By Deacon John Degano
It’s officially cold and flu season in our home.
We managed to survive two third year confirmation retreat weekends with nary a sniffle but now, two or three weeks later, I’m battling a stuffy head, sinus drip and a raspy (but not sexy) voice.
The good news is, I’m not ‘death warmed over’… not yet, at least.
So why was it then that I thought I was hallucinating (like those who have ‘the bug’ much worse than I do) when I unwrapped a cough drop this week and found the wrapper talking back to me!
Yes, my cough drop wrapper gave me not one but several affirmations that I was going to lick this situation... “Get back in there, Champ!” It cheered, and if that wasn’t motivation enough, it provided practical wisdom, “You’ve survived tougher!”
Oh, so true!
But it wasn’t a talking cough drop.
It was just some very clever marketing.
And even if I wasn’t feeling better after reading the words printed on the wrapping paper, I’d still want to unwrap the other throat lozenges just to read what the other drops had to say about me!
(I guess when you are sick, your need for appreciation grows exponentially along with the mercury in the thermometer.)
If only we could bottle affirmations and ‘infect’ our young people (and a few adults) with the Good News when they are feeling like outcasts, unlovable and/or unredeemable.
While I encountered an amazing bunch of teens, a large number of the soon-to-be confirmed didn’t see themselves as “saints in the making.”
They knew they had been baptized, but they missed the connection between the sacrament and adoption into the family of God, becoming ‘beloved’ of the Father, brothers and sisters to Jesus Christ, and called to live lives of love and service (holiness) in and to their community.
Somewhere they have been subjected to negative peer pressure and have been told they are worthless and unvalued by society, the Church and by God.
In short, they have been lied to!
They need a healthy dose of TLC. Tender-Loving Christ.
When his disciples returned from curing the sick, preaching the gospel and catechizing the people, Jesus affirmed them, inviting them to come away from their labors -- to ‘retreat’ with him and rest awhile before going back out to love some more.
Only through TLC do we gift ourselves of the time and quiet, free of distractions and electronic devices, to re-evaluate where we are and how far we have grown (either closer to or farther away from God).
Retreats are barometers of our attitudes and allow us to be honest with ourselves and others, knowing that we have a community to lift us up when we are down, support and guide us when we stumble and God’s grace to persevere when we are at our weakest.
The path is narrow and uneven. There may even be some sniffles or a full blown sinus infection or two along the way to distract us, but if we cling to our faith, seek the mercy of God and the love of Jesus, we will emerge clear-headed along the road to holiness once again.
John Degano is a deacon at St. Catherine of Alexandria Parish in Riverside.