Do you understand?

This weekend, my family celebrates my youngest son’s 1st Holy Communion.

18579043_120332000901374293_1291600596_n

Parents in the Catholic faith will fully appreciate the level of commitment that the children – and the parents! – need to go through for 8 months prior to this occasion. 8 months of the child going to Saturday school, on top of a heavy school week; 8 months of additional learning and spiritual guidance; 8 months of the parents (me) attending evening meetings for reminders on how to guide our children in the Catholic faith; 8 months of attending Saturday or Sunday Mass EVERY week (good job I do this already!).

All this, and I am still not 100% sure that my son or his friends in the group understand exactly what is going on. After all, I didn’t at that age. It was something that we knew we had to do. I do remember feeling very grown up at the Sunday Masses that followed my 1st Holy Communion, as it meant that I could now receive Communion rather than getting a blessing from the priest. But the reason why I was now able to take the Body and Blood of Christ? I was clueless.

Here are the things that I learned from the process at the age of 8:

  • I had to make sure that I stuck my tongue out fully so that the priest could put the bread on my tongue.
  • I had to say “Amen” loudly after the priest offered me the Body of Christ – if I didn’t, he would refuse to give me Communion.
  • I had to bless myself after taking the bread.
  • I was told to put the bread to the roof of my mouth and work it down slowly with my tongue.
  • When I got back to the pew, I was to kneel and say a prayer of thanks, before sitting up and waiting patiently for the rest of the congregation to finish.

What I didn’t know (or remember learning) was the REASON we did all this. That came at a later stage.

Has history repeated itself with my children? My 10 year old is a couple of years down the line, but aside from knowing his prayers, he seldom talks about the power of receiving the Body and Blood of Christ. My 8 year old, who is about to receive, just talks about how nervous he is, as he doesn’t know what to expect.

Let’s theorise for a moment. We have person A, Leanne, and person B, Maria. Leanne has around 12kg to lose in weight. She attends her local slimming club and takes direction from the “leader”. She follows the process, attends the weekly meetings, and gets results.  But does Leanne really understand HOW she is losing weight? Maria has the same amount to lose, but decides to work with a personal trainer and nutrition coach. This coach does not work in a prescriptive way and wants to teach Maria how she can lose the weight – and keep it off for the rest of her life. But Maria has to learn. She has to attend each session, read the emails that are sent, and do her homework. She loses weight, but now understands WHY and HOW her body reacts to certain things.

Who do you think will keep the weight off for longer (maybe even for life)?

Maria will have a stronger chance for sure. She has an understanding and an education, whereas Leanne has just been told what to do. So when she STOPS being told what to do, there is a likelihood that the weight will go back on.

Now, back to the 1st Holy Communion. The children are going through the programme and being told what to do, and have been for the past 8 months. How many of them do you think will willingly come to Mass each Sunday, attend an extra class on a Saturday, and ask their parents for spiritual guidance, without the “rules” that we as parents and Catechists have put into place? Not very many, I bet (if any at all).

I am perhaps guilty of not educating and supporting my children enough beyond taking them to Mass and to their classes, leaving it to the “professional” Catholics to work their magic. But how can I expect this new generation of Catholics to continue on with their faith, and teach it to their children and grandchildren, without the understanding that I have today?

It’s much like how I never expect my clients to stay with me forever. I expect them to listen, learn, and apply. If they do that, they get results, and the knowledge to be able to sustain this way of life – for good.

I welcome your thoughts on this subject!

Advertisements

Do You Trust Me?

When preparing to teach children’s Liturgy, I try to keep one step ahead of myself so that I can prepare the lesson to make it as “child friendly” as possible. I always like to make the half hour they are in my care fun, interactive, and – hopefully! – wanting them to come back.

18493122_10154422673911850_2032104847_o

This is pretty hard when teaching the word of the Lord, as I am sure most Priests will tell you when they are preparing their homilies, so it was with a sigh that I found myself researching and thinking of ways to teach children about trust.

Psalm 56:3

“When I am afraid, I put my trust in you.”

A BIG subject for children, and it can take on different meanings depending on your situation.

So let’s start on the current subject, children’s Liturgy. Currently we only teach school years 2, 3, and 4, so we need to be able to relay the Liturgy in a way that is understood by them all – like I said, a tough job.

