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Category: Growing Up

L’Arche: A Place of Grace

L’Arche: A Place of Grace

Today, my student caught me off-guard as she comes into my office, stands in front of me, and says, “Ms. Catalan, can we talk about something?” I say, “Sure, of course! Aren’t you in class right now?” “Yes,” she answered, “but it’s for class, so my teacher said it was OK.” I asked her what she needed help with and she replied, “I need to process our L’Arche trip for my project.” Here we go!!

The topic: Grace. Wow – not an easy topic, but in some ways, not a difficult topic either – rather, a topic that causes pause, reflection, and contemplation when explored deeply.

In that moment, we reminisced about the trip, shared highlights and unpacked them a bit more. Why does that moment stick out to you? What did you learn in that moment? What is challenging about what you encountered? How will you allow that experience to affect your future interactions with others or affect the way you view the world?  A couple of kleenex later, the connections started to be made between the dots, and shortly after, she came back to ask follow-up questions.

Some of us will never be able to go inwards and reflect on deeply moving encounters and experiences. For high school students to take this upon themselves and acknowledge the need to process experiences…wow – I am moved. I am grateful that my workplace cares about our students enough and so values the education found in immersion trips, that these trips are ingrained within our school’s values. I am grateful that I can talk faith topics and social justice topics with students, and these conversations are encouraged. I am also grateful to be a part of immersion trip experiences that I am confident will stay with my students and perhaps shape them in amazing ways for the rest of their lives. That in itself is pure gift!

What a beautiful day this was!

From Living Water

From Living Water

Today we read one of my favorite Gospels…did you miss it? Here it is for you:

Gospel of the Day: John 4:5-42

“If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.” – John 4:10

Check out Brother Mickey McGrath’s print HERE


The Samaritan woman at the well is no angel. Mixed up with a wrong crowd, this poor woman from Samaria has quite a reputation. She had been married five times and was living in sin with a man who wasn’t her husband.

Through her story comes the lesson that people shouldn’t live by carnal pleasure. The story also shows that a well of grace is ready to refresh the soul parched by sin and suffering and that Jesus comes to save the sick and to serve those who still need both physical and spiritual healing — not only the converted.

Her story is also relevant because it becomes an antecedent of Christian practices — that one may seek God’s forgiveness for wrongdoing.

In some Christian religions, including Catholicism and Orthodox, seeking forgiveness is the basis for the sacrament of Reconciliation (confession). Every faith has a teaching and belief that God forgives sin and that repentance is always possible. The Jewish feast of Yom Kippur and Islam’s Ramadan are also examples of seeking forgiveness and showing atonement for sin.

The woman at the well had her sins “washed away” by Jesus. The story shows that Jesus offers divine mercy in the living water of grace, which washes away sins and cleanses souls. The woman went to the well to get a jug of water. Instead, she got much more, including a cleansed and refreshed spiritual life.

Going to the well

Because of her lowly status, the Samaritan woman goes to the well during the hottest point of the day to avoid the wagging tongues of her fellow townspeople. Most other people were taking siestas at this time; nobody in his or her right mind is out in the noonday sun. The woman of Samaria knows this and seizes the opportunity to get water for her home without being bothered.

Jews didn’t normally travel on a Samaritan road, but Jesus chose to walk this way anyway. He comes upon the well, where he meets the Samaritan woman and asks her for a drink of water. The woman, who understands her low social status in the eyes of a Jew, is astonished that this pious Jew requests water from her.
Experiencing renewed spirit

Jesus uses the water as a metaphor to teach this woman. He speaks about the living water, which gives eternal life, divine grace, or God’s life within the soul. The woman craves this type of water, because she wants to have eternal life. But first Jesus has a lengthy but candid dialogue with her. He makes her understand that she needs to confess her sins and change her life before she can obtain this life-giving water — grace. Jesus shows her that he already knows she is living with a man who is not her husband.

Jesus said to her, “Go, call your husband, and come back.” The woman answered him, “I have no husband.” Jesus said to her, “You are right in saying, ‘I have no husband’; for you have had five husbands, and the one you have now is not your husband. What you have said is true!”

John 4:16–18

The woman said to him, “I know that Messiah is coming” (who is called Christ). “When he comes, he will proclaim all things to us.” Jesus said to her, “I am he, the one who is speaking to you.”

John 4:25–26

The Samaritan woman’s spirit is enlightened, accelerated, and illuminated by Jesus. She now realizes what it means to take freely of the water of life, which is the spiritual refreshment that comes into her soul after her encounter and confession with Jesus. Not only was she impressed that Jesus knew all her sins, but she was also given the opportunity to have those sins forgiven. She believes he is truly the Messiah, the Anointed One. She repents of her past misdeeds and goes back to tell her family, friends, and neighbors how she met Jesus and how he revealed his knowledge of her sins and his offer of live-giving water, which brings eternal life. She went on to lead many conversions in this area through her zeal and love for God (John 4:39–42).

