The Lord summons heaven and earth to witness his judgment on his people.

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So, I am hearing that we are called to see our life on earth as passing away.  Not only because we are sinners, but because we are supposed to be living the life of the resurrection.  Christ has died.  Christ is risen.  Christ will come again.  What are we going to do to show that we are living the life of the resurrection today.  We could go to Mass and experience heaven on earth, or even better we could go to the Sacrament of Reconciliation and experience our turning away from sin before we receive Jesus in the Eucharist.  In other words, we could choose to be truly conformed to His will today.  Since today is Saturday, we have the chance to do these things no matter where we find ourselves in this country.  We should not forget that there are people in the world today who will not be able to make it to their parish church because of the lack of religious freedom where they are from.  Thanks be to God for giving us the freedom we enjoy and I long for the day when all the faith-filled people will be brought together in the New Jerusalem. 

Love is everything…

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This movie is great and I highly recommend the extended version…Today in the Office of Readings, Saint Augustine is quoted in the second readings in a Sermon on Pastors, saying this…

I appeal to your love, and again I say, even if the sheep have life and if they are strong in the word of the Lord, and if they hold fast to what they have heard from their Lord, Do what they say but not what they do. Still, as far as he himself is concerned, the shepherd who lives a wicked life before the people kills the sheep under his care. Let such a shepherd not deceive himself because the sheep is not dead, for though it still lives, he is a murderer – just as when the lustful man looks on a woman with desire, even though she is chaste, he has committed adultery. For the Lord said in plain truth: Whoever has looked upon a woman with desire has already committed adultery with her in his heart. He has not entered her bedroom, yet he has ravished her within the bedroom of his heart.

Therefore anyone who lives wickedly before those who have been placed under his care kills, as far as he himself is concerned, even the strong. Whoever imitates him, dies; whoever does not, has life. But as for him, he kills both of them. You kill what is healthy and you do not pasture my sheep.  (End of quote)

This is the second half of my testimony that I never got to share at the Memorial for the Unborn at Saint Mary Catholic Church last weekend…

Today, I am married to my wife, Tonya.  She is a saint for living with the brokenness that God has been healing in me for the past 16 years of our marriage.  We have four incredible children, and God’s most recent addition to our family is a girl.  Our daughter, Kasaundra is a 3 years old, and she reminds me daily of what God’s love must look like, and keeps me focused on creating a better world for her to grow up in.  In my work as a youth minister for Saint Alice Catholic Church, I realize that a lot of our Catholic youth are growing up without God, because of the secularization of society, much the same way as I did.  We have to keep working to show them that God has a better plan for them than the hook up culture that they see all around them.  I don’t know if my story would be enough to convince a young man or woman to wait until they are married, but thanks be to God we have the Theology of the Body from Blessed Pope John Paul II to lead the conversation with them about how the story of creation and God’s plan for our bodies from the beginning is pointing to so much more meaning in their sexuality than the hook up.  We need to stop the murderous lies that are streaming from the organizations in our world, like Planned Parenthood, that are leading more and more of our young people, as well as adults, into accepting that they are alone in their sexual brokenness and there is no hope of abstinence or chastity.  My hope is, that we can start to change the world, by changing ourselves.  I still struggle with chastity, but that doesn’t mean that I can give up and say that Jesus’ blood has washed me clean and I am saved, so let’s move on.  I was recently told in confession that I probably always will struggle with chastity, which really sucks.  However, I was also told recently that it is in weakness that God shows his strength, so with that in mind I would like to share what I believe is the root cause of abortion in our culture today.

