Faith, Family and Joy

21 Jul

pierre and marley                 Our own St. Mary Magdalen Parish, near Orlando, has a good cross-section of family life. There are children, teenagers, young adults, single folks, grandparents and great-grandparents. And we have widows and widowers.

          And we are all one family, brothers and sisters in Christ—one and all children of the Father. Our joy and love for one another is quite evident as we gather together before and after Sunday and weekday Masses. Our priests are true spiritual fathers whose love for all of us is so very evident.

          From the fourth century, St. Ambrose speaks to the heart of the modern family and parish.

Let your mind “stand open to receive him, unlock your soul to him, offer him a welcome in your mind, and then you will see the riches of simplicity, the treasures of peace, the joy of grace.[i]

The Riches of Simplicity

          Simplicity may seem illusive today because of the pressures on the family (or the parish): so many things to be done, so many distractions coming from all directions, the pressures of strained or broken relationships, the departure of loved ones.

          Simplicity is to trust God in all things—budgets, debts, illness, death and whatever else may otherwise shake your faith. It is also to thank God for all the good that comes your way.

          Simplicity is born of humility; humility is the result of standing in right relationship with God—you are creature and he is Creator; your every breath is a gift from our God.

The Treasures of Peace

          Peace comes with trust in God, in believing that in all things God is with us—with you and me, with every member of our families and with our parish family.

          This is the “peace that surpasses understanding,” a peace that is born in the heart of Christ and given to us freely if we can but trust and surrender to God.

The Joy of Grace

          In my younger and even more ignorant years, I thought of grace as a gift of God—and it is. However, I saw it as a commodity God would hand me if I would only be a good little boy.

          Since I am a bit less ignorant now, I realize that grace ultimately is better understood in terms of my relationship with God. God loves me, wants me to know him, love him and serve him in this life and to be happy with him in the next.”[ii] His gift of grace is his invitation and, when I surrender to him of my own free will, he draws me into the embrace of his love, wisdom and divinity.

          “Sanctifying grace” is a share in the divine life of God. Nothing less—and there can be nothing more this side of the Pearly Gates.

          “Actual graces” are special gifts from God that enable us to turn the other cheek, help the less fortunate and keep our priorities in order.

          Grace is a great joy—it helps us focus on who God wants us to become.

          Grace is a great joy because it is God’s special gift in which we know that God has touched us and our families; we can bask in his love and friendship always ready to share that great joy with others.

[i] St. Ambrose (fourth century), Bishop of Milan, Liturgy of the Hours,    Book III, page 469

 [ii] Baltimore Catechism, response to the question, “Why did God make me?”

A Sacrifice of …

13 Jul

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You may have experienced a great faith-hurdle: How can I truly praise and thank God when there are tough things in life, or if I fear that the world is headed toward a God-less devastation?

And yet, in the midst of small and great troubles, the Scriptures direct us to make a “sacrifice of praise” and a “sacrifice of thanksgiving.”[i]

What do these “sacrifices” mean in my relationship with God?

A Sacrifice of Praise

You may hear someone say, “Praise the Lord”—an invitation to others to join you in a moment of intimate gratitude and worship. The invitation may also be a strong statement of faith when made in the midst of fear, danger or turmoil.

For me, praise of the Lord means ultimately to surrender to God who, out of love, willed me into existence. Also, God gave me the gift of faith—but I, too often, smugly regard faith as my gift to God. Even obedience to God is a gift. Without God’s grace I could never hope to know him, love him or serve him.

A Sacrifice of Thanksgiving

Praise and thanksgiving are inseparable.

How can I praise God without a sense of gratitude? How can I thank God without praising him?

And how can I give God anything that demands from him something in return?

(For) ”from him and through him and for him all things are.”[ii]

A Third Virtue

Perhaps we need to embrace a third virtue to accompany praise and gratitude. This virtue, humility, enables the faithful believer to enter into a precious intimacy with God.

Humility helps us stand in proper relationship with God and our neighbor. We become able to embrace, as a gift, that unrelenting thirst to be totally one with God and with one another.

