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How to Achieve Peace

Do you experience peace on a regular basis? Or instead are you overwhelmed by what’s going on in your life? Does the busyness nullify your opportunity for any downtime, let alone peace of mind? Does the pace crowd out the peace? If you’re answer is “yes” to any or all of the above, be assured that you’re not alone.

For the longest time, I had no peace in my life. I was totally overwhelmed by life, trying to build a business, raise a family, coach our kids in their sports, stay in shape, do chores around the house, have a social life, etc. I prided myself in how much I got done, or thought I got done. What I wasn’t achieving was peace in my life. Likewise, I wasn’t experiencing joy, nor was I fulfilled in what I was doing.

Overtime, I’ve come to believe that there’s a distinct path to peace, which includes surrender, gratitude, humility, and love.

Photo by Ricardo Esquivel from Pexels

Surrender
Acknowledging that I don’t truly have control over anything in my life, coupled with God loving me unconditionally, making me uniquely with special gifts, and wanting me to be fulfilled, I now surrender all to Him.

Doing so means trying to abide by God’s will (He knows best for me) and doing my best, while leaving the results to Him. Knowing His love for me negates my need for validation from others. He and I are in this together and He has my back.

Gratitude
Be thankful. More than that, believe that everything happens for a reason, that there are no coincidences in life. It’s true. Everything is part of God’s grand plan. So live in a place of gratitude; be grateful for everything that happens, even the crises in your life.

Gratitude isn’t just good for the soul, it’s good for the body too. Experts are constantly talking about the benefits to living a life of gratitude, including being happier, healthier, more optimistic, more spiritual, a better friend, a better boss, and many other good outcomes. A true attitude of gratitude is one that allows us to see the hand of God in all things and trust that everything will turn out for the best.

Humility
To me, humility is the opposite of ego, which is our false self, the identity that we create that is often very far from the truth of who we are. The truly humble person lives from the truth of who he is, strengths and weaknesses.

A humble person is genuinely happy for others in their successes. He is accepting of others’ ideas and thoughts (accepting doesn’t mean always agreeing), always very willing to engage in dialogue. The humble person doesn’t always have to be right, be in control, or even win. Humility allows us to accept others for who they are, rather than judging them or trying to change them.

Being humble is understanding that it is only in God working through us that we can perform or achieve anything worthwhile. It is His doing, not ours.

Photo by Orlando Allo

Love
Above all else, we are called to love. Jesus tells us to love our neighbors as ourselves, second only to loving God with our whole heart, mind, strength, and soul. We need to love. When we fail to love, we leave those around us empty, and we are empty too.

Without relationships, life is meaningless. True relationship is impossible without love. To love, we need to be vulnerable; we need to trust; we need to care. Like Jesus, we need to love all.

Please share your comments, challenges, or concerns with me at [email protected]

May God Bless you on your Path to Peace, Joy, and Fulfillment!!!

Mark Joseph

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Weekly Blog

God’s Gentle Whispers…the Joy of Christmas

I have a brother in Christ and very good friend, Pete Diulus, who I’ve known and served with in ministry for many years. Every year, Pete shares a Christmas message. Although all are very good, this year’s really spoke to me, so much so that I wanted to share it with you (with Pete’s permission). Here you go, in Pete’s words.  

God speaks to us in many ways. Often, we look for the big, flashy signs. The truth is that God more often speaks to the world in gentle whispers than he does in big events like fires, thunders, and earthquakes. I’d like to share with you the story of a place where “gentle whispers” spread the joy of Christmas every day of the year. 

If you’re a bit like me… you want the very best for your loved ones. Maybe even more than you want for yourself. We all want to find our place in the world, where we can connect meaningfully with others, share our unique gifts, and make a positive impact. Finding this place isn’t always obvious or easy. Just imagine… the person you love has worked hard to develop their skills, only to find that there is “no place for them” in the job market. 