If I look out on the street today, I might be perfectly ok walking around and enjoying the different outfits that we will see out there.  However, if it happens to be the right time of the month for my wife and she is ovulating and we know we have to abstain for the purposes of making sure we are both ready to bring another child into the world, I may not want to walk the streets with such reckless abandon.  Some of you might not understand what I am talking about, so let me use Jesus’ words to help explain.  In the 5th chapter of Matthew’s gospel, the 27th and 28th verse have Jesus saying…”You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’  But I say to you, everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” I think if anyone was lost about why I was talking about walking the streets of Eugene before, hopefully understands completely now in light of that reading.  However, it is two words from those two verses that I would like to focus on.  Jesus says, “with her”, and I would like to propose that Jesus is telling us that it is not just me who commits adultery when I look with lust at a woman, but I commit adultery “with her”.  To me, this means that it is important for me to guard my eyes for the sake of my own salvation, but also for every woman who could potentially be affected by my lust-filled gaze.  Before I get too lost in explaining what constitutes a lust –filled gaze,  I would like to say that our children are growing up in a culture that revels in the fact that we can look at whatever we want and it shouldn’t affect us.  This is a lie from the pit of hell, and if you look at verse 29 of that same gospel chapter, Jesus tells us that if our eye causes us to sin, we should tear it out and throw it away.  It is better for you to lose one of your members than to have your whole body go into Gehenna.   So, if we want to save our culture we should all cut out our eyes…No!  However, if we know that part of our body, my own interpretation, could be affected by actions that we are likely to take in a given situation, we should discern the times when we should avoid those situations.  Also, it is only when we are being honest with ourselves, we realize that we need to have open an honest conversations with our kids about guarding their eyes on the internet and through different applications on their smartphones, we can save them the pain of struggling with chastity almost twenty years into their marriage.  Then again, maybe that is not the point.  The point is they need to know that we struggle, so they know that their struggle is not in vain.  They need to see the times we go to confession and we give our struggle to Jesus.  Most importantly, they need to see us live out our marriage in joyful communion with each other as the fruit of the struggle.  My oldest son is 15 years old, and he has seen Dad at his worst.  He also sees Dad going to confession almost every week to let Jesus continue to work on his conversion.  My hope for all three of my sons, is that they will know when they need to guard their eyes, and keep good and holy friends around them to let him know when they are slippin’.  As for my daughter, my hope for her is that we will do everything we can to keep places like the Carmelite Monastery open, so she can visit there often,  to see examples of what true chastity looks like in a woman.  She is also getting to see her Dad and Mom going to confession, which is good.  She even got to sit in with me once in confession, because she wouldn’t wait outside for some reason.  I am hopeful that we will continue to build up our young women in our culture, so there are more examples of chastity that we don’t have to leave our parish to see.

The truth is, that only if we are honest about the struggle inside of us, that we can see to live out the chastity that God is calling us to.  The fruit of that chastity will be enough, in my opinion, to root out the cause of abortion in our culture, which is disinformation and lack of self-control.

Thank you and God bless you!

“Young man, I tell you, arise!”

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Today’s title is taken from the gospel reading from today’s Mass readings…

He stepped forward and touched the coffin; at this the bearers halted, and he said, “Young man, I tell you, arise!”  Luke 7:14

I remember hearing a homily about the young man that was being told to arise relating to those of us left here in this world who still struggle with sin.  (All of us!)  Anyway, the point is Jesus is telling us to stop walking around like were are dead, it is time to arise.  If we look back at the first reading for today, Saint Paul tells us that we have work to do.  Even though, I may not be called to speak in tongues or interpret tongues, I could be called to be a prophet.  I may even be called to be an apostle.  What are the qualifications for this work that we could be called to do?  The only qualifications that I know of, is that God is the one doing the calling.  So, regardless of our sinful nature and tendency to be a slacker in our calling to proclaim the Good News to the world, we still need to do it.

For me, I am taking this opportunity right now to choose to arise and tell you that the end is near and the kingdom of heaven is at hand.  Repent, and believe in the Good News that Jesus Christ came to earth to radically change the way we look at the world.  Our bodies are passing away, but they can be raised up again, by the same Spirit that raised Our Mother in faith, the Virgin Mary and the same Spirit that will raise the bodies of all the Saints at the end of time.  Our world is passing away and so is heaven going to pass away, but God is preparing a new heaven and a new earth that will be the everlasting home to those who trust in him and follow his ways.