Humility brings us to the blessing mentioned by St. Gregory of Nyssa:

Now when you are told that the majesty of God is exalted above the heavens, that his glory is inexpressible, his beauty indescribable, and his nature transcendent, do not despair because you cannot behold the object of your desire. If by a diligent life of virtue you wash away the film of dirt that covers your heart, then the divine beauty will shine forth within you.[iii]

And then, you will rejoice in God’s gift of life, you will be able to remain hopeful in the midst of troubles or disasters.

[i] See Heb 13:15, Lev 7:11-15, Psalms  35:13, 50:23 and 107:22.

[ii] Rom 11:33-36.

[iii] Liturgy of the Hours, Book III, p. 413.

Requiem for America

29 Jun

Dog Tags on Flag

 Our nation has not been defeated by a foreign power—but something of its soul, its grit and its vision certainly have been, at best, tainted by our present federal government and our Supreme Court.

In its latest ruling on the right of gays to be legally married, the Court has put another nail into the coffin of our existence as a nation born and bred in Judeo-Christian values.

Of course, there are well-meaning people who support the right of gays to be married—in spite of the fundamental reason for the existence of marriage: that one man and one woman enter into a holy covenant to love and support one another and to bring children into this world.

In our present age, far too many people consider personal “happiness” and “fulfillment” as the motivation to do everything from eating lunch to robbing a bank to destroying another person’s reputation to desecrating the God-given bond of Holy Matrimony.

Someone, before this evil-bred ruling of the Supreme Court re gay “marriages,” opined that Christian churches and Jewish synagogues would face persecution if they obeyed God and not this infamous ruling of the Supreme Court.

I recently told some friends, “I believe in America as long as America believes in God.”

Our nation hangs in the balance, looking to Congress for protection of our religious freedom, freedom of conscience in our private, public  and professional lives.

We who believe must stand for what God wants of his people. How can we ever help other nations become free if we, in our own nation, are fettered by confusion and wrong-mindedness?

Oh, how I want once again to be able to believe in America as I once did.

An Allegory

20 Jun

The Cross of Christ calling multitudes to salvation, calling you and me, calling our family. Givng us identity, continuity. Letting us help God in making and remaking sociiety into an image of his Kingdom.

Once there was a young man name Pete.

One day, he discovered Truth. Pete thought about Truth and embraced it. He was thrilled with Truth.

Other believers in Truth gathered in assemblies they called Communities of Believers in Truth. Pete considered himself a member of a Community of Believers in Truth.

He looked at his fellow believers and the leaders of each community. Then he cast his gaze on the Leader of the leaders of communities.

He discovered sin and foolishness in each believer and in the entire Assembly of Believers.

“I must,” decided Pete, “straighten out this mess.” He knew he had a few faults himself. So, he decided to purify his faith in Truth. He thought, “I desire to be perfect, therefore I am perfect.”

“But how can I straighten out all this mess?” he asked himself. “I have to reach everybody in each of the communities in the entire Assembly.”

Now, all believers in Truth gathered together once a week in the Meeting Place, with their leaders and the Leader of the leaders.

Pete decided, “I will shout out the errors of their ways and their sins against Truth. I will make them aware of their selfishness and myopic vision. They seem to think themselves special. They shun others who want to know Truth. They are self-absorbed.”

So, that’s what Pete did. He mounted the steps of the Meeting Place and began to shout aloud the sins of others. He attacked the leaders of the various communities: “You are too interested in building monuments to yourselves.” He charged the Leader, and everyone in the Assembly, with “ignoring the plight of the poor,” or he accused them of “living in a vacuum of nothingness.” He shouted, “You do not know Truth.”

And so, Pete went on year after year. He suffered great anguish because no one listened to him.

One day, Pete descended from the steps of the Meeting Place one last time. Totally discouraged, he went off into a Dark Place to nourish his wounded spirit.

“Did I not embrace Truth. Did I not heroically shout out to everyone what was wrong with the Assembly of Communities and the people and leaders in each community? Why did not someone believe me?”