Patrick, a dynamic and loving young man who lives with autism, wanted to find a “real” job. He enrolled in the local community college’s food service program, and working extremely hard, he excelled and graduated. 

Unfortunately, Patrick and his parents, Mike and Terri, discovered an ugly truth about the job market for adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD). The unemployment rate for adults with IDD is ridiculously high. They found that employers seemed hesitant to hire a hardworking and motivated person like Patrick because the little extra help he would need might be disruptive to business. For years, the family prayed for a way to share the joy they experienced, both through Patrick and in serving others. 

Like Terri and Mike, my wife, Carol, and I have longed for a meaningful employment opportunity for our son, Jonathan, to share his unique gifts. Since he graduated high school ten years ago, Jonathan has worked in a variety of volunteer “gigs,” including sorting, packing, shredding, and assembling. Jonathan and I have also volunteered together, visiting peoples’ homes to offer Holy Communion. I saw the positive impact Jonathan was having on the folks we visited, just by being who he is and sharing his unique gifts. 

Unbeknownst to us, Mike and Terri’s prayers were answered by the patron saint of caregivers, Brother André Bessette. Brother André Bessette was a “gentle whisper” of a person. He was a frail and sickly child. He was poor, uneducated, and thought to be illiterate. Orphaned at 12, he struggled to hold down a job because of his poor health. When he was finally accepted into the Congregation of Holy Cross, a religious order that is best known as educators, the only job he was qualified for was “doorkeeper.” For the rest of his life, this was the only formal position he held. 

Brother André turned this position into something remarkable. With his kind, humble, loving, and prayerful ways, he sought to bring Jesus to everyone he met. So, as a doorkeeper, he welcomed the sick, lonely and the suffering with open arms. 

When Brother André passed away in January of 1937, over one million people braved the Montreal cold to pay their respects to the “Miracle Man of Montreal.” This “gentle whisper” of a person showed us how to humbly serve Jesus and each other in a kind and joyful way. 

Brother André’s story inspired Patrick, Mike, and Terri to open a coffee shop – Brother André’s Café – to be staffed by adults with IDD. The idea was born from the desire to make a positive difference in the lives of people who might otherwise struggle to find employment… and create connection with the community and the wider world. 

Mike and Terri shared the idea with Father Chris Donley, a Pittsburgh diocesan priest and cofounder of Move a Mountain Missions (MMM). Father Chris saw the project as a natural extension of MMM’s mission “to be Jesus for the most vulnerable all over the world” and invited Mike and Terri to launch Brother André’s Café as a part of Move A Mountain Missions. 

But opening a Café in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic simply wasn’t possible. Determined to find a way forward, the grand opening was postponed, and the team quietly launched Brother André’s Cafe online in November of 2020. The storefront opening at Epiphany Catholic Church followed in October 2021, and our son, Jonathan, was hired to work there. 

Every time that I drop off Jonathan for his scheduled shift, I’m impressed by this wonderful, hardworking group of people. The team at Brother André’s has turned a simple cup of coffee and homemade baked goods into a specialty experience. Father Chris refers to these 13 employees as “the Baker’s Dozen.” Each has created their specialty drink, has starred in Brother Andre’s ongoing video blog, and continues to cultivate their skills and new friendships. 

As we celebrated the official 1st Anniversary of Brother André’s Café this year, I paused to reflect on the remarkable series of “gentle whispers” that connected my family with Brother André’s. We’re a part of an extended family now… proud parents sharing challenges and triumphs as we watch our sons and daughters work together… seeing their passion and joy overflow into the world. 

We are profoundly grateful for that moment when Father Joe stopped us after Mass and asked, “have you heard of Brother André’s?” For us, this was a realization that truly, there are no coincidences…every person has a place and a calling. 

Brother André’s inspiration is ideal for the Café, whose employees and supporters are also like God’s “gentle whisper,” transforming the simplest thing into something remarkable. It is a continuous privilege to be associated with these amazing individuals and their families. 