By your power and through the intercession of the Saints, including Saint Mary ever-virgin, save me from myself and show me the way to lead my family to grow in virtue…Amen!

Turn up the bass when you listen to this song…If you don’t have bass, download and listen to it when you do…It is so worth it!

May your mother intercede for us, Lord!

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As I finished the morning prayer this morning in the church by myself, I remembered the story I heard on the radio about the woman who would go to the tabernacle and open it and ask what Jesus wanted her to do today.  I looked at the tabernacle and said, “So, Jesus, what do you want from me?”  I heard in my head, “Sit down!”  As I sat, I felt the peace of resting in the Lord’s presence.  Sitting in the front pew of the church by myself, I then heard the question, “Do you really believe that I am present here in the tabernacle?”  I answered immediately, “Of course, Lord!”  I started thinking, why else would I be here praying unless I believed Jesus was really here?  I was immediately rebuked by Our Lord when he said to my heart, “Then why are you not screaming at the top of your lungs about my presence here?”  I thought immediately about the conversation I had with my son’s best friend last night, talking about how being Catholic is about following the teachings of Jesus which the church has been doing for the last 2000 years.  I failed to mention that since we believe that Jesus is truly present in the Eucharist, and if he happens to decide to go to another church, he will not have that.  If I truly believe that Jesus is present in the form of bread and wine in the Eucharist, should I be screaming it from the rooftops?  He is waiting for you and me to go to work sharing this Good News, especially today as we celebrate the share that his mother had in his passion.  Our Lady of Sorrows, pray for us!

Saint John Chrysostom, pray for us!

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The testimony I gave today at a memorial for the unborn…

Thank you…I know some of you have heard my conversion story before, but it best relates my relationship with my aborted daughter, so I will try and read it as close to what I wrote here as possible, so I don’t miss anything…

My conversion story is probably not like many conversion stories that you hear, because I converted while I was in college. You see, I was a virgin in high school, and at the time I thought that I was weird.   I only had one serious girlfriend in high school, and she had just had a baby and had given it up for adoption, so I was not quite in the same league as her ex-boyfriends, and I didn’t have a chance to play the confidence game on her that I was somewhat familiar with from movies and stories from my buddies that were so much more “accomplished” sexually than I was.   After graduation, I went off to college in New York.  After being sheltered in my life in a little town of Shelton, Washington, it is hard for me to believe that I boarded that plane to fly to New York at age 17.  Once I got there, I did what I always did, blended right in and made some fast friends.  Providentially, I was given a card on my first day of plebe summer, or what we called “Indoctrination”, and I had to declare what religion I was.  Since I had enough military background, both Mom and Dad were in the Air Force, and I was in a Naval Junior ROTC program in high school, I knew better than to check that I had no religion, because I would miss out on the break that Sunday Service could afford you from the constant badgering of the drill instructors during our first two weeks.  I checked the Roman Catholic box because one of the guys that I most looked up to in high school, as much as an atheist could look up to someone who has faith,  was attending the Military Academy at West Point, and he was Catholic.  I was elected as the freshman class president after our indoctrination period ended, and my name wasn’t even on the ballot.  It was at this point of my achievement of success in the world, that I started my journey to understand who God is and how my faith in him related to my life.  I was never comfortable with the person I was inside, but it seemed that everyone else thought I was something special.  Before beginning my journey to initiation in the Sacramental life of the church, I had completely accepted the lie that we are all broken sexually and there is no hope for us.  So, as far as saving myself for marriage, I had a break between my freshman and sophomore year in college.  The pressures of being freshman class president and over 20 credits a quarter, as well as all the extra-curricular activities that I couldn’t miss out on.  It all had severely affected my ability to keep my grades at an acceptable level, and the academic punishment was to set me back a year.  On returning home to Shelton, I thought I couldn’t continue as a virgin, because I had been in New York and it seemed ridiculous that I was not a “man of the world”.  So, I hooked up with an old friend’s ex-girlfriend that lived in my neighborhood, that I knew had always wanted to hook up with me.  I moved in with an old friend from school that was willing to help me find a job and he was impressed that I was this new “man of the world”, and that I was no longer a virgin and fresh from some amazing experiences from New York.  I finished my year of punishment, or regression, I like to call it becoming more and more broken, and had finally hooked up with a girl who had been living on her own since she was 16,and we made plans to start a life together when I finished school.  (I was not attending church during this time)  My first call home after returning to school, found her back dating a bunch of guys that she had put on hold while we were together, and killed the childish dream that I had, that we would ever get back together.  As for me, back at school, I struggled mightily to get my sex drive back in the bag, only to fail miserably in almost every relationship I had.  Mostly because, I did not understand the true meaning of my sexuality and temptation was just too strong for me to handle alone.

