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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.”

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The Joy of Lent

9 Mar

 

 

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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.

 

Cruise Retreat 14

10 Feb

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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.)

Where Lies Peace?

30 Dec

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I wish you a Blessed New Year, filled with the peace of God.

When Jesus was born, peace came into the world.

But where is that peace?

Families are broken.

Ethnic groups raise slogans of hatred and violence.

Human trafficking enslaves God’s children.

Millions of people suffer hunger and pestilence.

Wars rage between nations and terrorism raises its ugly, cowardly head.

So, Lord God, where is that peace that came into the world with the birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ?

Perhaps God, our Father, might say:

Peace comes when compassion triumphs over condemnation and when virtue replaces violence.

Look to my Son, your Savior and Lord. His power lies in his love, even for those who hated and killed him.

The peace of the world lies in the human heart. When your heart is filled with peace, and as more people discover peace of mind and soul, the world is gradually made better.

Now, that is surely not a quick and easy fix.

But it is the only one which will eventually bring peace on earth.

The Son of God became one of us. He took on our fallen human nature.

 “When God reveals his humanity, his goodness cannot possibly be hidden. To show his kindness what more could he do beyond taking my human form? My humanity, I say, not Adam’s—that is not such as he had before the fall.”[i]

Jesus experienced joy and sadness, fatigue, betrayal, false accusations condemnation and unjust execution.

Can we, his disciples, expect a bed of roses?

We continue his mission for we are the Body of Christ.

Peace begins in Christ, grows in our own faithful hearts, and then to the entire world through our compassion and love.

 

[i] St. Bernard, Abbot, Liturgy of the Hours, Book I, pg. 447

Accentuate the Positive

4 Aug

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It happened as I approached my fortieth birthday. Glory, my sister-in-law of happy memory, called me at least twice a week, saying, “It’s over now. You’re going to be forty. It’s over now.”

She psyched me out. On my fortieth birthday, I felt depressed. Was it all over? Am I really going downhill now?

Well, I got over that in short order (no more than six months!).

But, it happened again when, in July 2014, I celebrated my eightieth birthday.

No one psyched me out.

I did that for myself.

I became quite concerned with my age and with periods of forgetfulness—like turning toward church instead of continuing straight to my doctor’s office. (Or was that prophetic?) Then I noticed I was becoming confused as I assisted at Mass—doing what I was supposed to do a bit early or a bit late.

As a result, I was fairly well down on myself.

One day recently, I was praying rather earnestly about my “fading life.”

Know what? It was like a light came on. I was feeling sorry for myself, concentrating on the negative instead of, as the old song goes, accentuating the positive. I realized that, during Mass and at other times when I was supposed to be concentrating and productive, I was not thinking but moping.

That awareness was a great blessing.

I decided to change my focus and my ways.

Scheduled to assist at two Masses this weekend (August 2 and 3), I prayed. I thought ahead. I prepared for my liturgical ministry.  I didn’t just show up—sort of self-confident that I could do what I had to do automatically. I cast off, with God’s grace, the negative impulses to which I had so unwisely surrendered.

During his homily, our priest preached on the multiplication of the loaves and fishes. He said that the disciples focused on what they did not have—enough food for the huge crowd of men, women and children. They saw only their limitations.

Father told us to focus on what we do have rather than on what we do not have.

Bingo!

Accentuate the positive!

Glorious positivity! I have eighty years of life experience, of good times and rough times, of doing good and doing not so good, of darkness and light, of sickness and health, of joy and sadness. I have twenty-eight years of ministry as a deacon; and for the past fifty-five years I have been engaged full-time in the Church—as a journalist, lay minister, author, retreat facilitator.

I am alive, upright and active! And, with God’s help, and yours, I will continue to accentuate the positive!

The Good News About Sex

22 Jun

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It frequently seems that people today have lost their way to true happiness. Love, deep and true love, is possible and the only road to happiness. 

 Just look at commercials on television. I don’t care what’s being advertised—cars, vitamins, diet programs, hair coloring, clothing or whatever. Too much of the time, the appeal is sex appeal: You buy or use this product and you’ll be irresistible to the opposite sex.

The problem is this: Sex sells. It sells because our society has become ignorant of the mystery and wonder of human sexuality. It’s all about sexual “freedom,” and personal pleasure.

Forget about total commitment. Forget about true love—oh, but it is said, “We do love each other.”

St. Josemaria Escriva said that only a chaste man and woman can experience true love.

