that we cannot handle ourselves. Do you rely on your community of faith? Do you help others?

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Veronica Alvarado is a born and raised Texan currently living in Michigan. Since graduating from Texas A&M University, Veronica has published various articles in the Catholic Diocese of Austin’s official newspaper, the Catholic Spirit, and other local publications. She now works as the Content Specialist in Diocesan’s Web Department.


Thursday of the Second Week of Lent

Reading 1 Jer 17:5-10

Thus says the LORD:
Cursed is the man who trusts in human beings,
who seeks his strength in flesh,
whose heart turns away from the LORD.
He is like a barren bush in the desert
that enjoys no change of season,
But stands in a lava waste,
a salt and empty earth.
Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD,
whose hope is the LORD.
He is like a tree planted beside the waters
that stretches out its roots to the stream:
It fears not the heat when it comes,
its leaves stay green;
In the year of drought it shows no distress,
but still bears fruit.
More tortuous than all else is the human heart,
beyond remedy; who can understand it?
I, the LORD, alone probe the mind
and test the heart,
To reward everyone according to his ways,
according to the merit of his deeds.

Responsorial Psalm Ps 1:1-2, 3, 4 and 6

R. (40:5a)Blessed are they who hope in the Lord.
Blessed the man who follows not
the counsel of the wicked
Nor walks in the way of sinners,
nor sits in the company of the insolent,
But delights in the law of the LORD
and meditates on his law day and night.
R. Blessed are they who hope in the Lord.
He is like a tree
planted near running water,
That yields its fruit in due season,
and whose leaves never fade.
Whatever he does, prospers.
R. Blessed are they who hope in the Lord.
Not so, the wicked, not so;
they are like chaff which the wind drives away.
For the LORD watches over the way of the just,
but the way of the wicked vanishes.
R. Blessed are they who hope in the Lord.

Verse Before the Gospel See Lk 8:15

Blessed are they who have kept the word with a generous heart
and yield a harvest through perseverance.

Gospel Lk 16:19-31

Jesus said to the Pharisees:
“There was a rich man who dressed in purple garments and fine linen
and dined sumptuously each day.
And lying at his door was a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores,
who would gladly have eaten his fill of the scraps
that fell from the rich man’s table.
Dogs even used to come and lick his sores.
When the poor man died,
he was carried away by angels to the bosom of Abraham.
The rich man also died and was buried,
and from the netherworld, where he was in torment,
he raised his eyes and saw Abraham far off
and Lazarus at his side.
And he cried out, ‘Father Abraham, have pity on me.
Send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue,
for I am suffering torment in these flames.’
Abraham replied, ‘My child,
remember that you received what was good during your lifetime
while Lazarus likewise received what was bad;
but now he is comforted here, whereas you are tormented.
Moreover, between us and you a great chasm is established
to prevent anyone from crossing
who might wish to go from our side to yours
or from your side to ours.’
He said, ‘Then I beg you, father, send him
to my father’s house,
for I have five brothers, so that he may warn them,
lest they too come to this place of torment.’
But Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the prophets.
Let them listen to them.’
He said, ‘Oh no, father Abraham,
but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.’
Then Abraham said,
‘If they will not listen to Moses and the prophets,
neither will they be persuaded
if someone should rise from the dead.'”

– – –
Lectionary for Mass for Use in the Dioceses of the United States, second typical edition, Copyright © 2001, 1998, 1997, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine; Psalm refrain © 1968, 1981, 1997, International Committee on English in the Liturgy, Inc. All rights reserved. Neither this work nor any part of it may be reproduced, distributed, performed or displayed in any medium, including electronic or digital, without permission in writing from the copyright owner.