As I began my study of the Catechism and the History of the Catholic Church, with my Chaplain and Pastor, Father Leone, at the United States Merchant Marine Academy, I started to realize, by the grace of God, that there was nothing but truth emanating from the faith that was being proposed to me by the Church.  However, no matter how I may have begun to commit mentally to the truth, my physical commitment was going to take some time for me.  After I had gone on a 6 month deployment on a couple of ships out of Tacoma, Washington, I returned home to Florida this time to visit family, and I met an amazing young woman.   I was invited to escort her, as my girlfriend, to her Senior Prom.  I was working weekends to pay for my miscellaneous expenses and still got some support from Mom, who had moved to Cocoa Beach, so I agreed to make the trip down to escort her to the prom.  Once I got there, she told me that she had made arrangements to make sure her Dad was going to make himself scarce that weekend, so we could have some time alone.  In retrospect, I guess I could have been more vocal about what I was hoping for, but I was around 19 or 20 years old, and my mental commitment to the truth was still not guiding my decisions, and I think we all struggle with that even now, at least I know I do.

It was about a month or so after the prom; I got a call from her, telling me that she was pregnant.  Personally, my emotions were all over the place, and I honestly did not know what I was supposed to think or say, because this was supposed to happen after we were married.  She told me that she was scared and her neighbor had told her that she would take her to the clinic the next day to talk to someone about it.  My thoughts were centered on the fact that my career in the military was probably over, but it didn’t concern me too much, because I did have a sense that God was going to work all things together for good. Now I know from Romans 8:28, We know that all things work for good for those who love God,* who are called according to his purpose.   I discussed the proper next move for me with my sponsor in the church, Mike Dalton.  Who, by the way, is now the only friend I am still in contact with from college, and he said that I need to make sure she knows that I am willing to be there to support her and the baby.  I assured him that she knew that I felt that way, but I was afraid of the decision that she might be convinced to make, by this neighbor friend.  I am pretty sure he took me to the chapel and we prayed, but I remember he took me to the chapel to pray a lot, so I don’t necessarily remember this particular time in prayer specifically.  So, I received a call the next day, or the following week, the timeline is blurry because I spent a lot of time trying to block the memory out of my head.   She said the neighbor had convinced her that she would not have a life if she kept the baby and she needed to just have an abortion and be done with it.  I tried to console her over the phone and tell her that I knew that it was a hard decision for her to make.  She became immediately distant, as if to say, she was trying to put distance between me and her, so that she wouldn’t have to remember what happened.  We lost contact over the next few months as I finished my sophomore year of studies, with passing grades…At least enough to keep me out of more trouble, academically.  I visited her, on Summer Break that year, because I just wanted to see if there was anything that I could do to salvage our relationship, of course.  However, she met with me for the sole purpose of telling me that the abortion experience was a severe darkness that she was sure that she would be dealing with for the rest of her life.  I heard some time later, from my sister, that she did end up getting married and having children and I hope and pray that she does not still struggle with this darkness overshadowing her life.  As for me, I started out praying for the baby that we lost to the abortion and ended up years later, getting some consolation in knowing that the baby has probably been praying for me.  I have been given the baby’s name, but it was only for the purposes of praying with her one time, and the name has not come back.  Even early this morning as I thought about giving this testimony, I could only think of my girlfriend’s name, and it was as if my daughter was telling me to pray for her.  Oh yeah, I was given the consolation of knowing that she is a girl.  Thanks be to God and His infinite mercy, I was able to see His love in the acceptance of the church, even with the knowledge of the tragedy that my personal life had become, the church got me started on the road to complete my healing, from the beginning of my life in denial of God, and sexual brokenness, to a growing wholeness when I rest in Him.