You see, true love is sacrificial. It’s what marriage is all about: “I die to self for your sake,” say man and woman in marriage. Otherwise, it is not really a solid marriage. Without that total gift of self you cannot claim to love truly and completely. Our Lord said that the greatest sign of love is that you are willing to die for another (Jn 15:3). And that’s what marriage and true love is all about: “I die to self for you.”

You have to die a little, to live and love a lot. Invitations to “little deaths” arise every day—overlooking a remark that suggests an angry rebuke; sharing chores when you are ready to rest; caring for your friends’ baby while they are out playing golf; sitting up all night with your loved one who is ill; living chastely while the world urges you to commit adultery or practice artificial birth control.

And the list could go on.

I’m reminded of “The Good News About Sex,” a book written many years ago by Father David Knight, a long-time friend. It would be worth reading today by parents and teens.

Sex is sacred. It is given to us by God. Chaste sexual love between a husband and wife is one way of dying to self—you each become totally vulnerable to the other, seeking mutual self-giving. And, second, and by no means least, God’s gift of marital love is for the procreation of children. The bearing and rearing of children, by loving faith-filled parents, is a holy sign of God’s unending love, of the Church as a community of Eucharistic love—that love which dies to self for the sake of the other.

You can’t claim Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, or honestly claim to be Christian, if you reject out of hand his authority and teaching and that of his Church.

Children are a burden and blessing. So was the Cross of Christ. My wife and I thank God for the family he has given us: seven children, twenty-one grandchildren and, so far, thirty-three great-grandchldren.

No wonder that Planned Parenthood hasn’t drafted us as a poster family!

 

 

Sharing Faith: Joy and Responsibility

14 Mar

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The Gospel is truth, creates a hunger for truth, fosters a love of God and the desire to share God’s love and mercy with others. 

Pope Francis, in his great book, “Joy of the Gospel,” calls all of us to a renewed faith and intimacy with our Lord, Jesus Christ.

He states:

  • Those who meet and know Christ are filled with joy—a joy that overcomes the darkness of sin and hopelessness.
  • To know and love God is to discover the depths of being human.
  • Francis “invites all Christians” to a renewed and personal encounter with Christ.
  • There are Christians “whose lives seem like Lent without Easter”; no one wants to listen to a “sourpuss.”
  • Those who evangelize, those who “give life away,” increase their life and joy. “When the Church summons Christians to take up the task of evangelization, she is simply pointing to the source of authentic personal fulfillment.”

Seven Topics of Concern

The Holy Father, as he launches into the body of his apostolic exhortation, lists seven topics he will discuss. They are:

  • The reform of the Church in her missionary outreach.
  • The temptation faced by pastoral workers.
  • The homily and its presentation.
  • The Church understood as the entire People of God–who evangelize.
  • The inclusion of the poor in society.
  • Peace and dialog within society.
  • The spiritual motivation for mission.

I encourage everyone to read this magnificent document (see JoAnn in the bookstore).

But I have chosen to treat two of these topics as one—temptation faced by pastoral workers, and the homily and its preparation.

The direction Pope Francis gives in “Joy of the Gospel” is beneficial for everyone, clergy and laity alike, and perhaps especially for parents who want to help their children—young and old—to stay close to God and the Church.

Four Important Things to Remember

Anyone who wants to pass on our Catholic faith must remember at least these four things:

  • God’s invitation to holiness is constant—and we are to seek holiness. Holiness enables us to recognize that God is in others, regardless of their faith, lack of faith or antagonism towards the Gospel.
  • The definitive truths and disciplines of our faith are not without foundation and focus. They are not successfully passed on as disjointed beliefs and behavioral demands. They spring from the heart and mind of Christ. Evangelization is compromised by pharisaical harshness and narrow-mindedness.
  • We must remember that the faithful transmission of the Gospel of Jesus Christ will reveal the “centrality of certain truths.” It will become evident, through the conviction that God is Love and loves us, that the Church’s moral teachings are liberating rather than stifling.
  •  If we are true believers, our faith seeks to find rest in other human hearts. It gives a loving and constant invitation to everyone we meet. And “under no circumstance,” says our Holy Father, “can this invitation be obscured.”

Pope Francis reminds us that to evangelize is to cooperate with the liberating work of the Spirit.

This indicates that all of us, baptized and nourished by God’s Word and the Holy Eucharist, are to seek the guidance and gifts of the Holy Spirit to manifest God’s love. We are to do so in every place and situation each and every day of our lives.

In the Spirit we will “go forth from ourselves” towards our brothers and sisters—whoever and wherever they may be.