Before they walked in, did they trust their parents’ judgement that they would be safe in our care at children’s Liturgy? Of course, we get the children who are very young and it is their first time – we have to sit with them, or, worst case, we have to walk them back out to the church to find their parent(s). But, for the most part, they TRUST their parent to let them come and see us, and once they are in the hall, that trust is transferred to the Liturgists. And for that half hour they are with us, they have trust in what we say, how we act, and what we tell them to do.

Children trust everyone.

For the most part, that is not a fault. In fact, a lot of adults could take a lesson on trust from children. From their parents, the Liturgists, their teachers, their siblings, their friends, their friend’s parents, their swimming instructor. When you think about it, wherever a child is led, they trust whoever their leader is.

Now, let’s think about how we react to trust when we are adults. We have to trust the car we drive to get us to our destination, we have to trust the school we send our kids to that they are teaching them correct and are keeping our children safe. We have to trust our judgement on our work decisions and also if what we are doing for the family is right. We have to trust our family, our friends, and our faith.

Because without trust, we get stuck. We can do nothing, because all we can rely upon is ourselves.

So we don’t trust the car, what is the alternative? We walk.

So we don’t trust the school, what’s the alternate? We home-school our children.

So we don’t trust our judgement? We let someone else decide…

… So we still need to trust?

It’s a tricky one.

I had a particular difficult time at work this week. One which left me feeling inadequate, not trusting in my own judgement, and scared that this would get me into trouble. Who did I trust to share this with? My husband (to a point)?

It was God.

I actually Googled “prayers for strength and clarity”, and sat in my car before the gym and prayed quietly to myself, which was strange for me as I normally feel I need to be in a church environment to be able to pray effectively. A load had been lifted, and I felt that, by putting my trust in God, I had left it to Him to give me the strength to deal with the situation, however it panned out.

When I work with clients, they put 100% trust in me.

Prior to working with me. they had to set foot in a gym and have trust in themselves that they know what to do. They had to have trust in the gym instructor that they have told them how to work the equipment right. And trust in their own knowledge that THIS is the best way to lose weight.

Except, sometimes it doesn’t work. Their trust in themselves goes right down, and they look for someone else to trust.

Me… Such pressure!

So I have to be confident that I can trust myself with that responsibility.

That I trust my knowledge of the gym environment to teach correctly.

That I trust my knowledge of nutrition that I can give the correct advice.

That I trust my judgement on the clients exhaustion scale to know when to step in.

That I trust the gym equipment that they can workout effectively.

I could go on. But I trust you get my point?

Have you had issues with being trusted or trusting others? Leave me your comments below.

Comparison is the Thief of Joy

This is a quote from Theodore Roosevelt. I seem to be quoting it quite a lot recently.

18337147_10154405025451850_60692688_n

You may have seen similar memes, such as:

“Don’t compare yourself with anyone else in this world, if you do you are insulting yourself”

“Don’t compare yourself to others…that’s a battle you can never win”

“Happiness is found when you stop comparing yourself to other people”

“Don’t compare your beginning to someone else’s middle”

Now the latest prompt for me to quote this was a question I had from a client. As with a lot of my clients in the private group that I host, the client themselves become friends and confidants, and will for the most part keep themselves accountable and motivated. Which is exactly what I want to happen – when women do this, I get the best out of them. But in the most recent case, it seemed to have a negative effect.

“Why am I not losing as much weight as <name>? I eat less and our diets do not differ much, I’m confused!”

Valid question.

We are part of a world where things are better explained when they are black and white. And when I think about this in religious terms, we can often think that praying to God means that he will answer our prayers. When I ask my children to pray, they will ask God for an Xbox game, or 10 out of 10 on their next spelling test, or that Luton Town will win their next match. And if what they have prayed for doesn’t happen, they ask questions, and are sometimes left with an attitude close to “what’s the point?”. And I get that. What they don’t get that their prayers do get answered, but in a way they don’t expect. Such as being asked to earn the money for their Xbox game, meaning God intends for them to learn a lesson that you get what you work for. The same would stand for the spelling test. They would perhaps get 7 out of 10, meaning they had to learn by their mistakes to get the 10 out of 10 mark they prayed for EVENTUALLY.

So lets look at the black and white of the weight loss industry. We are told, that in order to lose weight, we need to EAT LESS AND MOVE MORE. Simple. So scientifically, by doing the maths, someone who normally has 2500 calories a day and doesn’t exercise, should lose weight by eating 2000 calories and walking half an hour each day.

SHOULD.

And it could be that this is the perfect formula for one person. If they continue to do this, and reduce their calories and increase their exercise, the weight loss should be steady.