I would urge you to stop by, have a cup of coffee and one of their incredible cookies, and “experience the joy” at Brother Andre’s Café. You will “witness the face of Jesus” in the smiles of “the Baker’s Dozen.” 

Mark here…I loved this story and wanted to share it with you. If you’d like more information on Brother Andre’s Café, want to look at a menu, or make a donation, please go to https://brotherandres.org.

As always, please feel free to contact me at [email protected] with comments, concerns, questions, or prayer requests. 

God Bless you on your Path to Peace, Joy, and Fulfillment!!!

Remember…God made you for Greatness!!!

Mark Joseph

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Weekly Blog

Clergy Courage

A few weeks ago, my wife and I went back to our old Church, St. Louise de Marillac (now part of St. Catherine of Laboure Parish), for a Mass being offered for my Dad, who died a little over 3 years ago. St. Louise is where my brothers and I went to school…my kids attended there as well. My Mother is still a Parishioner after nearly 50 years. 

The bad news is that the 6PM Saturday Mass that we went to religiously (no pun intended), was sparsely attended compared to 10 years ago, when we moved away. COVID may be partially to blame, but numbers were dwindling before that…potential subject for another blog. The really good news is that the Pastor and Celebrant, Fr. Dan Maurer, gave a great homily on the sanctity of life, specifically referencing the unborn. 

Fr. Dan told the story of his nephew’s baby, who was born prematurely at little over 1 pound. He spoke of the numerous pictures, where he got to see first-hand the baby’s development, finally being released from the hospital and now living a healthy life. He then pivoted, indicating that many in our country would have instead aborted that beautiful little baby, who was deserving of his God given life.

He spoke of the power of prayer, which he indicated had to impact the overturning of Roe v. Wade after 49 years, allowing for the legal (morally reprehensible) killing of 50 million babies during its tenure. Fr. Dan went on to say that while prayer is incredibly important, so is action, indicating that we’re all responsible for taking it, i.e., as things go to the states related to abortion legislation. 

Image: Shannon Ramos / Flickr

After Mass, not rehearsed but independent of one another, my Mother and I both thanked Fr. Dan for his courage. It’s disappointing to me that we infrequently hear our Clergy, including our Bishops, speaking out on behalf of the unborn. Related to our faith, I don’t think there’s a more important issue, one that Fr. Dan pointed to as not just political, but moral and central to what we believe. 

We have an election coming up. As indicated in the past, it’s not my role to tell you how to vote. As Catholics, I’d suggest we all reference what the Church has to say on different issues, including abortion. In a blog, I posted on October 14, 2020, I shared what the Church advocates on numerous issues (summarized below), that include: 

  • Human Life – all human life, from the unborn to the elderly, is to be protected. 
  • Promoting Peace – Catholics must work to avoid war and promote peace. 
  • Marriage and Family Life – Marriage is to be between one man and one woman; the family structure is fundamental to society and is to be protected. 
  • Religious Freedom – US policy should promote religious liberty vigorously, 
  • Preferential Option for the Poor and Economic Justice – Welfare policy should address both the economic and cultural factors that contribute to family breakdown. 
  • Health Care – Affordable and accessible health care is an essential safeguard of human life and a fundamental human right. 
  • Immigration – Recognizing a nation’s right to control its borders and maintain the rule of law, immigrants are to be treated fairly and compassionately. 
  • Catholic Education – Parents, the first and most important educators, have a fundamental right to choose the education best suited to the needs of their children, including public, private, and religious schools. 
  • Promoting Justice and Countering Violence – An ethic of responsibility, rehabilitation, and restoration should be a foundation for the reform of our broken criminal justice system
  • Combatting Unjust Discrimination – It is important for our society to continue to combat any unjust discrimination, whether based on race, religion, sex, ethnicity, disabling condition, or age, as these are grave injustices and affronts to human dignity. 
  • Care for Our Common Home – Protecting the land, water, and air we share is a religious duty of stewardship. 
  • Communications, Media, and Culture – Regulation is needed that respects freedom of speech yet also addresses policies that have lowered standards, permitted increasingly offensive material, and reduced opportunities for non-commercial religious programming. 
  • Global Solidarity – The United States has a unique opportunity to use its power in partnership with others to build a more just and peaceful world. 