The Samaritan woman doesn’t appear again in scripture, but for centuries afterward, numerous spiritual writers, theologians, and scholars retold and pondered her encounter with Jesus. Augustine (AD 354–430), for instance, uses the example of the woman at the well to describe the spiritual thirst the human heart has for goodness and truth and that thirst is never quenched until people are in the presence of God forever (after they die and leave this earth).


Who Will Tell Your Story?

Who Will Tell Your Story?

This evening, I had the great opportunity to watch Hamilton at the Orpheum Theater in San Francisco. I have seen many musicals in my time, and Hamilton was simply AMAZING! I was blown away by the musical – choreography, lyrics, music, ENERGY…it was so powerful and intense! I loved each of the musical numbers, but three lines notably stuck out to me from the song, “Who Lives, Who Does, Who Tells Your Story.”

And when my time is up
Have I done enough?
Will they tell my story?

I often reflect on the life I lead, and seek to make sense of the things I did well, and the things I did not handle so well. Perhaps that’s why I am grateful for the Examen. This provides me with a daily exercise that I can use either at the end of the day, or even throughout the day. The relationships I hold in my life can hopefully point towards what the story of my life is, and I seek my best to maintain those relationships the best I can. I often get caught in busy-ness, however, I believe many of those busy times are spent with people I care about – through work, ministry, and personal life. I think that’s a good thing!

I do hope though, that my story contains the words: she did the best she could with the gifts she had.

De Colores!

De Colores!

I became a Cursillista this past Fall 2016, and I could not have been more blessed by this experience. What I received on that weekend was unlike anything I had experienced before. I had been on probably over 20 retreats in my life (no, really though), but Cursillo was different for me. Maybe because I’m at a different place in my faith (per usual!) as an adult now, but I was able to embrace the thoughts and inspiration in a different way.

Coming back from Cursillo, I didn’t feel the “retreat high” as I normally would after retreats. Instead, there was this authenticity in joy that I felt streaming through my veins and spewing out of my body. Still, I can’t shake it off. And thank God for that! I remember the Monday I got back from retreat, and some of my colleagues had asked me what my experience was like. Some didn’t ask. And yet, I still felt compelled to share and encouraged everyone to go. I am blessed in that my sponsor is also one of my colleagues, and it was through her intercession and openness in sharing about her own experience, that I was able to also attend this life-changing weekend.

A couple of weeks later after I made my Cursillo, we had our first gathering and I was asked to share a reflection on my experience. It was such a gift to have the opportunity to reflect on my experience, and be able to share my experience with the other Cursillistas gathered. Fast forward to today, and this evening I was asked to give the Keynote presentation on my work with Catholic Relief Services and the social justice ministries I have grown in dedication to.

What a gift! I find it a great privilege to have had this Cursillo experience, and to be a Cursillista until I die. Wahoooo! It had been a while since I was able to attend an Ultreya (due to being out of town, or it just not working with my schedule), but coming together with my fellow Cursillistas yesterday was such a wonderful time! Though I only know a handful of Cursillistas, coming together during our monthly gatherings truly feels like being together with family I had just not seen in a while. What a great feeling!

De Colores!!

Call to Justice

Call to Justice

For the past couple of days, I have been reflecting on what I will share at our monthly Cursillo gathering. I was asked to share some words on my work in the diocese with regards to Catholic Relief Services (how appropriate during this lenten season!), as well as some type of sharing about the social justice ministries that I have been involved with.

What a broad topic! Not sure knowing where to start, I opened up Google Slides, and the Title Slide popped up. A blank slide…”Uh, oh,” I thought to myself. Where am I going to go with this talk? Suddenly, I immediately typed three words: Call to Justice.

I realized it is impossible for me to talk about my work with CRS and my commitment to social justice, without first talking about my call to social justice. Without a doubt, I have been called to this ministry in the church and in the world, and it has been such a gift. The intersection I have found between my faith and justice has been such blessing in my life. I can’t talk about where I am now, without mentioning where I have been – what I saw, what I felt, what I experienced. I can’t share my dedication to global solidarity, without first taking time to share some of the initial images I saw when I first stepped off the bus from my first missions trip to the Philippines with Intervarsity Christian Fellowship, as a sophomore in college. That changed everything for me. My concept of how big and vast this world was, had forever been shaken. Everything was now different through my being.

My concept of the body of Christ, forever changed shape, and now had many faces, talents, names, ailments, challenges, and joys.

And on Thursday, I have received yet another opportunity to share this with others! What a responsibility. Pray for me!