SHOULD

But things are never that simple. That could of course work for one person. That person could have 3 stone to lose, have a very inactive lifestyle to start with, and any negative change in calories and positive change in exercise will have the right impact. But what happens when another person has 10lbs to lose, is active anyway to a point, and has an autoimmune disease. What if that person has an intolerance to certain foods and has suffered from an eating disorder in the past, meaning their metabolism is affected. Extreme, I know, but they walk among us, and when it comes to getting ANY weight loss from someone who is suffering a high amount of stress from all areas of their life, it is very hard.

So what happens if the person who loses weight from the black and white method, compares their weight loss to the person who is suffering from all of the above?

They get very different results.

And this is just TWO people that I am comparing. We live in a world full of billions of people, half of which are on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram with #bodyimage and #abs as their hashtags. And it is these people that we tend to compare ourselves to. And this is wrong.

I want to refer you to another meme that I posted to my group yesterday:

18336556_10154405024616850_1138408838_n

Look at yourself. Take a good look and ask yourself what you want to do, where you want to be, and why.  Because, I bet if you ask the person standing next to you, the answer will be very different. In the same way that when you are kneeling next to that person in Church this Sunday, your prayers will be very different – and answered in different ways.

Does exercise have the power to heal?

This weekend in my Parish it is “healing” weekend, and there have been signs up at the church inviting all to attend the open day (for more details please contact me here).

18280653_10154402428661850_73845867_n

This is going to be a busy time for the church as volunteers are needed to listen, make tea, cook the dinners, clear up, and even offer accommodation. This will fill us all with a tremendous sense of community that I am proud to be a part of.

But what does it mean to be healed?

Many people will have the first vision in their heads of an outspoken minister, speaking to a young person in a wheelchair, apply some “laying of the hands” and mutter a blessing, and the wheelchair-bound person then stands up, unsteady at first, then launches in a sprightly dance, much to the congregations delight and cheers.

Or perhaps you have a vision of Jesus, making a blind man see (click here for my take on this story), which we heard in the gospel earlier in the year.

But it is important to remember that healing doesn’t just come in physical form.

If you had watched the London Marathon last month (did I tell you I have entered for 2018? Eek!), you would have seen lots of banners and paraphernalia bearing the brand “Heads Together”, which raises awareness for mental illness. When I was growing up, depression was something that we knew nothing about. Often people were told to “pull yourself together”, or we heard whispers that Mr Jones across the street was in the midst of a “nervous breakdown”, and we were told to steer clear.

Fast forward 20-30 years and the conversation surrounding mental illness has really turned around. People are now sitting up and taking notice of what it is all about. You just have to look at the increased diagnoses of conditions such as ADHD (not just in children), anxiety, Autism spectrum disorder, eating disorders, mood disorders… to name a few. The list goes on. And these are all conditions that we speak about when we refer to healing – healing of the mind, the body and the spirit, and, where the church is concerned, this is done with the power of faith. Not in a miracle-type way (although these are always welcomed!), but due to belief and mindset.

Which is something that I have to work on EVERY DAY with the people that I work with.

I quote a lady that I work with:

“I know I have seen the physical changes that working with you has brought, but I cannot tell you the improvements that working out has done to my mind.”

She then went on to tell how she could see “addiction” tendencies when it comes to exercise (there is a science to this of course), and how she has to work on her mindset to get herself out and into the gym (or out for a run/walk/swim etc), but once there, she feels amazing. Not just physically, but mentally too. Like she can accomplish anything.

So whilst healing can be done via your faith, and the kind words of the people around you, think of what the power of exercise can do also – just ask all those marathon runners a few weekends ago.

Have you been mentally “healed” by exercise?

– Colette

Clothes Maketh The Man – & Woman!

I remember many moons ago in Las Vegas – around 2003 – getting my glad rags on and heading out for the evening to see a show.

What struck me as odd, however, was the sea of people around me that seemed to have made no effort.

There were men in shorts and baseball caps, women in pool-stained t-shirts with the strings of their bikini’s on show, and Gav and I sat among them in a suit and a little black dress.

What we thought was an occasion to dress up and feel glamorous, turned out not to be.

As we left the show and headed for the casino, we watched many of our fellow audience members head back out to the pool, or attack the all-you-can-eat buffet and continue with their evening.

