Denying our false self

What  does it mean when Jesus asks us to deny ourselves, take up our cross,  and follow him? I don’t believe Jesus means we should deny our true self, since  the Gospels are full of encouragement and affirmation for being  our authentic self. Jesus affirms this when he says, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

I believe it means we need to deny our  false self, our worldly self, that’s always trying to please the powers,  achieve status, push others aside to have its own way.  Isn’t that just what Jesus did when he denied all the false selves the Devil tempted him with in the Wilderness?

When we are willing to walk the way of the cross–the way of love, of openness, vulnerability, and self sacrifice–we are walking the way of  deep self.  Jesus calls himself “The truly human One,” and when we are  “truly human,” we are touching “Christ in us.”  

Wishing you a Holy Lent, Mother Candace+

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Tempted by the Devil

Lent always begins with Jesus struggling with his adversary “the devil” in the Wilderness. Interesting to note though, that it is not the devil, but the Holy Spirit that “led” Jesus into the Wilderness “to be tempted by the devil.”  In fact in Mark’s gospel, the Spirit “drove” Jesus into the Wilderness. Being tested in the Wilderness seems to be part of God’s plan for his beloved son, a plan that begins and ends with suffering.

Our own lives are also full of suffering, which makes one wonder if our trials are somehow necessary for our spiritual growth. Suffering, if it does not destroy us, seems to awaken something in us, seems to call up in us strengths we did not know we had. Adversity forces us to define ourselves, and define our values. Perhaps it is not a coincidence then that one of the names for the devil, “Satan,” literally means “adversary.”

Something to ponder for Lent!

Mother Candace+

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Join us for Pancakes Sunday!

This coming Wednesday, February 13th, is Ash Wednesday, the most widely attended weekday service in Christendom.  One of my favorite poems-which I often use as a prayer-is “Ash Wednesday,” by T. S. Eliot. The final stanza is found below.  Enjoy!  Mother Candace+

Blessed sister, holy mother, spirit of the fountain, spirit of the garden,
Suffer us not to mock ourselves with falsehood
Teach us to care and not to care
Teach us to sit still
Even among these rocks,
Our peace in His will
And even among these rocks
Sister, mother
And spirit of the river, spirit of the sea,
Suffer me not to be separated

And let my cry come unto Thee.

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Why Make Sacrifices?

The day before Ash Wednesday is known as Shrove Tuesday in the Church. “Shrove” is an Old English word meaning “to repent.” We still might occasionally hear the past tense “shriven” in reference to someone who has confessed and received absolution.

The French term for the day before Ash Wednesday is “Mardi Gras,” which means “Fat Tuesday” (called Pancake Tuesday by some).  The partying which is traditionally associated with Mardi Gras was a way of ridding the house of all the rich food (like sugar and butter, by making pancakes) before the 40 day Lenten fast began.

All of these Lenten traditions encourage us to simplify and purify our lives, and learn the meaning of sacrifice. As Christians we do not practice sacrifice during Lent to earn forgiveness of our sins, but because we choose the life-giving Way of the Cross, which is rooted in sacrifice. In so doing we follow the One who sacrificed everything that we might have the hope of eternal life.

 

Yours in Christ, Mother Candace+
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Trust in the slow work of God

Originally emailed 1.10.13

Trust in the Slow Work of God

Are you already discouraged that your New Year resolutions have failed, or not brought the change you hoped for fast enough? Whether of not that’s the case, here is a favorite poem worth considering in this New Year:

 Above all, trust in the slow work of God.
We are quite naturally impatient in everything
to reach the end without delay.
We should like to skip the intermediate stages.
We are impatient of being on the way to something unknown, something new.
And yet it is the law of all progress
that it is made by passing through
some stages of instability-
and that it may take a very long time.

  And so I think it is with you;
your ideas mature gradually-let them grow,
let them shape themselves,

without undue haste.

Don’t try to force them on,
as though you could be today what time
(that is to say, grace and circumstances
acting on your own good will)
will make of you tomorrow.

  Only God could say what this new spirit
gradually forming within you will be.
Give Our Lord the benefit of believing
that his hand is leading you,
and accept the anxiety of feeling yourself
in suspense and incomplete.

                -Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, SJ

 May this season of Epiphany fill us with new insights!  Mother Candace+

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How to stop an argument

Originally emailed 1.03.13

How to Stop an Argument (Epiphany:  a sudden realization, or revelation)

In the “Bleak Midwinter,” following all the anticipation and joy of Christmas, many people find themselves arguing and fighting a lot. Nothing like a little post-Christmas boredom to start picking on each other–or maybe it’s “cabin fever.” Being with partners and kids 24/7 for the past week or two probably hasn’t helped…

So let me share an idea that really helped me understand why and how to stop an argument when it’s gotten really out of control. The why is this:  “When two people are arguing, as soon as one of them loses control nothing is going to be resolved.”

The first time I heard that it was an “epiphany” for me, because I have that rational, linear, kind of mind that believes anything can be resolved if you just keep talking it through. But though that may well happen in a future conversation, it’s not going to happen once someone loses control of their emotions. Marriage experts sometimes call this “flooding.”  

We all know what flooding is: you’re angry or hurt, you start to feel adrenalin coursing through your body: your hearts racing, your face feels hot, it may even be hard to breath. Once you are flooding–or your partner/teenager/parent or sibling is flooding– it’s not going to end well.

