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While Easter is known for being all about egg hunts and chocolate, it’s still a religious holiday and you can bet your child is going to have some questions for you.
“Christians make up one-third of the world’s population, meaning children will hear about Easter from their friends and neighbours, on television and social media,” Dr. Josephine Lombardi, theologian and professor at St. Augustine’s Seminary, tells HuffPost Canada.
But how do you explain what Easter is really all about if you’re not religious?According to parenting expert Alyson Schafer, it doesn’t have to be so complicated.
“I would explain that Easter is a celebration that came from Christianity. It marks the celebration of the day that Christians believe Jesus was resurrected,” Schafer told HuffPost Canada in an email. “Most kids don’t know that word, so you may share the story of how he was left for dead in a cave, but when they rolled away the stone that was blocking the door, he was not inside! People believe he was brought back to life and returned to heaven.”
“Every major religion and pagans have some major celebration about the return or resurrection of spring with birth and renewal as a theme,” she added. “It is also the time for Passover celebrations for the Jewish faith.”
Dr. Lombardi agrees with Schafer that parents should explain Easter honestly.
“The best method is to tell them the truth about the origins of Easter,” she says. “Easter is the most important day in the Christian calendar. It is the main religious feast in Christianity followed by Christmas. One cannot speak of Easter without speaking about Jesus Christ.”
Even if you aren’t religious, there are benefits to teaching your kids about the true meaning of Easter. For one, it can introduce your child to the concept of death and loss.
“Just as the seasons change throughout the year, Easter is about the seasons of our lives changing, that there is hope for our future, especially after a difficult struggle,” Dr. Lombardi explains. “Easter reminds us that separation from our loved ones after they die is temporary. Easter is a reminder that there is life after death.”
Additionally, Easter can be a great opportunity to teach kids about other people’s faiths.
“Whether parents are religious or not, we have an important role in educating our children about world religions and cultural customs,” Schafer noted. “Even if we don’t believe the stories of the Bible, many still do the cultural customs as a tradition. Christmas was originally about the birth of Jesus — but many who do not believe in Jesus still have a tree and stockings and exchange gifts because it is a custom, not a religious practice. The same goes for Easter.”
So if Easter is about Jesus’ death and resurrection, then why do we have Easter eggs? According to Schafer, it’s because “eggs are a sign of birth.”
God forgives us because He loves us, and our emotional and spiritual healing depends on it. God desires our salvation, our divine health and made this possible through the sacrifice of his Son, Jesus Christ. Throughout the Gospels, we hear of countless stories of forgiveness and redemption. No doubt, forgiveness was central to Jesus’ public mission. Jesus forgives and heals the paralytic (Matthew 9:1-8), forgives and encourages the adulterous woman (John 8:1-11), and calls those engaged in sinful behavior to conversion and invites them to be his followers. Jesus forgives because he loves us and desires to restore our emotional and spiritual health. He doesn’t want us to fall into the trap of despair and self-loathing. He wants us to approach and to be in a relationship with him, knowing, loving and serving him.
It is important to know and believe God knows and understands the fear, weakness, or pride that was behind any harmful decision or act. God knows how emotionally free we are at any given moment, knows our history and our hurts. Jesus reveals God’s mercy and calls us to experience his love and forgiveness. Sometimes, however, our fear and pride keep us from approaching him. Do not let this stop you from saying yes to his offer of healing. Our sorrow and remorse for our behavior should move us to approach God and his healing love. Don’t stay trapped in the pit of despair and regret. Instead, He waits for us to respond with humility and love. The worst thing we can do is hide or withdraw from God’s company. How painful would it be for a parent to be avoided for days, weeks, months or years due to a child’s remorse or fear of approaching? No doubt, the parent would reach out and reassure the child of her great love, moving beyond the hurt and loving the child through the process, desiring healing, reconciliation, and hope.
Although sin ruptures our relationship with God, His love is constant, calling us back to Him and his mercy: his perfect, unconditional, forgiving, understanding, compassionate love, whether we feel worthy of it or not. God wants us to approach, humbly confess our sins in the Sacrament of Reconciliation and be open to transformation, all with God’s grace. If you are struggling with this, think of the conversion story of St. Paul. He is introduced to us as a blasphemer and a man of violence. Despite his failings, God called him to repentance and to be the greatest missionary of all times, redeeming his past and making him a new creation, an even better version of himself. Or, think of the woman who anoints Jesus. In Luke’s account, Jesus says, “Therefore, I tell you, her sins, which were many, have been forgiven; hence she has shown great love,” (Luke 7:47). Jesus knew her heart and allowed her to approach and touch him. His act of forgiveness continued as he was dying on the cross, “’Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing,” (Luke 23:34). Jesus forgave those who called for his death. This reveals his great mercy and understanding of human weakness, showing forgiveness was part of his mission to reveal God’s great mercy.