This made me feel quite sad yet angry at the same time, that people had such disrespect for an occasion, or maybe I was being a little old-fashioned at the tender age of 24 – who knows?

received_10154383937286850

Fast forward to our family caravan holidays.  I like nothing more (and still to this day) than showering off at the beach or the pool and getting changed and made up to go back out. The kids are encouraged to do the same, and even Gav will have a change of shirt…!  Only to be faced at the club house with people sat at the bar with a towel round them.

My thoughts also turn to when we spent two blissful weeks in the Maldives. As you may know, this is a Muslim country, so they are not tolerant of women being topless, or entering anywhere you can eat in a state of undress (bikini’s or swimming costumes), so you’re required to cover up. This of course was respected by Gav and I and we covered up appropriately when we entered the buffet – Gav popping on a t-shirt and I put a sun dress on over my swimming stuff. But, of course, there were people who would “forget”, and get irritated with the staff who were trying to communicate the best they could about how disrespectful it was.

Another occasion that springs to mind is Church. I touched upon how, as a child, it was a very different occasion which included wearing your “Sunday best”.

And as I look round the church I attend on a Sunday (mostly), I often observe what people wear. There are some in bright colourful outfits and you can see that Sunday Mass is deemed worthy an occasion to go all out for. There are others who are dressed for a night out, again respectful but tight dresses and high heels. There are others (and I have been guilty of this) who will wear jeans, trainers, and a t-shirt.

Now I totally respect ALL parties and what they choose to wear, but sometimes we have to respect that this is a place of God, that there many people in the Parish who would struggle to see past your baseball cap, and would also consider this to be a mark of disrespect (like wearing a hat indoors is for many places). But for women, traditionally in the Catholic faith, covering your hair in church (your crown and place of beauty and vanity) was a requirement. Think Nuns in their full get-up – they always have their hair covered by their habit.

What would you think if you see your priest turn up to mass in t-shirt and jeans? Would that be a mark of disrespect against the faith? Does it make his Mass any less important because of what he is wearing? No. But it doesn’t seem quite right.

And whilst there are no “rules” for dress any more at church, we all have different views on what we should wear.

A recent example for me was the hot weather we had.

That morning I had a summer dress and flip flops on. But when I got ready for Church, I slipped a pair of legging on underneath the dress and a pair of ankle boots. For me, I don’t think that a lot of leg should be shown in a church (weddings and christenings included I am afraid…!).

However, I do teach children’s liturgy, and, where possible I like to make sure that the kids are on their feet and we are being as physically interactive as possible, so I wear trainers so that I can nimble as possible. I also walk to church with my children in tow so we have practical footwear on. But that doesn’t stop me from glancing down at my feet during the offertory and seeing my bright pink trainers next to someones more conservative footwear, and thinking that I really SHOULD make the effort.

If you look around any gym, however you tend to see a trend of what people wear.

I think it is quite obvious that you need to wear trainers (although I have witnesses someone on the treadmill in wedges!). Women tend to wear skin-tight leggings and most wear sleeveless tops. But these are for practicality.

I LOVE shopping for gym stuff and will always go for the brightest things I can find, but would I wear these in church? Even if I was going to the gym straight after? I’m not sure.

I welcome your thoughts on this subject. Do you “dress” for church, or turn up as you are?

– Colette

Time to change my faith…

I was having a conversation recently with a friend about the how the Catholic faith is perceived from the outside.

We were coming at this from different perspectives. I am a “cradle” Catholic, meaning that I have been a Catholic since birth (or since my birth into the Catholic faith, so my baptism at 2 months old). My friend is a “convert” Catholic, meaning she decided to enter into this faith about a year ago.

These two perspectives will be interesting depending on what topic you start on, but this was talking about how MY perspective has changed in the past of the faith.

If I think way back, to when I lived in Ireland in the early 1980’s: our local Parish church mass was the highlight of the week for my Grandma. She used to insist on our “Sunday best” (another blog post is coming about church attire VERY soon), and the whole family would walk to the church and socialise outside the gate until near the start of mass.

18034893_10154368442776850_199474373_n

This is where it was different.

Men and women back then sat on different sides of the church. I have no idea why this was the case, and nor did I think it was unusual. All I remember was sitting next to my Grandma whilst looking out onto a sea of flat caps, trying to work out which tweed-clad farmer was my Grandad.

