How does he love us?

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It was a normal day, where I read the daily readings and did some homework for one of the classes that I am currently taking to finish my degree at Northwest Christian University.  banner-about-21I didn’t notice too much from the readings today, other than the call to deeper conversion and courage in the face of persecution.  However, when I got to our communion service this morning, I realized that there was a greater call to unity that is happening in the readings today.  Thanks in large part to our retired pastoral ministry director, Milly Pungercar.  She was leading the communion service this morning, and she pointed out the call to unity that was in the first reading.  On first reading it for me earlier this morning, I couldn’t get past the word “Christian” and realizing that even Christians are not called by only that name anymore.  We are called by the name “Catholic” or “Protestant” or even “traditionalist” or “liberal”.  She pointed out that we are called to be unified, and sometimes that is hard. We have to give up some things that are part of our culture in the interest of unity.  When the first “Christians” came to Antioch, they had to unify a Greek and Jewish culture around a faith that was based on a Jewish Messiah.  This could not have been easy, but they relied on the Holy Spirit and it was done in the name of Jesus Christ and the good news spread all over the world because of the power to unify that came from God. I received a picture a lot of years back that I thought was beautiful, but never really understood what made it so great.  It has never really been a part of my life, other than the fact that it was located under the bed in my room ever since the frame it was in broke.  Recently, our family moved into another home that is much bigger and more comfortable for us, and I took this picture out and really noticed it for the first time.  Keep in mind, I have had this picture for probably 20 years, and have been thinking about putting it in a frame again for the past few years, but have never found the right one.  It all came together, not perfectly, but it came together this past week.

Am I not your Mother, and is He not your Father?

Am I not your Mother, and is He not your Father?

The Virgin Mary said to Saint Juan Diego, over 500 years ago, the words that should still resonate to us today…”Am I not your Mother?”  The words that I hear her saying to me today are, “Is He not your Father?”  The reading from the Morning Prayer from the Liturgy of the Hours for today ended with the words, “You are my son, this day I have begotten you.”  I heard them for the first time, as if he was talking to me.  It was a verse from the Acts of the Apostles, but it was quoting the 2nd Psalm.

I will proclaim the decree of the LORD,

he said to me, “You are my son;

today I have begotten you.  (Psalm 2:7)

My pastor reminded us recently while we were praying the Liturgy of the Hours that when we read the Psalms, we can read them as if they are the words of Jesus talking to God.  This morning, however, I heard the words of the Father talking to me, because of the fact that I am his brother, makes me the adopted son of the same Father.  With all the duties and benefits of a son, but most importantly a relationship with Him as a loving Father, who not only created me once, but is giving me breath and life even at this moment to be able to share this message with you.

Before I started writing this morning, I went over to the church to pray in front of the Divine Mercy image.  I wanted to pray for the words to share with a group of young adults that are getting together for a retreat at the end of this week.  I noticed that as I knelt down in front of the image and contemplated whether I should pray the Chaplet of Divine Mercy before beginning to write out the words that I would share, I heard the familiar word that God had spoken to me before in my heart when I knelt down to pray.  The word was, “Go!”  The emphasis added was my own.  He actually said it in my heart, as if a Father was saying you should just go to work and get it done.  As I walked out of the church, it was if he was saying to me, “You trust me to give you the words and I will be faithful to supply them, if you would only just ‘Go’.”

So, what does any of this have to do with the “Divine Mercy”?  There are four books that I have read over the past few years.  Two of them I read as a retreat and then shared them with a Confirmation group in a youth ministry setting, and two of them I just read.  The last two, I admit, because I read them over a longer period of time, so I feel called to go back and read them both again.  All four of them I will recommend to you, but for different reasons, but all to the same end. Let me explain…

The first book is the “33 Days to Morning Glory”, 33DAY_pwhich is a book/retreat that leads you to Marian Consecration.  It is written by Father Michael Gaitley, and it is based on the Marian Consecration retreat by Saint Louis de Montfort.  The second book is “Consoling the Heart of Jesus”, CHJ3dwhich is based on the Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius Loyola and can also be done as a retreat.  I actually took my staff retreat days two years ago to sit in the Adoration Chapel at Saint Mary’s and do this retreat.  It was also written by Father Michael Gaitley.  The third book is “The One Thing is Three”. onethingisthree-top It is subtitled, “How the Most Holy Trinity Explains Everything”, and it is a thorough and intense study of how the Holy Trinity explains everything, even though the author, who happens to be, Father Michael Gaitley again, says that his knowledge of the Trinity is nothing compared to the great wealth of knowledge of the great Saints like Saint Thomas Aquinas.  He does an amazing job explaining that everything relates back to how God relates to us.  Finally, the last book recommendation is “You Did It To Me”.you-did-to-me-1021181  It is also subtitled, “The Practical Guide to Mercy in Action.”  You probably guessed it by now, if you didn’t already know it, it was written by Father Michael Gaitley.  You could read all of these books in order or pick one and pray about how to read it and then follow the direction that the Holy Spirit will guide you to consume these great works of mercy.  They all lead you to the same place, which is a greater understanding of how God is working in the world through his mercy to transform us all into living works of mercy.