Once you really accept that, here’s one way you can stop an out of control argument. Talk about flooding when things are calm, and try to come up with a plan. That plan might look something like this:  If possible, the person who is flooding says so out loud and leaves the room, or the house, or takes a walk–whatever they need to do to calm down. The other person respects that they have had the strength to say they are flooding, and does not try to keep them engaged. If the person who is flooding is too out of control to say it, or insisting they are not when they obviously are, the one who is not flooding cuts things short by saying something like: “I can see you are flooding, there’s nothing more we can accomplish right now, let’s try again in an hour. I’m going for a walk/to my room to read/grocery shopping.”  You might have to try several times to finish the discussion without flooding, but you WILL be able to resolve the issue eventually if at least one of you has the presence of mind to do the damage control, and delay the conversation.  I believe this is what St. Paul meant when he said, “Be angry, but do not sin.”

Understanding this concept was a big epiphany for me. If you’ve had an epiphany you’d like to share, CLICK HERE to go to our new facebook page and join the discussion! Or use this link: http://www.facebook.com/stpaulschester

May this season of Epiphany fill us all with new revelations and insights!  Mother Candace+

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Letter from the Bishop

Originally emailed 12.20.12

To the People of the Diocese of New York

On Friday our neighboring Diocese of Connecticut was rocked by the horrific eruption of violence in an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut. A number of small children and devoted teachers too large to comprehend has been killed. Once again, as too often, we weep in empathy for the pain and loss of others, in whose sorrows we can also see reflected our own lives and loves and fears, and the common humanity that binds us to one another in all times, but especially in tragedy.

This Sunday at our altars we were one in prayer for the fallen and for those who love them. We prayed for the Diocese of Connecticut and their bishops, clergy and people who minister to the broken and bereaved.  In the diverse and varied words of prayer we offer, we lay our sorrow, as well as our fears, before the heart of our loving, grieving God. This is what we do. First of all things, we are people who pray.

Over and over, we watch the horror, the pain and the grief laid upon the shoulders of people like us in communities like our own, who must then bear that horror and carry that pain as they pick up their lives and find a way to go on.  As in far too many other places in America, Newtown will never be the same. The events of Friday will cast a shadow into the future which will darken much that is yet to come. And for the families of the lost, especially the young lost children, these losses will temper every happiness and cloud every joy for a long time. We pray God’s blessing, we ask God’s grace, we invoke God’s peace for every troubled heart.

But this was the second mass shooting in America in three days. It was the thirteenth in 2012. We your bishops believe that it is past time for the United States to commit itself anew to the creation of responsible, constitutional measures of reasonable and effective gun control. We call on our elected representatives to engage the debate, resolve the question, and come to terms finally with the place and power of arms and weapons in our laws and in our common life. That we may by the grace of God and the courage of good national leaders live in peace and without fear in safe towns and cities, in safe schools, in safe movie theaters and shopping centers.

Our Christian life calls us to weep with those who weep and rejoice with those who rejoice. Our faith also calls us to be strivers after justice and peace. We don’t know what justice will look like for those who fell on Friday in Newtown, some only six years old, but we must consider what justice demands of us now, before any others of our own brothers and sisters find themselves next week or next month in another wrong place at another wrong time.

+ Mark

The Rt. Rev. Mark S. Sisk

Bishop of New York

 + Andrew

The Rt. Rev. Andrew M. L. Dietsche

Bishop Coadjutor

 + Andrew

The Rt. Rev. Andrew D. Smith

Assistant Bishop

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What do we say about Santa Claus?

Originally emailed 12.14.12

Many of us worry that Christmas has become too commercial, but ironically the symbols used to boost sales, have very spiritual origins. “Santa Claus” for example was a real live saint in the 3rd century. St. Nicholas was the “Bishop of Myra,” a city located in what we now call Turkey. He came from a very wealthy family, and used his entire inheritance to help the sick, the poor, and most of all children in need. That is why, to this day, we associate St. Nick with giving presents to children!

Many parents tell me they feel conflicted about Santa Claus. Should they pretend he’s real? Will their children’s Christmas memories be less “magical” if they don’t? Will the kids feel their parents lied to them if they do?

 With our own children we were just a little vague. We didn’t say “Santa’s not real!” and upset  all the other parents, but we also didn’t try to make him real. We didn’t leave cookies, or say he was coming down the chimney, or attribute the presents to him. We referred to the mall Santa etc. as “Santa’s helper.” We said yes, Santa was real…he was a saint and a bishop long ago who loved children so much his spirit is still with us at Christmas time–we can feel it all around us.  Something like that.  If they’re old enough to want more answers than that, it’s probably time to stop being vague and answer the question they’re asking. But since you’ve never said anything that wasn’t true, it shouldn’t be too traumatic at that point.

Have a different point of view? Go to our new Facebook Page and weigh in on “What Do We Say About Santa?”

And while you’re there see our Christmas Party Pics and remember to “Like” us, and Tag your pictures for your friends to see!

Advent Blessings!  Mother Candace+

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How to make the best decision

Originally emailed 12.06.12

This week as I began decorating the house for Christmas I realized what a good example it provides for a favorite phrase of mine: “The heart of discernment is trying it on.”

So often we agonize over a decision, mentally tormenting ourselves with all the possibilities and paralyzing our ability to move forward.  But the key to making good decisions–what we often call “discerning” in the Church–is to “try it on.” And so, as I moved through the house, I found myself practicing “good discernment” each time I tried a red bow on a wreath, then a gold, and stepped back to observe (“try on”) which one looked best to me.

Obviously, Christmas decorating does not involve life altering decision, but the mechanics are the same. Are you wrestling with a big decision right now? Is there a way you could “try it on”? A way to stick your toes in the water? Perhaps visit the office where you think you might like to work? Take a short break from a relationship you’re thinking of walking away from? Volunteer for something that’s in the realm of the career change you’re considering? Stop tying yourself up in mental knots and in some small way “try it on”!

Advent Blessings, Mother Candace+

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