Faith Heroes – Address by Lorene Hanley Duquin at the March 2021 Faith Café

We were delighted to be joined by author Lorene Hanley Duquin who graciously accepted the CGA’s invitation to be the guest speaker at our March 2021 Faith Café. Lorene spoke to us on the theme of ‘Faith Heroes’.

We are delighted to share her address here:

Faith Heroes

When Marilyn asked me to be your guest speaker this month, she suggested the topic “Faith Heroes.”  My first reaction was, of course, Grandparents are faith heroes because we are the ones who pass on our Catholic faith to our children and grandchildren.

But then doubts surfaced.  Is passing on faith enough to make us “Faith Heroes”?   What is a faith hero?

I asked a wise priest who told me that a faith hero is a person to tries to do God’s will.  So, I began thinking, yes, as grandparents, you and I can be faith heroes if we try to do God’s will.  But what does that mean?  I spent some time praying about it, and I think it means 5 important things:

1.  We were called by God and we said yes!

God calls each of us in unique ways.  Let’s look at your involvement in the Catholic Grandparents Association as a prime example.  Think about the things that lead up to your involvement in the Catholic Grandparents Association.  Maybe someone invited you to get involved.  Or maybe you experienced some coincidence that led you to the Catholic Grandparents Association.   I believe that these kinds of experiences are how the Holy Spirit calls us.  Sometimes, the Holy Spirit speaks to us in an unexpected encounter, a dream, a difficult situation, or a touching moment.  Sometimes the message is transmitted through something we read, through Scripture, through music, or through advice or insights offered by someone else.  Images, ideas and inspirations sometimes pop into our heads.  You may recall a burning desire to do something meaningful for your grandchildren or for other grandparents.

PAUSE:   Think about the things that lead up to your involvement in the Catholic Grandparents Association.  How were you called?   Let these words of Jesus wash over you:   “It wasn’t you who chose me, but I who chose you” (John 15:16).

2.  God Continues to Call

The Holy Spirit continues to call in two ways – by trying to draw us personally into a deeper relationship with the Lord, and also by helping us recognize how we can minister to other people.   Both calls are important.  But in order to hear the Holy Spirit we need quiet time to listen.   Listening to Holy Spirit is not something that comes naturally, but it is skill that is essential for anyone involved in any kind of ministry.  One of the biggest problems is that we get so busy with what we are doing that we might not take time for quiet prayer and reflection. It’s a good idea to set aside a specific time every day for listening. In the morning, ask the Holy Spirit to guide your path through the day.  Ask for the ability to see where you are being led.  Ask for the courage to follow.  Then empty your mind and spend some quiet time, slowly reciting the name “Jesus,” until a calm sense of God’s presence comes over you.

PAUSE:  How has listening to the Holy Spirit opened you to a new awareness of God’s presence in your life and in the lives of people around you? How have you taught your grandchildren to recognize the presence of the Holy Spirit in their lives? Think about the words of Pope Francis:  “The Holy Spirit, who dwells in our hearts, teaches us to trust in the Lord’s provident care and to strive constantly, in our communities, to be living signs of hope for the entire human family.”

3.  We use our God-given Gifts

God never calls without giving us what we need to accomplish what we are being asked to do.  But when we try to identify our gifts, we are sometimes stifled by a false sense of humility because we don’t want anyone to think of us as conceited or egotistical. It is important to remember our gifts are not about us.  God has given us gifts for a purpose. One important thing we can do is help our grandchildren, our adult children, and other grandparents to identify their gifts. Talking about God-given gifts is one of the simplest ways to share faith.  We can recognize that someone else’s gifts offset our weaknesses.  Understanding this helps us to build a stronger sense of community in our families, in our community, and in the Catholic Grandparents Association.

PAUSE:  Think about the gifts that God has given to you.  How are you using your gifts, talents, and skills? How are you helping others to recognize their gifts?   Consider the words of the late Catholic writer, Erma Bomback:   “When I stand before God at the end of my life, I would hope that I would not have a single bit of talent left, and I could say, “I used everything you gave me.”

4.  We Sometimes Struggle

Our lives are not perfect.  Bad things happen.  We make mistakes.  We deal with illness, the loss of a loved one, a divorce in the family, children and grandchildren who reject the Catholic faith, and other deep disappointments over which we have little or no control.  There are no easy answers to the difficulties we face in life.   But the one thing that we do have is our Catholic faith.  Faith helps us to see that we are not alone because the Lord walks with us every step of the way.  Faith gives us the assurance that the Holy Spirit will guide us in what to say and do.   Faith allows us to trust that no matter what happens God will make things right.  Standing firm in our faith gives us strength and it serves as a powerful witness to other people who try to navigate the rough waters of life without faith.

PAUSE:  Think about a time when God made something good come out of something difficult in your life.  How have you helped your grandchildren understand that God will make something good come out of something bad that is happening?   Now let these words of St. Paul in his Letter to the Romans penetrate you:  “We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.”

5.  We are People of Prayer

Even deeper than the call to do something for God is the universal call to holiness, which was extended to us for the first time at baptism.  This call to holiness is a movement in our souls that draws us toward deeper union with God. We feel a growing desire to love God. We come to understand that there is a reason for our existence and there is meaning in our lives.  We begin to see that who we are in relation to God is more important than what we do.

Prayer is our response to God’s invitation to holiness.  We all have our own special ways of praying.  But today, I would like to introduce you to one of my favorite prayers.  It is a prayer that I have shared with my children and grandchildren.  It is a simple prayer that you can do anytime, anyplace.  It is called the breathing prayer.  So, you just close your eyes, take a deep breath in, and imagine that you are breathing in God’s love.  Now breathe out any tension or anxiety you might feel.  Breathe in God’s love and breathe out worry.  Breathe in God’s love and breathe out negativity.  Breathe in God’s love and breathe out any anger or resentment you might be holding onto.  Now just breathe in and out for a few seconds and imagine that God’s love is flowing through you.   Amen.

When we are filled with God’s love, we can allow God’s love to flow through us to touch other people.  There is a great story about St. Francis and Leo, who were traveling and wanted to enter a church to pray. The porter refused to let them enter.  Francis just looked lovingly at the porter and suddenly the porter changed his mind.  Leo was astounded and asked Francis what happened.  Francis told him that sometimes the presence of God inside him flows through him to touch another person.

We all know that God is love.  We can all become instruments of God’s love by simply allowing God’s love to flow through us to touch other people.  This is another important lesson that I try to teach my grandchildren.

PAUSE   Think for a moment about the times God’s love flowed through you to touch another person. Or think about the time when God’s love flowed into you from another person.  Pope Francis tells us to, “open our hearts and trust in God’s love for us. His love always precedes us, accompanies us and remains with us.”

So, let’s recap.  The five things that I believe make every one of us a Faith Hero are:

1. We were called and we said yes,

2. The Holy Spirit continues to call us and we just need to listen,

3. We use our God-given gifts to give meaning and purpose to our lives,

4. We sometimes struggle but we are sustained by our faith, and last but not least,

5. We are people of prayer who allow God’s love to flow through us to other people.

Lorene Hanley Duquin is the author of fifteen books including The Catholic Grandparent Handbook and The Best is Yet to Come: Growing older with joy and fulfillment. Her articles have appeared in secular and Catholic publications.
She lives in Williamsville, New York, with her husband, Richard. They have four adult children, and eight grandchildren.