This is the way it works for me, and I believe Father Michael would say that same.  It is the Marian Consecration (33 Days to Morning Glory) that leads us to Divine Mercy (Consoling the heart of Jesus), and the Divine Mercy that leads us to a relationship with a loving Father (The One Thing Is Three), and the relationship with the Father that allows us to share his love with others (You Did It to Me).  It does not have to follow this pattern for you, but that is the way that the Holy Spirit has been revealing the truth to me about his Divine Mercy, and I challenge you all to learn all you can about his love, because it is good to be known as the sons and daughters of our benevolent God.

Finally, I will leave you with a talk that was given by Father Michael Gaitley entitled “The Second Greatest Story Ever Told”, because in it you get a glimpse of how and why God wants to use us to be messengers and ministers of his divine mercy…

This song…I love it!

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I love it even more after I did this, this morning…My challenge for you today is to try and hear this song as it relates to our being married to Christ or the bride of Christ, which is the church, and the opportunity to come together with a priest in the Holy Sacrament of Reconciliation as the chance to be “Broken Together”…

What do you think?

The Non-Curated Path of Holy Week

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Jason:

One of the best I’ve read in a while…

Originally posted on Charlotte was Both:

This is my contribution for today to Living Faith Lent.  I figured that since the season is about over, I won’t be depriving them of any sales by reprinting this.

March 29

I gave my back to those who beat me,
my cheeks to those who plucked my beard;
my face I did not shield
from buffets and spitting. 
Is. 50:6

Left to my own devices, and within the context of my responsibilities, I can essentially design – or, as the fashionable say these days, “curate”  my own life.  I can listen to what I want, turn off what disturbs me and tune out what don’t want to see or hear.  I can, if I choose, live in a bubble, as clear or opaque as I want it to be.

But not this week.

This week, this Holy Week, I am thrust into the crowds.  Crowds that welcome, then…

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Chastity and Virginity are not dirty words…

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“Spoiler Alert!!!”

I watched a movie last night about a Polish nun, that during her novitiate she was sent to research her family, especially her Aunt.  Her Aunt was her lone surviving family member after the Nazi occupation of Poland. By the way, I hope the fact that I am commented on the movie is not construed as an endorsement, because I would not endorse it, for the reasons I will now point out.  It turns out that she was Jewish, by birth, but obviously had accepted the life of a Catholic nun and was prepared to take her final vows.  Not that there is anything wrong with her acceptance of her family’s faith.  However, during the course of the movie, her Aunt tells her that she should not waste her life by taking her final vows, she models a lack of sobriety and unchastity for “Ida”, who the movie is named after.  The Aunt does not embrace the Jewish faith, but is quick to point out that Ida has turned her back on it.  Ida is her name that she was given at birth, but has obviously chosen to change her name to Anna.  Once the Aunt dies, by committing suicide by jumping out a window, Anna,  the nun, who has chosen to hold off on taking her final vows, decides to see what this drinking and smoking is all about and also finds a man that had been around during most of the movie to give herself to sexually.  The next morning, she wakes up and decides to put her habit back on and walks to the convent as the movie fades to black and the credits roll.

My impression of the movie is that it was stupid.  I don’t pretend for a minute to think that I could understand the complexity of dealing with a family that was wiped out by racial hatred and extreme prejudice, but I don’t think giving in to vice and then deciding to follow your vows is a good message for our young people today.  Of course, the fact that it happens only after she decides that she doesn’t want to share her life with a man who gave himself to her completely the night before is the exact opposite of a “good” message.

Saint Katherine Drexel, pray for us!

On the contrary, I woke up this morning being reminded of the example of the holy life of Saint Katherine Drexel.  Her gift of the vows of chastity, poverty and obedience were not given out of spite for a fallen world.  Rather, she was raised by parents who loved God and when they were no longer with her in this world, she decided to give herself completely to the service of the poor and marginalized in our society.  She eventually became a sister and gave all of her family wealth to the church, in order that it could better serve the people that she was trying to reach out to.  For me, this and the example of many other “Virgins” in the church are what we should be pointing our children to.  This, and many others like her, are examples of how to live a life of holiness that is not concerned with the “sins” of the flesh, which the devil and his minions are constantly trying to get us to focus on.  (Don’t worry, read Revelation chapter 12)

Mary crushes Satan!

As parents that still live in this fallen world, we have got to do a better job of living out our vocation as married people who understand chastity, not as a burden that is dropped on the religious few, but as a gift from God that graces us with the freedom to life holy lives in obedience to God’s will, and not our flesh.  As a Catholic married man, I must be willing to look to the ever-Virgin Mary as the pinnacle of holiness in completely and only human form, as God did, and be willing to submit myself to her authority, that comes from Jesus, but is born out of her free will acceptance of her chastity that was a gift from the grace of God.  Her relationship with Joseph is the model of purity that I will probably never reach in my lifetime, but stands as a strong tower against the pressures of the world that are calling us to give in to the flesh.  By God’s grace, they could abstain from sex to be obedient to the vow that Mary made to God, we can abstain for whatever period of time that we need to in order to be obedient to the will of God in our own lives.  This is not something that I think we should do, in order to be holy, it is a beacon of hope that tells our children saving themselves for marriage or a religious vocation is possible.  It also tells them that we can be different than the society or culture is telling us we have to be in order to be happy.  Joy comes in my life by fulfilling the will of God in every part of my chosen vocation, and never compromising for any reason.  I will probably fail, but I will try to look to the Virgin Mary to intercede for me for mercy and forgiveness, but also the strength to pick up my cross again and hopefully carry it to the end of the mission that I have been given.  Hail Mary, full of grace. The Lord is with you.  Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb.  Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of death…Amen!