St. Enda

On March 21, four days after the feast day of Ireland’s patron Saint Patrick, the Catholic Church honors Saint Enda of Aran, a warrior-turned-monk considered to be one of the founders of Irish monasticism. Born during the fifth century, Enda inherited control of a large territory in present-day Northern Ireland from his father Conall. His sister Fanchea, however, had already embraced consecrated religious life with a community in Meath, and looked unfavorably on the battles and conquests of her brother. Enda is said to have made a deal with his sister, promising to change his ways if he could marry one of the young women of her convent. But this was a ruse on Fanchea’s part, as the promised girl soon died. Fanchea forced him to view the girl’s corpse, to teach him that he, too, would face death and judgment. In this way, Fanchea – whom the Church also remembers as a saint – succeeded in turning her brother not only from violence, but even from marriage. He left Ireland for several years, during which time he became a monk and was ordained as a priest. Upon his return to Ireland, he petitioned his King Aengus of Munster – who was married to another of Enda’s sisters – to grant him land for a monastic settlement on the Aran Islands, a beautiful but austere location near Galway Bay off Ireland’s west coast. During its early years, Enda’s island mission had around 150 monks. As the community grew, he divided up the territory between his disciples, who founded their own monasteries to accommodate the large number of vocations. Enda did not found a religious order in the modern sense, but he did hold a position of authority and leadership over the monastic settlements of Aran – which became known as “Aran of the Saints,â€� renowned for the monks’ strict rule of life and passionate love for God. While living on an Irish island, Enda’s monks imitated the asceticism and simplicity of the earliest Egytian desert hermits. The monks of Aran lived alone in their stone cells, slept on the ground, ate together in silence, and survived by farming and fishing. St. Enda’s monastic rule, like those of St. Basil in the Greek East and St. Benedict in the Latin West, set aside many hours for prayer and the study of scripture. During his own lifetime, Enda’s monastic settlement on the Aran islands became an important pilgrimage destination, as well as a center for the evangelizations of surrounding areas. At least two dozen canonized individuals had some association with “Aran of the Saints.â€� St. Enda himself died in old age around the year 530. An early chronicler of his life declared that it would “never be known until the day of judgment, the number of saints whose bodies lie in the soil of Aran,â€� on account of the onetime-warrior’s response to God’s surprising call.

Return to Me

Today’s reading from Jeremiah reminded me of my high school days.  Youth group member, Steubenville retreat attendee, daily-Mass-going 14-year-old me thought she was holier than thou. I prided myself in following the rules, getting good grades and being a teacher’s pet. Even amidst the hormone shifts of teenage-hood I had permitted not a single curse word to escape my lips. In fact, when someone in the locker next to me dared to swear, I would be so bold as to speak up “please don’t use those words”, and then I would turn on my heels and walk away. I had few friends and of course not a single classmate approached this goodie-two-shoes with offers of “a good time.” I felt much like Jeremiah did being verbally attacked and snickered at. Indeed, why should good be repaid with evil?

As I left that atmosphere to dedicate a portion of my teen and young adult years to the missions, I learned that my behavior had more to do with my own insecurity than being truly holy. I clung to religion as my stronghold, followed the rules because of their consistency and familiarity. I remember thinking in those days that I had learned it all regarding my faith. I had already received the Sacraments, was familiar with a good portion of the Bible, had the Mass and many of the familiar hymns memorized… I was going to be SO BORED for the rest of my life with nothing new to learn. Boy was I wrong! I was missing one of the most important elements.

The Psalm declares steadfast trust in the Lord stating firmly: “You are my God” and speaks of His unfailing love. Did snappy requests in front of a locker speak of unfailing love? Not likely. Did gaining favor with every adult figure speaking of steadfast trust? Probably not. Did clinging to rules show God that He was mine? Nope. Like the mother of James and John in the Gospel, I was searching for greatness, albeit holy greatness, when I should have been seeking servitude. I love that quote from St. Francis that says “Preach the Gospel always, when necessary, use words” because it is a lesson that I still have not learned. I long for my relationship with God to be my all, my one and only, the reason to awaken each morning, what eeks from my very being day after day. Yet I have so far to go.

I am so grateful for this season of Lent that affords us such a great opportunity to return to God with our whole hearts. Perhaps this year I will take one step forward in my relationship with my God, my Creator, my Love, my All. “Into your hands, I commit my spirit; deliver me, Lord, my faithful God.” (Psalm 31:5)

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Tami grew up in Western Michigan, a middle child in a large Catholic family. Attending Catholic schools her whole life, she was an avid sportswoman, a (mostly) straight A student and a totally type A sister. She loves tackling home projects, keeping tabs on the family finances and finding unique ways to love. She spent early young adulthood as a missionary in Mexico, studying theology and philosophy, then worked and traveled extensively before finishing her Bachelor’s Degree in Western Kentucky. Her favorite things to do are finding fun ways to keep her four boys occupied, quiet conversation with the hubby, and grocery shopping with a latte in her hand. She works at Diocesan, is a guest blogger on CatholicMom.com and BlessedIsShe.net, runs her own blog at https://togetherandalways.wordpress.com and has been doing Spanish translations on the side for the past 18 years.