It was then that Pete once again encountered Truth. But this time, it wasn’t thrilling at all.

Truth helped Pete see himself as Truth saw him. He groaned with inner agony, with total embarrassment, with a guilt so heavy he thought he might collapse.

You see, Pete now knew that he was part of the problems he so vigorously condemned. He was a sinner like everyone else.

Then Truth showed Pete the great Love that is Truth. Pete’s spirit lifted with a warm and energizing elation.

Pete went back to the Meeting Place and went inside. He stood shoulder to shoulder with the other believers.

Pete, at last, had discovered Truth.

 

 

God’s Perspective

3 Jun

 

 

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Careful. Don’t rest easy with where you are in  prayer.

You can go deeper and ever deeper.

No one can enter into the height and breadth of God’s intelligence and wisdom—but he made us in his image and invites us into a full and intimate relationship with him, the One God who is Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

I want to share an insight I received through concentrating on the mysteries of the Rosary.[i]

For example, the Annunciation: For years, I focused on myself and the fact of faith that the Angel Gabriel did indeed visit Mary and that the Holy Spirit did come upon her (See Lk 1:1-38}. I marveled at the faith of that young Virgin. I wondered about what Mary might have thought and felt. I wondered how I could live this mystery in my own life.

My meditation was good and helpful.

Then, I felt motivated to reflect on this mystery from God’s perspective.

For example, how was the Father personally involved in this historic moment? Did he observe it from his throne in heaven?

That can’t be. For he and the Holy Spirit are One God–along with the Son who was taking to himself a human nature—body, blood and soul—in Mary’s womb. So Jesus the Christ was at once that vulnerable human being who could be killed by sinful men, and the omnipotent God through whom the Father created all things (Jn 1:1-5).

And how did the Father “feel” about that saving mission of his only Son?

He knew, of course, that Jesus would be born and die the agonizing death of the Cross. Did the Father experience sadness or joy?

Of course, these are human emotions and are, therefore, a stumbling block to true understanding and wisdom.

Think rather of a God so pure and so full of love that he indeed would send his divine Son to assume a mortal body, live completely as a human being, and die a terrible death—all for the sake of men and women of all time, for the sake of those who denied him, ignored him, and who misused and abused the gift of life.

How to understand a love that is so pure and so complete?

Years ago, I told my spiritual director that I could not identify with the Father. He told me to focus on Jesus and I would eventually know the Father as well.

He was right.

I do have a relationship, in Jesus, with my Father, my Abba.

But, he was also wrong.

How can my finite mind sufficiently grasp that infinite Being who is perfect Unity? It is by faith that we know and believe there is only one God, one divine nature, equally possessed by three Divine Persons: Father, Son and Spirit.            

 

[i] The Rosary is a prayerful meditation on the life of Jesus Christ, his birth of the Virgin Mary by the power of the Holy Spirit, his salvific mission through the Cross and Resurrection, and the commissioning of the Apostles to form the Church and spread the saving love of God and the Gospel of Christ throughout the world. 

There are five “decades’ in the “beads”—an Our Father and ten Hail Marys.

There are  twenty “mysteries” we pray as we pray the Rosary: 

  1. The Joyful Mysteries: the Annunciation, the Visitation of Mary to Elizabeth, the Nativity of the Son of God, the Presentation of the Infant in the temple, and the finding Jesus at twelve years of age, speaking with the learned of Israel.
  2. The Mysteries of Light: Jesus is baptized in the Jordan, the Wedding Feast at Cana, Jesus preaches the Good News and heals and forgives, the Transfiguration, and Jesus gives us himself in the Holy Eucharist.
  3. The Sorrowful Mysteries: The Agony in the Garden, the Scourging, our Lord is Crowned with Thorns, Jesus carries his Cross, and Jesus is crucified and dies on the Cross.
  4. The Glorious Mysteries: the Resurrection, the Ascension, the coming of the Holy Spirit upon the Church, the Assumption of Mary into Heaven, and lastly, Mary Queen of Creation.

