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When Life Gets Tough

My wife, kids, and grandkids are all healthy. So is my mother and mother-in-law, my brothers, and their families. We just celebrated Thanksgiving, all of us together, and it was a great blessing.  So what I’m talking about here has nothing to do with anyone being sick or dying. No relationship issues or financial crises. And while our country is “going to hell in a handbasket”, that’s not what the title of this blog is referring to either. 

I’m in a rut. Things are not fun at work. It’s nobody’s fault, but instead the realities of a post-COVID world, especially when you’re in the events business…which is the case for our conference ministry. And additional challenges compound things. I love where I work and its mission. I love my department and all its outstanding people. But currently it’s a grind. Add to that the discernment I’m going through related to my personal ministry, as noted a couple weeks ago.

Photo by Brett Jordan

I’m reminded that this too will pass. One of my teammates just stated that “it’s a season”. Among the dozens of quotes I remember from my Dad, one of my favorites is, “nothing is ever as good as it seems and nothing is ever as bad as it seems”. All of these resonate with me. So does the stuff I’m constantly preaching, although not always easy to apply (or see) when you’re in the middle of the storm. 

A friend asked me what I think the Lord is trying to show me (teach me) in the moment? He suggested that I take it to prayer. Ha!!…go figure. You’ve seen me write about the “attitude of gratitude”, indicating that everything happens for a reason:

  • For a greater good
  • For the opportunity to glorify God
  • To help us be our best

Not always easy to appreciate in the moment, I believe it to be absolutely true. As such, I need to ask what God is trying to show me? How is this experience going to help me in the long run? What skills is He wanting me to develop? What is the greater good? How will He be glorified through this experience?

I also talk about humility, understanding that it’s not us, but God working through us. There’s an old saying that is attributed to St. Ignatius of Loyola, “pray as if everything depends on God, and work as if everything depends on you.” Many think the phrase captures the Ignatian spirit: turning it all over to God in prayer and then working tirelessly and urgently to do God’s work.

Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash

Both of the above (gratitude and humility) relate to surrender…giving it all over to God and following His will for your life. As noted in previous blogs, my experience is that our willingness to surrender is dependent on trust…trusting our Lord, trusting is His absolute and unconditional love for us, knowing and internalizing that He put us on this earth for a specific purpose, with special and unique talents. Trusting that He wants the absolute best for us and knows (more than we know) what will make us happy. 

I refer to all of this as the Path to Peace…Surrender, Gratitude, Humility, and Love. Although I wrote a book and talk about it often, I still need reminded. Not new concepts, the best ways are prayer, the Sacraments, particularly the Eucharist in the Mass and Confession, and fellowship. I need to double down on all three…which I’m doing. 

I don’t do this often, but please pray for me and my teammates during this time, as we try to rebuild our conference ministry. If you feel so called, please come and/or bring your kids. Steubenville Conferences are absolutely life changing and I’m not overstating that. 

I’ll pray for you during this Advent season. As we prepare for Baby Jesus, our Lord and Savior, let us recall our faith, in good times and bad, knowing how much God loves us…and always remembering what great things God wants for each and every one of us. 

As always, please email me at [email protected] with questions, concerns, comments, 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

The Beauty of Life

Is there anything in your life that exudes pure beauty? No matter how many times you see it, it takes your breath away. It is so beautiful that you can’t look away, but instead are mesmerized by it. You are in awe of its creation, believing that something much greater than humanity has to be responsible. You are reminded of God’s great glory, given that it can only be He who can produce something so magnificent.

Most Beautiful Place on Earth

For my wife and me, one of those things, those places is Sedona, Arizona, home of the most beautiful landscape we’ve ever experienced. Known as Red Rock Country, it is the most majestic of places. No matter the direction you turn, there are enormous, gorgeous red rock formations that God gifted this part of the country with thousands of years ago.

In going to Sedona for the past 13 years, we are always captivated by what we see. We can be driving down the same road we’ve been on dozens of times and see a huge rock formation in a totally different way. It’s truly amazing. Add to that the many notables, including Coffee Pot Rock, Bell Rock, Chair Rock, Elephant Rock, Cathedral Rock, Courthouse Rock, and more.

From left to right: Bell Rock, Cathedral Rock, Courthouse Rock, Elephant Rock, and Coffee Pot Rock.

Lastly, there’s the Chapel of the Holy Cross, which was built into the red rocks of Sedona in 1956. In March, 2018, a new Corpus was added. The Chapel is beautiful inside and out.

We Are Incredibly Unique Too

Another example of God’s grand work and imagination is humanity, you and me, all of us, each made so uniquely and special. Out of the 7 billion people on earth, no 2 of us are made the same. We all have very individual gifts and talents, put on this earth for a particular purpose.

You were made for Greatness…check Scripture (Jeremiah 1:5 or 29:11). Here’s the truth:

    • God conceived of us thousands of years ago
    • He made each of us in His image and likeness
    • As part of His grand plan, individually and as a part of all of humanity
    • Made each of us with special gifts, talents, desires
    • He made us for a specific purpose
    • God doesn’t make mistakes; He doesn’t make junk
    • On a scale of 1-10, we are all 10s
    • He loves you more than you’ll ever know, no matter what you’ve ever done
    • God wants the very best for you
    • He wants you to be happy
    • God made you for Greatness

God loves you more than you’ll ever know, no matter what you’ve ever done. He loves you more than the Red Rocks. He loves you for your “who”, not your “do. God made you; He loves you and wants you to live a life of peace, joy, and fulfillment. What are you waiting for?

Please comment to me at [email protected].

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

Mark Joseph

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Weekly Blog

What’s Next in Life? 