We then continued to whizz through mass at a pace. The prayers were said as fast as possible (I still cannot to this day get my head around singing the Our Father rather than reciting at speed with an Irish accent), the Priest stood red-faced and bored at the front, and I remember one time when he actually collapsed and a gaggle of women went rushing to his side. He had dropped the gospel and there was a collective synchronisation of people blessing themselves in response to this (I think I remember some people actually going to his aid as well).

At this time, there was no Children’s Liturgy. I was told sit, be quiet, and say my prayers. I was also told to bring my rosary as that would be said at the end too. I feared the Priest, the adults didn’t speak to me, and I struggled to understand the prayers as they were recited too fast.

Church aside, worshipping at home was a very solemn occasion. 6pm would come around and the telly would switch over to the statue of Our Lady whilst we recited half the rosary as quickly as possible, kneeling in front of our chairs. I remember having my heart in my mouth as my Grandma would ask me to say one Our Father, one Hail Mary, and one Glory Be as I was under immense pressure to get it right. I remember one particular time that I stumbled over the prayers and got the Our Father and Hail Mairy mixed up. My Aunt had to take over, but it was done with no sympathy. It was with a tut and a faint “Jesus” under her breath before she continued.

There is little wonder why I wasn’t keen on pursuing religious activities when I was left to my own devices (i.e. after my Confirmation).

Fast forward 30 years, and I sit now with my children in a congregation that is not only mixed sex, but mixed nationalities as well. We sit before a Priest who is welcoming, joyous, clever, informative, and delivers thought-provoking homilies. And, as yet, has never dropped the gospel.

And I look at my children and wonder how they would have coped in my era, and then remember – I knew no different. As they know no different.

They will no doubt bring THEIR children to church in 30 years’ time and tell them of the time when they had to physically receive communion, and not the dispenser that is there now (!!). Explaining this to my friend made me feel nostalgic as well as shocked at how far this faith has come in a few years.

Which is not too different to the fitness industry.

We have become a health conscious nation who now frowns upon smoking and a sedentary life, is open to MANY ways of eating (Paleo, Vegan, Vegetarian, plant-based, etc), and we are spoilt for choice at type of fitness classes we can attend.

We should be the fittest we have ever been as a nation but, in fact, we are the most obese and unfit ever recorded. Because we have SO much choice, we are conflicted.

How many people do you know who diet hop? Who change classes on a regular basis because it is the next best thing for fat loss, before giving what they do now a chance to work?

Quite a few I bet.

So whilst we have changed as a Catholic faith (for the better in my opinion), the fitness industry has just become more confused. Which is why it is important to choose one direction that you can resonate with, and stick with it.

Like faith.

What do you think?

– Colette

Do we now have God’s permission to binge?

As I write this blog post, it is Maundy Thursday – or more commonly known as Holy Thursday.

17888057_10154342860321850_1198475443_n

This is where, as Catholics, we remember Christ taking his last supper with his disciples. No doubt you have seen hundreds of pictures representing this very occasion, and each week at mass, this is represented by the priest talking us through the ritual Jesus started with his 12 mates.

“The Last Supper” is literally that. It was the last meal that Jesus had before he was crucified on Good Friday (in accordance with the scriptures), but how many times have you had your “last” supper before starting again on a given day (normally a Monday…).

Take this weekend for instance. Lent marked an occasion of deprivation for many (not quite fasting, but as close as we can get to live normal lives), where we had to give up things such as chocolate, alcohol, biscuits, etc. All things that we feel are sinful and should not be indulged in.

Much like how the diet culture is today.

So, this weekend, Lent has finished, we are now able to indulge again, and many of us will be marking this occasion with one or two (maybe more?) Easter eggs. A big mound of chocolate that we will sit and eat in front of the telly and tell ourselves that its “ok” to binge, because it’s Easter Sunday, we are celebrating. It is the Resurrection of Jesus, the end of Lent, an end to the solemn time in Christianity.

And actually, it is “ok”. Because tomorrow we can stop.

We can get back on it and go for a long walk and all the calories and indulgences and the overload on our digestive system will be over… Until the next “last supper”

Lent is actually a very traditional version of the “binge – restrict – binge” cycle that I see many of my clients, old, new, and existing take part in ALL the time. Myself including (because I am human).

So, moving forward, lets look at the LONG TERM solution to this. To stop thinking of certain foods as indulgences (they are only that if you do JUST that with them – indulge yourself – gluttony, remember, is one of the deadly sins).

If you have these things little and often, there is no need to binge, or to restrict, because they are part of a healthy lifestyle.

The questions is, are you able?

– Colette