According to Scripture, however, there is one sin that cannot be forgiven, that is, the sin against the Holy Spirit (Matthew 12:31). Pope Saint John Paul II defined this sin as the refusal to repent and the refusal to forgive. It is, in other words, the hardening of hearts or the refusal to allow God’s love and grace to work in us to bring about healing and reconciliation. On our own, we may be too weak or too wounded to be open to forgiveness. We need God’s grace to be open to the process. We must admit weakness and pride and say, “On my own, I cannot forgive. I need your grace, your supernatural offer of power and strengthening to move my will to be open to forgiveness. My own spiritual health and the spiritual health of the offender depend on it.” Forgiveness does not always lead to reconciliation. You need two consenting parties for the process of reconciliation to begin. Do your part and pray for the healing and conversion of the other.
God makes an offer, but He needs our cooperation in order to forgive and to accept forgiveness. Accepting forgiveness is healing, keeping us from focusing on the past and it makes us more merciful. Do not cease to approach God’s great mercy!
Please join us for a day of reflection. Click the poster below to register.
© Josephine Lombardi 2017
Dr. Lombardi delivered a three part series on Mercy featured on Shalom World TV. The talks are part of the Luminous Series produced by Shalom World Media.
I’m pleased to share a reflection with you on the Universal Call to Holiness.
Do you believe you are called to holiness? Do you believe you are called to the same level of sanctity as a member of the clergy or a member of a religious order? Do you believe God can use all of your gifts and life experiences, redeem your past sorrows, and make you a new person in Christ? God can use someone like you. I hope this short video encourages you to say “Yes” to the call to holiness as you continue with your Lenten preparation.
- Give alms
- Remember our baptism
- Pray for ourselves and for all people
To learn more – check out my Blog Post on Prayer and Fasting during Lent. The combination of prayer and fasting is a powerful experience. Whenever we are faced with what may appear to be insurmountable troubles, we may notice a difference if we add fasting to our prayer lives.
Please plan to attend the Dynamic Women of Faith Conference on Saturday March 25, 2017 and don’t miss the early bird special discounted rate (available only until Feb 25).
We are blessed and honoured that Cardinal Collins will be the celebrant of our opening Mass the day of the conference. The Mass is going to be celebrated at St. Maximilian Kolbe church, which is right next door to the conference venue – the St. John Paul II Polish Cultural Centre.
We kindly ask you to refer to the conference brochures for all details, including speakers.
REGISTRATION FOR THE CONFERENCE 8:00am
OPENING MASS: 9:00am
CONFERENCE: 10:00am – 4:00pm
Thank you for inviting your friends. An invitation can be the beginning of a remarkable journey for them!
KEYNOTE US SPEAKER
BETSY ANDREU | DOING THE RIGHT THING… AT GREAT PERSONAL COST
Betsy Andreu was embroiled in a public confrontation with a powerful and world-famous professional athlete. Her husband’s career was cut short because of his refusal to be a part of the deceit. For over a decade Betsy and her family suffered tremendously. She prayed ceaselessly, turning to St. Padre Pio of Pietrelcina and St. Therese of the Little Flower, praying that the truth would get out. Betsy is a stay-at-home mom, who has since become an internationally recognized voice in the global battle against doping. Betsy and her husband Frankie Andreu have been married for 20 years. She holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of Michigan.
DR . JOSEPHINE LOMBARDI | THE CALL TO HOLINESS
Dr. Lombardi will walk us through the journey toward holiness. God is waiting for us to say “yes” to His desire to heal us and restore us. Mary’s “yes” to God’s plan for her life gives us courage to say “yes” to God’s plan for our lives. Jeremiah 29:1. She will tie in the 100th Anniversary of the Fatima apparitions, using the children as an example. Dr. Lombardi is the Associate Professor of Pastoral and Systematic Theology, Director of Lay Formation and Professor of Field Education at St. Augustine’s Seminary.
CHERYL THOMPSON | MARRIAGE AND SANITY? OR SANCTITY?
Given current statistics on divorce, many wonder if the sacrament of marriage still dispenses supernatural grace. Cheryl will show us how the example of Sts. Louis and Zelie Martin, parents of St. Therese of Lisieux, can help women live out their marriage vocation with supernatural grace. Cheryl is a Catholic wife and mother. She holds a Bachelor of Theology degree. Cheryl works for the federal government and is a part-time proofreader for The Word Among Us Catholic magazine. She is Lay Director of the Ottawa Cursillo Movement and serves with the Core of the Nazareth Family Apostolate.
