Archive | Conversion RSS feed for this section

And the Lord Said…

31 Aug

Heavenly Sun Beams

St. Augustine wrote in his “Confessions:”

“I have tasted you, and now I hunger and thirst for more. You have touched me, and I burn for your peace.”

An Allegory

I sat and fumed about the violence and wickedness in the world. I was angry and afraid and I felt hatred for those who created such havoc.

Somehow, at some point, I began to realize that my anger, hatred and fear were part of the problem.

I thought I heard a voice say:

“Do you love as I love? Or is hatred your response to my love for you and for everyone I have created–even for those who do evil and for those whom you have hated?”

Then, I had to admit that utter folly was my self-righteous judgment of others.

“Lord, my God, have mercy on me!”

The comforting whisper came again:

“I love you.” Then:

“I want you to bring my love to others.”

I balked:

“I cannot. I am not wise enough, not learned enough. And besides, I am a sinner.”

Then there was a grave, deep and still silence. I longed to hear God speak to me. So, I began to pray, over and over again:

“Please Lord, help me. Direct me. Save me.”

At last the Lord said:

“It is so easy to help others come to me. Just love them as I love you. Live for them, work for them, die to self for them—and for me.

“As I have so clearly said, the one who keeps his life will lose it; the one who loses his life for my sake will keep it.”

I asked:

“Dear God, How can I share my faith in my own home, with my neighbors?

“They know the real me.

“How can I, a sinner, share your love?”

The Lord of salvation said:

“I love you. I have redeemed you, as well as those who do harm to others.

“You belong right where you are among family, friends and coworkers.

“I am with you. Do not fear and wonder what to say. The Spirit will tell you what to say.”

Once again, in blessed silence, came the Great Truth:

“The Lord God is with me!”

Now, I no longer suffer that lonely silence.

I hear him in the cry of the poor, the groans of the imprisoned, the voices of my wife, children and friends.

I hear him in the Scriptures and the moans of the sick.

I hear him in the gurgling laughter of toddlers.

Now, I know:

“Where I am, he is, and where he is, I am also meant to be.”

Today, I pray with great joy,

“Oh Lord, my God, I do love you!”

The Holy Spirit caresses my heart and soothes my soul.

“Divine Mercy, I trust in you!”

Oh, blessed peace!

The Holy Whisper came again:

“Wonderful, is it not? But you have only tasted the beauty of my love. You will thirst for more. And there is so much more—so much more.”

Advertisements

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

christ of juan batista vazquez (

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.

‘One Mell of a Hess’

24 Apr

 

It's time for Catholics to come in for a check-up.

Many Americans think we are going nowhere in a hurry. Others think we are going backwards. Others think we are doing just fine.

 Americans are suffering insecurity. We no longer feel safe.

Our world is rocked by violence, untruth and inhumanity. Terrorists run loose, unfettered. Their boldness is beyond imagination. They commit unspeakable atrocities.

We are in “one mell of a hess.”

For the sake of our families and of all people, government leaders must make the right decisions to defeat ISIS, tame Iran and put Putin in his place. They must decide better how we are taxed and our money spent. Our military must be strengthened instead of weakened.

The Real Problem

However, domestic and worldwide challenges to freedom and peace cannot be solved only by diplomacy and military strength. We have to go deeper.

In the midst of that terrible malaise of Americans, there is a growing sense of anger, frustration and disillusionment. Some people, perhaps too many, simply give up. They lose hope. They no longer believe they can make a difference. Some even stop looking for work. Some citizens think their only recourse is public demonstrations.

We are descendants of courageous immigrants who came to our land because America was the greatest nation on earth; because the United States of America offered personal freedom, the opportunity to find work, to become citizens. Here their children had a chance to become productive citizens.

Our forefathers saw no limits to the American dream. They knew they had to work for that dream—and they did.

Their faith in God energized them, activated their imagination, and fortified them with hope.

They had true faith in God, not just a mere nod to God.

They trusted God through thick and thin.

And Now?

We are plagued with the most deadly of all malaise—lack of belief, lack of faith.

Too many Americans perhaps believe that there is a God. But they no longer know their God—a God who loves so completely and tenderly, who became man and sacrificed himself for the salvation of all peoples, a God who sanctifies and strengthens his people.

As a nation, we must return to the God who gives us life, the God who inspired and was trusted by our Founding Fathers.

There you have it: Faith in God and commitment to our national heritage are the only answers to what plagues our nation.

Simplistic?

No.

It’s just that simple.

The Power of Lent

20 Mar

                                                          christ of juan batista vazquez (

 

Have we truly recognized Jesus? Have we asked Jesus to rescue us from the darkness of doubt, shallow faith and indifference to his love and law?

 

Lent reveals the marvelous wisdom of God and the pastoral love the Church has for all of us.

Just think a bit about what the Lord has given us in the third, fourth and fifth Sundays of Lent:

  • The Samaritan woman had gone from man to man. She was regarded by her contemporaries as an outcast. She came to the well to draw water—but she was thirsting for more than water. She wanted happiness, peace of mind and soul. She found it in the mercy of God—but only as she gradually recognized who Jesus was.
  • The man who was blind from birth had no hope beyond the kindness of passersby. He had no idea that God loved him so much. He felt unimportant. He merely existed. Jesus gave him physical sight—and more. The man was given fresh hope. Did he follow Jesus for the rest of his life?
  • Finally, we rejoiced in the resurrection of Lazarus. Here was a miracle of miracles: Jesus raised his friend from the dead—after he had been in the tomb four days.

