Hi Everyone, I hope each of you is doing well. Wednesday marked the beginning of Lent. I don’t know about you, but it feels like we’ve been on a Lenten journey these last 11 months. For me, it makes it a bit harder to enter into Lent this year, as we’ve all been living with sacrifices both big and small. Lent also marks for us the anniversary of the pandemic. We’ll be making a special effort, to be announced shortly, of a special CFCS mass to be offered for each of you and the thousands of families we’ve served that have lost a family member over the past year. This is a part of our Lenten journey we have all shared together, and we receive special graces from this most holy work of burying the dead. In the midst of this experience, Covid-19 cases have continued to decline and vaccinations continue to ramp up, even as winter throws extreme cold and snow in an attempt to slow us down! For those of you in the warmer climates, we wish we were there with you! Let’s continue to count down these days of confinement and restrictions with optimism! One of the things we continue to work on at CFCS is the power of story to share our experience of God at work in our lives.

A Personal Story: Resisting Happiness

A little after Shelter-in-Place began a year ago, I had a group of college buddies who suggested we get together weekly and play a game of “liar’s dice” on Zoom. This was an excuse to just chat, have a drink, and reminisce. Little did we know that we would cling to these weekly get-togethers as part of our attempt at a “normal” life. After a couple of weeks, the conversation turned more serious and the suggestion was made to get our wives to join a separate weekly Zoom call to do a check-in and prayer reflection. It was a bit awkward at first, because not everyone knew each other. There were 5 couples and two singles in our new weekly Zoom “book club/prayer” meeting. We quickly realized we needed something that could help break the ice, so we decided to read the book, Resisting Happiness by Matthew Kelly. Resisting Happiness is a book about finding God in your life, and why we often resist those things that bring us closer to him and to each other. Our goal was to read one chapter a week (3-5 pages), and share anything that came to us. In the beginning I was a bit resistant to this weekly get together. I had decided I would be open to the process, but I wasn’t expecting much in return. Lent is the same. I always feel a sense of dread when it begins. Forty days of self-reflection where we experience Christ’s death and Resurrection. I know the outcome Easter is the good news, but getting there isn’t fun. At the end, God’s sacrifice of his son is his greatest act of love for us, but each year I know I am about to go through the “wringer” again. I want to avoid the pain that Christ endured, much like we want to avoid the pain in our own lives. Little did I know that our group would grow close over the year and experience the real life struggles of friends and family. For the first few weeks and months, not everyone showed up on time and not everyone read the chapter of the week. Yet, something happened. Our weekly chapters opened us up our hearts and minds to conversation, and Individuals in our group started to share their struggles with their kids, or their faith, or their living situation. We became vulnerable. Understanding that life can be messy, we quickly discovered that none of us had evaded the struggles of parenting or marriage or family relationships. During the course of the year, three of my friends had parents pass away (none from Covid), one teenager had a drug overdose, and a number of adult-children struggled with depression. I learned about a friend whose mom was brutally murdered 25 years ago and struggled for years to understand where God was in her life. One friend had to quit her high school teaching job, and another went for months without work. Unable to escape the pandemic, one of my friends is a chief of staff at a hospital so we heard first hand of his daily struggles to help his staff cope with trauma and exhaustion. In the sharing of these stories, we learned to pray and help one another endure many tough days. We didn’t solve our problems, but somewhere in the midst of sharing we recognized that Christ was present among us. We have become a close small faith community. As I look at our work together at CFCS, we get to share in similar stories of families who open up their lives to us. We have the opportunity to be these small faith communities serving as witnesses to the faith with the opportunity to grow in our own spiritual lives, both a perk and also a challenge for sure! It may be easy to compartmentalize these experiences, but there is no hiding from the fact that we all go through life carrying wounds that come with loving and getting hurt. God may be powerful, but he walks with us in the humanity of our daily lives. Thank you for being a part of our shared journey With blessings and gratitude, Robert