Fr. Dan suggested we need to take action. Whether that’s voting, caring for those in need, or working to promote the Church’s pro-life position, we are called to act as guided by our prayer. Both are important. The question I’ll leave us with…what are you doing; what am I doing to be the change you/we want to see? 

As always, please feel free to contact me at [email protected], with questions, comments, concerns, or challenges. Prayer requests are welcome too.  

God Bless you on your Path to Peace, Joy, and Fulfillment!!!

God Made you for Greatness!!!

Mark Joseph

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Weekly Blog

Losing Those Close To Us

Today is three years since my Dad died, and I miss him dearly. With the exception of my wife, there’s probably no one I talked to more frequently. He was always there, my biggest fan and advocate. I wrote about him on October 23rd, 2019. 

My Dad didn’t die suddenly, but was failing over a period of time. The same was true for my father-in-law and most of the people I’ve lost in my life. Now 59 myself, the list is extensive, including all my grandparents, aunts, uncles, and others…most where it wasn’t a surprise by the time they reached the end. I have a cousin, Eric who died almost 30 years ago at the age of 30, from Hodgkin disease. With him beginning his cancer journey at age 9, it wasn’t a surprise, although very sad and felt different given how young he was. 

My father and mother

Jim Sweeney, acclaimed offensive lineman at Pitt, followed by the New York Jets and the Steelers, just suddenly died at age 60. I had the privilege of knowing Jim, playing high school football with him and reconnecting when in our early 40s. With all his success, you’d never meet a more humble person than Jim. What a great guy, who will be missed by many. 

Jim was a shock. The deaths of the others, as indicated, were expected. Brian, a friend who I’ve known for almost 30 years, is in a different category for me. Still with us while fighting a cancer that has progressed significantly, it’s tough to watch. Maybe it’s different because Brian is 10 years younger than me. Or because I’m of the age where my own mortality is more relevant. Or knowing the age of his kids, sensing what this is doing to his family. 

I say “watch” above figuratively because I’ve not seen Brian often (couple times) since his diagnosis. I feel badly in not being more present to him. We talk and text periodically. I pray for him and his family often. None of it seems like enough.

Where am I going with this?

What’s my point? I think it’s three things…love, gratitude, and reflection. Taking the last first, I think we can learn a lot in reflecting on the lives of others. What are the lessons for us? Their impact on our lives? The things they may have done differently. We can also reflect on how we interacted with them…the things we would change for the future with others. 

Born out of that reflection should be gratitude…for their lives, our relationships, and the lessons learned. When talking about death and suffering, it’s sometimes difficult to have an “attitude of gratitude”, understanding as I often say, “everything happens for a reason, according to God’s grand plan”. Believing that God doesn’t create these things, it’s my lived experience that He allows them to bring a greater good, have us grow closer to Him, and internalize His unconditional love. 

Lastly is love, which arguably always comes first. Above all else as Jesus tells us in the Great Commandments, we’re called to love…love God and love our neighbors. While still on this earth, we need to love them, love them, love them, which can take many forms. That love can’t wait till they’re gone. We need to act. I need to act, not letting the busyness of life get in the way, not being distracted by the unimportant. 

Here’s my encouragement to all of us. Life is precious. Life is short. Let’s love each other, including those sick, suffering, or in need. Let’s be grateful for the lives of others, and our relationship with them. Let’s continue to learn all that we can from those who go before us, so we can live the lives God calls us to. 

As always, please email me with questions, concerns, comments, or prayer requests at [email protected].  

God Bless you on your Path to Peace, Joy, and Fulfillment!!!

Remember…God made you for Greatness!!!

Mark Joseph