I’m now almost 60, entering what seems like a different season of life. Life you, I’ve experienced many seasons in the past, each with their joys and their challenges. Although not always the case, a different season sometimes means a different direction. And sometimes a tweak to a current direction. 

Attending Mass recently, I saw an old friend, a Deacon who is quite busy doing ministry having retired from his full-time professional life. When he asked me if I had considered the same, it got me thinking. I retired from the professional world 10 years ago, when I started work for Franciscan University of Steubenville. As Vice President of Outreach and Evangelization, I can’t imagine leaving for at least another 10 years. Not that there aren’t challenges…there are a lot, especially coming out of COVID. But I’m invested in the mission, love the University, and continue to be desirous of doing ministry. I feel that I’m where God wants me to be. 

Related to the above and on a personal basis as well, I continue to be passionate about sharing the love of Christ, that gift of encounter that changed my life forever. That’s why I continue to do these blogs and the occasional talk, sharing my story and the lessons I’ve learned…all real-life stuff to help people no longer be overwhelmed, instead leading lives of peace, joy, and fulfillment. 

© Steubenville Conferences, Franciscan University of Steubenville 2022

With the Steubenville Conference Office being part of my organization, my summers are very busy. Easily bored, I’d spend weekend time other times of the year on ministry stuff, some University related and other for my personal ministry. Still being passionate about it all, something is changing. Not my focus…I still want to work for the Church and do ministry, but the intensity. I don’t want to run as hard as I used to. I love my wife, who is my best friend…and I want to be spending more time with her, sometimes just hanging out, while at other times doing the things we enjoy doing. We kid around that we’re all we got…Thank God!!!

BTW, as I’ve indicated before….you don’t have to be in ministry to do ministry. In fact, I believe most often more can be accomplished outside the Church than from within. EVERYONE, whether they know it or not, deeply yearns for the love of Christ. You, me….we can do that everywhere.

So what’s the point to the above, other than being a stream of consciousness in my life. First, as I reflect, including on the more challenging parts of my life, I live in this place of gratitude for all the seasons of my life. I’ve been blessed abundantly in many ways. And even in the tough times, I firmly believe that all is per God’s grand plan for my life, helping me to be my very best. “No pain, no gain…no Cross, no crown”. As I’ve said before, I wouldn’t be who I am or doing what I do…without all those experiences. Praise God!!!

Second is “surrender”. For the longest time, I thought it was “Mark’s will be done”. I had it wrong. Today I endeavor to live “God’s Will be done”. I recently read an ebook by Bishop Barron on discernment. He points to several things, including prayer, reading Scripture, and participating in the Sacraments, all to help us understand God’s Will for our lives. He states that what God wants for you and me is the path of greatest love. Love as per the Catechism is willing the good of another. The Bishop poses some questions for each of us:

  • What makes love more prominent in your life? 
  • What makes it easier in your life to love? 
  • What path will open the greatest capacity for love? 
  • What’s the demand of love in the present moment? 
  • What is the path of greatest love?

Your answers to the above, according to the Bishop, are what God wants you to do. With this as guidance, how do I take my life and discern where specifically God wants me, what He wants me to do? For me, not necessarily changing the big things, but the holy moments in life. How about you? How can you apply this to your life?

Whether it’s a new season or mid-season, an attitude of gratitude is a great thing. And my lived experience is that following God’s Will is the only path to peace, joy, and fulfillment. 

As always, feel free to contact me at [email protected] with comments, questions, concerns, challenges, 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

Who Are Your True Friends?

Who are your friends? Are they always there for you? Do they always have your best interests at heart? Are they truly your friends?

I believe that “friend” is one of the most overused words in the English language, especially in this day of social media. If you’re like me, you literally have 100s of acquaintances, but very few true friends.

What is a Friend?

  • Someone who you engage with on a regular basis
  • Who you are invested in and them in you

Have you surrounded yourself with people who meet this definition? Many people don’t. Instead they surround themselves with negative people, those who only pull them down and don’t lift them up. 

Only Surround Yourself with the Best

I’ve made a conscious decision in my life to only surround myself with those who truly care for me, those who love me and want to help me be a better me. There are only a few, including my wife. I refer to this as my “inner circle” and it has the following characteristics:

  1. Based on demonstrated behavior
  2. They are regularly there for me and me for them
  3. They support me in my endeavors
  4. They don’t beat me down, but love me

#4 doesn’t mean they agree with everything I do, but they tell me in a loving way, coaching and guiding me, without the negativity or sarcasm (subject for a future blog).

Everyone Else is in Your Outer Circle

Everyone else but those few are in my “outer circle”. Now you may think that doesn’t sound very Christian. Or you’re not sure how those in your immediate family or longtime friends could be in your outer circle. I’m here to tell you that they can. I’m not suggesting that you completely turn your back on them, but instead think of them as opportunities for ministry.

Everyone wants to be loved and everyone needs the love of Christ (whether they know it or not). You/we need to love everyone, but that doesn’t mean that you should count on everyone to love you and support you….

  • Some are incapable because of what they’re dealing with
  • Some won’t take the time
  • And there are some in this world who are just bad people. 

Love Makes for True Friendship

Matthew Kelly of Dynamic Catholic, one of my favorite authors and speakers, defines love as helping others become better versions of themselves. That’s the measure I suggest we all use. Are those in your life helping you be better, be your best? If so, they should be in your inner circle (by the way…you need to reciprocate their friendship). If not, it’s the outer circle where they should go, as a great opportunity for ministry. 

Be intentional with who you call “friend”. Pick wisely. Make sure they are worthy of your inner circle. Work and grow to be better together, loving one another the way Christ loves you.

Please share with me your comments and what you think about “inner circle” and “outer circle” at [email protected].

May God Bless you with Peace, Joy, and Fulfillment!!!

Mark Joseph