Since we live in a broken world, I hope that my healing and the healing of all of us continues today and for the rest of our lives here on earth, through the power of God, until we are called home to spend eternity with all of God’s children…Especially those that never got to see the world in this life.  You see, I hope to see my baby again and with the grace of God, she will recognize me for the man that the prayers of all the communion of saints and the Blessed Virgin Mary have created me to be in heaven…(This is where I stopped my testimony this afternoon at the memorial!)

Thank you and God bless you!

During our Memorial celebration at Saint Mary Catholic Church today, I cut off my testimony in the middle and added this from Saint John Chrysostom…

Do you not hear the Lord saying: Where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I in their midst? Will he be absent, then, when so many people united in love are gathered together? I have his promise; I am surely not going to rely on my own strength! I have what he has written; that is my staff, my security, my peaceful harbor. Let the world be in upheaval. I hold to his promise and read his message; that is my protecting wall and garrison. What message? Know that I am with you always, until the end of the world!

Saint John Chrysostom, pray for us!

He continues here , under the tab Office of Readings, but I heard the Holy Spirit telling me that it was enough, so I stopped there.  Please feel free to leave any comment here.  In addition, I have put the rest of my testimony under the title, “Should we cut out our eyes?” and you can find it there…

The Virgin Mary is God!

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I have to admit, as this title came to me this morning, I had to spend some time discerning if it was coming from the Lord or some other place that was not of God.  However, after going to Confession this morning and doing my penance, I was left with the overwhelming urge to post this with the title that you see above.  This is a comment that I put on an article where someone complained about a tweet that was posted by Pope Francis last week…

(Beginning of comment)

How is marriage consummated? It is through the marital act, by which God may see fit to bring forth life from the union of man and woman. In the marital act, man and woman become one flesh. In the case of Mary, she was overshadowed by the Holy Spirit, who is God, and become one flesh with God, and for that reason alone, I would call her my mother, in a similar way that I would call God, my Father. However, it wasn’t that alone that we are left with to know that Mary is our Mother.  It is the Word of Jesus from the cross that says that as He died, that Mary was now the mother of John and by extension, our mother, as was John the son of Mary, and by extension we are her children. (John 19:26-27) I stop short of referring to Mary as God, because there is only one God, but I can’t imagine a human being more intimately connected to God than Mary.  Therefore I agree with the Pope when he says that we are orphans, if we don’t consider Mary our mother. Mary, Mother of God, pray for us!  

(end of comment)

Here is the tweet that Pope Francis tweeted last week…

The Christian who does not feel that the Virgin Mary is his or her mother is an orphan.

I struggle with whether or not I will give you the link to the article that I commented on, because it is filled with assumptions about what Catholics believe that are not true and it assumes that scripture can explain away that truth that is revealed to the Church.  I guess you could look it up if you want to, but I refuse to advertise for it here.  The reason that I felt compelled to comment on that article was that the author assumed that it was in some way infringing on her beliefs that the Pope was calling people orphans who did not consider Mary their mother.  If you don’t consider the Pope an authority that was given to him by the Church, our Mother, and by extension Jesus Christ, who is God, than why do you care what he says on Twitter…Just a question!  