In what ways do we still walk in, or maybe even cling to, spiritual darkness. Are we ready to leave the death that is sin and move toward the Voice that bids us to come forth?

Let’s reflect together, honestly see where our love and trust lie, and then put our entire hope and trust in Jesus, who died on the cross that we might live in the light of love and the power of grace.

  • Are we hooked on the “latest gadgets” or the newest clothing styles or the latest model of that special car? Are we suckers for every “savings offer” that comes along? Are we not happy unless we shop until we drop?
  • Do we place our faith and trust in gaining wealth—or even what we call a “comfortable life?” Do we “need” to surround ourselves with things that help us feel important with the hope of impressing others?
  • And think for a moment about your quest for sensual satisfaction. Do you live to eat? Are sexual pleasures ruling your life? Are you involved with sinful actions and relationships—and what about pornography?

Enough. I think we all get the picture. But this is only the first step. If we think only of how we have failed God and others, we are sure to become depressed.

God’s mercy is endless, but not unconditional.

The one condition is to search our minds and hearts, to review all our relationships, to recognize and confess our sins. This, then, is how we open ourselves to dive ever more deeply into the embrace of God.

God’s mercy and his grace move us from the death of sin into new life, from the shadows of conditional faith into the fullness of life in Christ.

The Joy of Lent

9 Mar

 

 

istock_000004205378small

On that old rugged Cross …

Lent? Joy? In the same breath?

I venture to say an enthusiastic “Amen!” since “Alleluia!” is improper in Lent.

Just a few minutes ago, I concluded a telephone conversation with a long-time and very dear friend, Msgr. Michael Eivers of the Miami archdiocese.

He mentioned an article (which he is sending me) about Lent penned by a woman author. She said that our Lenten spirit was a bit dark—all the emphasis on penance, fasting, reparation for sin. While all these are important, Msgr. Eivers told me that she said we might emphasize love during Lent.
What a joyous thought! The paschal mystery—the death and resurrection of Jesus—is all about love: the love that the Father, Son and Spirit have for all the errant children created out of love.  That same divine love moved the Divine Son of God to assume to himself our own human nature. He was like us in all things except sin. He healed, taught, inspired and raised the dead—all because God does so love us. He went to the Cross because Jesus—in his human and divine nature, along with the Father and the Spirit—so loves us.

How can we not be overwhelmed with joy when we realize that at the darkest and most sinful time in our lives, God loved us enough to die for us? And that love never ends, never falters, never becomes conditional: “If you love me and obey me I will love you.” Never. Not at all. His love is everlasting. God is love. How can he not love?

Peg and I have lunch every Friday with two very dear friends. We laugh a lot. Maybe gossip a bit—but we’re always quick to say, “I’m not judging, just making an observation.” We do have some somber moments as we think about fellow parishioners who suffer in one way or another. Yes, we are sometimes somber, but always sober!

Msgr. Eivers knows a lot about joy and God’s love. He’s “retired,” but says Mass in the parish he built up from scratch. When he retired, among the accomplishments he, his staff and lay leaders achieved, were 800 people dedicated to perpetual adoration, more than sixty cell groups dedicated to evangelization and a liturgy which touched people’s minds and hearts.

I say he’s “retired” because this octogenarian has about two thousand people on his e-mail list for whom he writes reflections on the Scriptures, the saints and the truths of our Catholic faith. In the chapel in his home, he has a “Prayer Basket” which overflows with the names of people requesting his prayers. He has Peg’s and my name in that basket.

Lent—a season of repentance, to be sure; but were it not for our Lord Jesus Christ, we would know so very little about repentance, God’s love and the joy of knowing both salvation and our Savior.

 

Fighting (?) Anger

25 Feb

 

iStock_000001377427Large

There is a difference between the Passion of Christ and the passions to which we too often surrender–for example, anger.

“Henry, tell us what you really think!”

I’ve heard that gentle barb many times in my life, especially since I’ve become engaged in, and enthralled with, our Catholic faith.

It seems that people think I speak too quickly and too frankly, and sometimes too heatedly.

And, I do.

My name invokes the patronage of three saints: Henry, Pierre (Peter) and Joseph.

I’m not a king or a saint like Henry—and not a quiet and forever-gentle man like Joseph.

 But, alas, I am so very much like the impetuous, vacillating Peter. Sometimes, as the old saying goes, my mouth is in motion before my brain is in gear. In other words, I know what needs to be said (at least according to my great and innate wisdom), but I don’t always think about how to say what needs to be said.

I have little patience when others are dancing around a problem that needs to be discussed. For example, let’s say a group of us are discussing strained relationships in the parish. Then, someone gives a dismissive shrug of the shoulder, accompanied by, “Oh, well, it is what it is.”

GRRR! (Oops!)

All that being said, this is my focus for Lent: I will work on putting my brain in full gear before I even think about opening my mouth.

This is an effort to overcome anger. Please, dear Jesus, help me.