Come, Lord Jesus!

How does discernment work? (Only for boys!)

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Are you looking for a way to discern your calling?  The message todiscernment me this morning is that our children are missing their opportunity to discern a calling to religious life or even to marriage, because we are not telling them when to start listening.

For a little perspective on this message from this morning, my 15 year old son asked me last week sometime how old you have to be to enter the seminary to become a priest.  My answer was a very calm and cool, it depends on the situation.  He clarified and further got me excited by saying that he wondered if he could just enter the seminary at 15.  I responded by saying that the seminary would usually want to have a young person who had at least completed high school before they started any serious formation.  The conversation pretty much ended there.  However, it got me thinking and I believe the message I received this morning is the directive that we, as Catholic parents, should be using when helping our children through discernment.

So, if you are anything like me, you were pretty much raised by the culture that we live in.  My guess is, even if you were raised Catholic, which I wasn’t, the culture had a major influence on your upbringing, if you were born after 1965.  I used 1965, because it is really just an arbitrary year that I chose, but also because most of the people that I know or have had in depth conversations about the things that influenced them during their childhood were born bfclubafter 1965.  Anyway, the culture told us a lot of things about sex and love and the pursuit of happiness that probably made our process of discernment difficult.  If you were like me, you had close friends that helped that discernment process along whenever you strayed to far in the wrong direction.  For instance, when I was discerning a call to the priesthood, a good friend of mine told me that I needed to be married.  (For reasons that we will leave out of this post.)  However, it helped me realize that God was calling me to share my life with someone who could help shape me into a better version of who I could be if left to my own de”vices”.

So, what does this have to do with discernment for our children today?  It came to me this morning that when our children start experiencing their sexuality for the first times in their life, they will have natural questions.  It is how we answer those questions that will decide whether or not they will be choosing to consult us in the future about clarification of how this works.

For instance, if we find out about our son having a nocturnal emission for the first time, we could choose to make light of it and say it happens to all children in about the 6th grade and let it go.  (Unfortunately, this is the route I chose with my first two boys.)  However, the better route to take would be to ask them about what thoughts they had that could have potentially led to this experience.  It is important that this be done in a non-threatening and non-accusatory way, so we should choose our words carefully.  We could say something like, “Is there anything you can remember from your day that could have caused you to react differently than you can ever remember reacting?”  Truth is, the answer is most likely going to be dull silence from a 6th through 8th grader, but the fact that you are asking means that you respect that this is something that they need to take ownership of.  Their thoughts and reactions to stimuli that exist in the world are important, and they need to learn at a young age to take the fleshly thoughts captive and make sure they don’t let their imagination get away from them.  Once the boundaries are established for the stimuli that led to the reaction of their body, they can start to deal with what their body is saying to them.  It is saying that there bodies are ready to start cooperating with God in creation of new people.  How you word this, really depends on your child and their maturity level/vocabulary.  After establishing the reality of what is phyBible 1 Corinthians spirit God's templesically happening in their body, it would be a good time to start the conversation about saving themselves for their future vocation.  Whether that is a future wife or for a future vocation to the priesthood, their bodies are something that should be kept holy for the purpose that God wills for them.

Enough for now, I will continue this topic once I get some feedback from my wife about having this conversation with our daughter, who thankfully is only 3 years old.  So, we have some time to figure this out, but I would appreciate your feedback and comments for any advice you may be able to help out with…God bless you and thanks for reading!

Lord, please direct our steps as parents to have the conversations we should have with our children when the time comes to have them, and give us the wisdom to follow up on the ones that we may have missed.  I ask this, as always, in the name of Jesus Christ, your Son, through the power of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen!

“ONE SHADE OF WHITE” – Feb 12

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Jason:

I was asked by a friend and colleague on Twitter why more men weren’t speaking out against this movie…I will make sure she sees this post…God bless you!

Originally posted on A DEVOTED LIFE:

“And he said, “What comes out of a person is what defiles him.  For from within, out of the heart of man, comes evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness.  All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.”  Mark 7:20

50ShadesofGreyCoverArtI appeal to you brothers and sisters in Christ, do not watch the movie Fifty Shades of Grey. If you do not know anything about the book and movie, Fifty Shades of Grey, you may count yourself blessed.  The book, has sold more than 100 million copies and the movie adaptation will be released on Valentine’s Day.  I have not read the book and I have no plans to watch the movie.  My appeal to stay away from this latest Hollywood offering is based on the same rationale as staying away from pornography. There are many good…

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