For everyone who reads the title of this post and neglected to read the whole post, I apologize for your being the unwitting recipient of the instruction that I received from the Pope when he told us to make a mess…We celebrate the birth of Mary today, and the Church in her wisdom has given us this day to remember that God’s work of salvation through Christ did not begin with his birth, it began with hers!  

Hail Mary, full of grace.  The Lord is with you.  Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb, Jesus.  Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death…Amen!

The evolution of prayer…

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It was just about a week ago, my pastor and I came up with the idea of sharing our prayer lives with the youth and young adults that will join us for our youth retreat that starts tomorrow. This weekend, at the introduction to the Diaconate program in the Archdiocese of Portland, that my wife and I attended, we were given the task of writing a paper about our Spiritual Life and how it has grown throughout our life. Since my wife and I have four kids, I decided to combine both projects. For the retreat, I will focus on the fact that my introduction to the faith was through the Mass, of course, but my sponsor was very fond of devotional prayer, like the Chaplet of Divine Mercy and the Rosary, so they formed a good part of my initial foray into prayer. After college, I attempted to keep up with the devotional practice, but was a pitiful failure for the most part. I would still find time to pray a rosary on occasion, and every once in a while including a Chaplet of Divine Mercy after the rosary. The funny thing is that looking back on the time of my faith life that I did not have a usual practice of prayer, it was mostly because I had gotten past the novelty of the fact that focusing on God was a different experience for me a couple of years after my introduction to devotional prayer. I had not yet figured out that there was not only a purpose of praying for the intercessory power of Mary and the Saints by devotional prayer, but there was a specific instruction that goes with each prayer. Not just a history, but an actual revelation from Jesus and Our Mother Mary to the Saints that received the message of Mercy and Love in the form of the devotions that were taught to me when the faith was passed on to me by my best friend and sponsor in the church all those many years back. Rather than go into the different stories that led to my deeper understanding of these devotions, I will just say that I am thankful for the grace that gave me a chance to grasp this deeper meaning of these devotions. (I will probably go into the different revelations that I was introduced to at different times over the past 20 years in the presentation that I will give at the youth retreat, and I will add that info here and include it in my paper that I was asked to write for the Diaconate program that is due September 20th.)
A major part of my growth in prayer was my journaling project that is chronicled on this blog, as well as some hard-backed journaling books that I used before starting this project. As I began, I was moved to use the gifts of the Holy Spirit to focus where I felt like God was speaking to me, and the fruits of the Holy Spirit to help me realize the ways the Holy Spirit was calling me to apply these gifts in my daily life. I would take part of the reading from our daily readings to journal on. It was a modified version of a Lectio Divina, before I even knew what a Lectio Divina was. I would finally write out a prayer that would come to me after I focused on the different parts of my journal. You can look back on the previous entries of this blog for a couple of years back to see the format. Eventually, my journaling evolved to include the Liturgy of the Hours prayers that I would also try and pray every morning. I have abandoned the old format in favor of a more spontaneous form of writing that I only do when I am inspired to do so. Unfortunately, this means I journal a lot less than I used to. As the project was evolving, I found myself finding time every day to make it to Mass on a more regular basis. I started out seeking out a Spiritual Director, to make sure I made it to the Sacrament of Reconciliation at least once a month. I realized quickly that once a month for Confession was not nearly enough, so I have recently suspended my Spiritual Direction in favor of a weekly or bi-weekly visit to the same priest that I was going to for Spiritual Direction, but instead opting for the Sacrament of Reconciliation. I will be planning on making appointments with a new Spiritual Director soon, because it is part of the requirements of the Diaconate program, but also because it would be good to meet with someone about my spiritual life, especially during times of desolation.