 

Complaining Isn’t Enough

20 May

 

The Cross of Christ calling multitudes to salvation, calling you and me, calling our family. Givng us identity, continuity. Letting us help God in making and remaking sociiety into an image of his Kingdom.

Why is faith in God a decreasing reality in the modern world? How can we show forth the goodness of God and the blessings of faith?

According to a news report, only about 70 percent of polled Americans claim faith in God. That’s a decrease of about 10 percent in about a decade.

I’m skeptical enough to ask, “But do the people who claim to believe, actually believe in God or simply believe that there is a God?”

The Disease of Distancing

Among us older folks, we sometimes complain about the generations coming after us: They live too fast; they always have their nose stuck in their I-Pads or smart phones; they show little interest in our Catholic faith or our history as a nation.  They too often show little or no interest in family history.

However, I do sense a certain tendency to treasure distance between persons. Just think about the last time you were in an elevator or doctor’s office with four of five strangers.

And, of course, “us older folks” often complain about how the world has become so violent and volatile.

Well, complaining isn’t enough.

For Consideration

Perhaps, for the sake of solutions rather than complaints, we might (1) take a new look at the younger generation; we might discover some good traits we’ve been missing, and (2) seek the reason why people of all ages no longer believe in God.

Please consider the following and feel free to share your own thoughts.

  • Perhaps a number of people in church on Sunday have little or no sense of being part of the People of God—a people whose life flows from and in the love and presence of God. They may not experience the Scriptures as God speaking to them “right now.” They may view the liturgy as locked in time rather than an experience that transcends time—letting all of us live, here and now, the saving grace of the Crucified Lord.
  • Some people, maybe many, attend Mass and formation classes to find the strength to live their lives in a world filled with fear, violence, family divisions and personal economic crisis. They want to be good and faithful people right where they are—in what some have called “the real world.” They may not realize that the Church and the Gospel of Christ are in that “real world.”
  • Do people in church feel welcome and do they have a sense of belonging? I know a number of parishes which strive to welcome people—regulars and newcomers—with genuine love and hospitality.
  • In some parishes, music is geared for each of the weekend Masses for folks who generally attend their “favorite” Mass.
  • And some parishes offer coffee and donuts after each weekend Mass to help strengthen community. Parishioners at the various Masses are considered special sub-communities of the overall parish community.
  • Some parishes have a concierge after all Masses to help people find what they need to know to become a member of the parish family.

It Takes Work

Healing broken hearts and spirits demands deep faith and innovative outreach.

Complaining and posturing as wounded and hopeless believers will never attract unbelievers or those who do not know God intimately.

A sourpuss gets nowhere fast.

People need to see joy in our lives.

 

You Are Invited–Retreat on the Seas

28 Apr

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                                                                          A happy invitation  

DEACON HENRY’S RETREAT CRUISE 14

on RCCL’s Serenade of the Seas. 

Time flies! We’ll be setting sail before you know it.

November 13-23, 2015

Sailing from Fort Lauderdale, FL with stops at Tortola, BVI … Bassettere, St. Kitts …Roseau, Dominca …St. John … Antigua … Philipsburg, … St. Maarten

To sign up and for more information, please contact:

Vacations by Annette

http://www.AnnetteTravels@aol.com

Phone 407-971-1971

Starting at $1,087.00 per person.

You will need a valid passport.

Retreat Outline:

Moving into God … How to Live the Faith More Effectively

          Session One: Conversion, Moving from Darkness into Light

Wonderful and Wounded Humanity

      Finding the Light

Move into the Heart of God

Session Two: Move into God’s Embrace

Called into the Community of Faith

Why Belong to the Church

The Mass—Perfect Prayer

          Session Three: Prayer is Living the Mystery

               The Five ‘Words’ of Mary

      Adventures in Prayer—Getting Personal

           Session Four: Move into the Mission of Christ

                Called to Give What You Have Received

(Note: Each session will be held while we are at sea and will run from sixty to ninety minutes–plenty of time left to shop, tour the ship or, hopefully, win a bit at the Casino.)

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