TANYA GRANIC ALLEN | FINDING YOUR CATHOLIC VOICE
Catholic women today face a tsunami of deeply challenging issues. Whether at work, on social media, or at the kitchen table… we deal with issues our mothers and grandmothers never faced: gender confusion, same sex attraction, pornography, euthanasia, and many other challenges. With the pressure of work, parenting obligations, dealing with elderly parents, and running a home… how does a Catholic woman stay true to her faith? Tanya’s inspiring talk with help us find and strengthen our Catholic voice. Tanya is a Canadian writer, commentator and spokesperson. She is President of Parents as First Educators (PAFE).
In August 2015 I was invited to deliver three keynote presentations at the National Catholic Women’s League Convention in Vancouver, British Columbia. This event has been the highlight of my professional career, being surrounded by almost 1,000 women of faith whose personal witness to resilience and hope for the Church in Canada is an inspiration for all Catholic women. The theme for the convention was “One Heart One Voice One Mission.” The CWL executive chose an icon written by Dr. Matthia Langone, “The Recognition” to be used by the prayer companions of the Catholic Women’s League during the two-year term of Past President, Barbara Dowding.
I was blessed to see and “read” the original print as it was on display during the national convention. Having a great devotion to Mary, I was immediately drawn to the beauty of the icon and the great intimacy expressed in the embrace of Mary and Elizabeth, showing how their encounter was anointed by the Holy Spirit. This mutual “recognition” of the presence of the Spirit in the other and in their children reminds us of the great joy we experience when we encounter a person filled with the Holy Spirit. Their presence feeds us, consoles us and reassures us that we are known with a great intimacy. There is a familiar resemblance among those who are filled and led by the Spirit. I am blessed to have encountered so many Spirit filled women whom I call friends and sisters. Dr. Langone is among them.
Soon after admiring the original of “The Recognition” I noticed the author/painter, Dr. Matthia Langone, was present selling prints and gift cards. I rushed over to her display table and purchased a print of the Recognition. I told her how much I loved the icon and how my devotion to Mary and her intercessory prayers have sustained me throughout the years. Several months after the convention I emailed her to order more prints so that they could be given as gifts. Our email correspondence grew into a long distance friendship, writing short messages of encouragement and reassuring one another of prayer and mutual admiration. We have spoken on the phone once and within ten minutes I concluded I was speaking with a person who knows God very intimately, who understands the deep spiritual insight revealed in the encounter between Mary and Elizabeth, the Visitation. I was experiencing my own “encounter/visitation” with a woman who is filled with the Holy Spirit and knows the power of God’s love revealed in this holy encounter between two of God’s cherished daughters, Mary and Elizabeth. Her insight into the exchange between them, how their words were anointed by the Holy Spirit, how Elizabeth knew Mary with great intimacy, how they encouraged one another, inspiring Mary’s Magnificat, touched me very deeply. Dr. Langone’s icon is a celebration of this encounter, of the power of God’s love and the power of Spirit-filled friendships. Thank you, Matthia for the strength of your witness and for the gift of this icon, a gift I carry with me to show others the fruits of Spirit filled encounters.
Please visit Dr. Langone’s website to see more of her beautiful work and for the purchase of prints: http://www.wayoftheicon.com/blog/painting-to-be-shown-at-national-convention
Guest Blog Post by Mary Filangi – Women of the Word
We had an amazing day with 191 women and 3 priests together for the same reason. Hope, Healing and Restoration. Our Goal at Women of the Word is to provide a bridge for all women in all walks of life where Our Lady can guide us and Our Lord can heal and restore us.
Dr. Josephine Lombardi knows this in the depth of her soul and God has blessed her with the extraordinary gift of being able to speak with beautiful simplicity and clarity; the language of love and healing.
One of the priests yesterday sent me a text “So many deep sublime confessions. A lot of it comes from the insightful talks of Dr. Lombardi. She’s so special” And Josie herself always points the finger away from herself and towards heaven, saying “it is God’s Grace”. It was an awe inspiring day with insightful genuine talks, confession, sharing, dancing, food, ending with a meditative Rosary, Consecration to Our Heavenly Mother and the Celebration of Holy Mass with Fr. Peter Choi.
As one woman said as she was leaving, “I’m so full, I’m going home to share what I’ve received”!
For more information on Woman of the Word please go to www.wowblessingstoronto.com