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Cruise Retreat 14

10 Feb

For Blog 011

                                                                          A happy invitation  


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

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.)


Called into the Comunity of Faith

4 Oct




Embraced by God, Part 5 

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people of his own, so that you may announce the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.

Once you were “no people” but now you are God’s people: you “had not received mercy” but now you have received mercy.

1 Pt 2:9-1

IT WAS JUST IDLE CURIOSITY, and a desire for a bit of intelligent entertainment, that led Peg and me to a National Geographic TV program about ants. I’ve always been fascinated by these little creatures. I recall many years ago sitting with our youngest child just watching ants work, moving objects far larger and heavier than themselves.

As I watched this program, particularly the segment on leaf-cutting ants, I saw clearly how the ant colony depends on the dedicated work of each individual.

Some ants go up into the weeds, bushes and trees and cut off large segments of leaves. They drop these leaves to their counterparts on the ground. These ants cut the large portions into smaller segments for still other ants to carry back to their home base.

Part of the marvel of it all is that these smaller segments weigh more and are much larger than ants carrying them.

Going and coming, they follow scent trails left by scouts looking for plants to supply leaves. They also scout for food.

Their instinct for work is so strong that if caught in a grass fire, they continue working until they are burned to death.

And when the community must move from one location to another, they carry the eggs and the yet-unformed young along with them, with as many as four ants pulling along an offspring who, encased in its “womb,” is much larger than those helping him.

That’s how God made us—individuals, dependent on one another for personal survival and the survival of the human race.

God created each of us and loves all of us.

But, God wanted a people of his own, a people to whom and through whom he could communicate his love and wisdom to all humankind.

From the Old Testament, God calls Abram, a seventy-five-year-old pagan, whom he will rename Abraham, to leave his own homelands, to strike out into the unknown.

The Lord said to Abram, “Go forth from the land of your kinsfolk and from your father’s house to a land that I will show you” (Gn 12:1).

And thus began, in the Hebrews, his chosen people, the great odyssey of God’s plan for salvation. It remained rooted in the hearts of the Hebrew people—in faithful and in unfaithful times.

Among those who came after Abraham was Moses, who led God’s people away from slavery in Egypt.

A great nation—a people: This is God’s vision and his promise.

“I am the Lord. I will free you from the forced labor of the Egyptians and will deliver you from their slavery. I will rescue you by my outstretched arm and with mighty acts of judgment I will take you as my own people and you shall have me as your God.”

Ex 6:6-7a

Then there was David who became a mighty king and warrior, also an adulterer and murderer, but one chosen and forgiven by God. David gave his people victory. He also gave us psalms to instruct us and to help us praise God.

Solomon, David’s son, built a magnificent temple for God. His wisdom is noted to this very day.

God kept his covenant to be faithful to his people even when they fell away from him and took on the attitudes and practices of pagans. His promise of a Messiah rang down through the centuries.

Next: The Messiah Comes


Inward Growth, Outward Witness

1 Oct


Embraced by God, Part 4

 Brandon Vogt is a 28-year-old Catholic husband and father. He is a blogger, public speaker and author. In May 2011, he was one of ten Americans invited to the Vatican to dialogue with Church leaders about the use of new media in the interest of the mission of Christ.

In the spring of 2014, Brandon joined “Word on Fire,” Father Robert Barron’s very relevant and successful ministry. He is now internationally known for his expertise fostering faith through modern digital communications.

Brandon began to grow in faith in his first years at Florida State University in Tallahassee.

He was at FSU with Kathleen Floegel, a devout Catholic. They were sweethearts in high school. It wasn’t just puppy love—they are married and parents of a growing family.

At the university, he began worshipping at the FSU Wesley Foundation. It was there that he began to develop a personal relationship with God. Vance Rains, the Methodist pastor at FSU, was instrumental in Brandon’s spiritual development.

Brandon says, “For most of my life, I never met a rigorous God who made any sort of demand on my life. And I never encountered an intimate God who ravished me with deep love or an epic God who waged war against evil for my sake. The church I grew up in cared for me deeply. It encouraged kindness, and presented the basic, biblical stories to me. But I never really experienced anything transcendent.”

He began to hear God’s word in worship; the Scriptures took on new and deeper meaning. He discovered that “God was a Lover on a relentless pursuit” – the total surrender of one’s heart, mind and soul to God.

At FSU Wesley Foundation, Brandon found a “resurgence of classical spirituality” and discovered Catholics like Augustine, Chesterton, Mother Teresa and Dorothy Day.

As he read and studied these authors, he “couldn’t avoid a nagging theme: the Catholic tradition lurking behind” the inspiration of these writers.

           “How,” Brandon asked himself, “could Chesterton and Augustine be so right about everything but their religion?” He discovered that the Eucharist was an echoing theme in all of their writings.

The Eucharist is the efficacious sign and sublime cause of that communion in the divine life and the unity of the people of God by which the Church is kept in being. It is the culmination both of God’s action sanctifying the world in Christ and the worship men offer to Christ and through him to the Father and the Holy Spirit.

CCC, No. 1325, from Eucharisticum mysterium , 6

Brandon said, “The Eucharist really catalyzed my probing. It was an unavoidable hinge. Many of the holiest saints claimed the Eucharist as their fuel.”He discovered that the Catholic Church proclaimed the Eucharist as the “source and summit” of her Faith.

He didn’t want to believe in the Eucharist as the Real Presence of Jesus – his Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity. But the “earliest Christians believed in the Real Presence, as did the great saints and many of the most brilliant theologians and spiritual masters of today.”

He said that once he found that the Catholic Church “had the real presence of Jesus pulsating at the center of her Faith, I was hooked.”

At the Easter Vigil In 2008, Brandon Vogt was received into the Catholic Church. Present were Kathleen and his Methodist pastor and friends from the FSU Wesley Foundation.

Looking back, says Brandon, without God’s constant pursuit and what he learned and experienced along the way, without the community of faith, the sacraments, the saints, and a big dose of Divine Providence,” God for him would have always been a “declawed kitten.”

And now, he says, “I’ve been caught by the Lion who has always been in pursuit.”



[i] Word on Fire,

Azariah’s Prayer

16 Aug

Reaching Up

Azariah took a prophetic look at his world,

a prophet must seek and hear his God.

In the Bible’s Book of Daniel, we are treated to the prayer of Azariah. He, Hananiah and Mishael refused to worship an idol created by King Nebuchadnezzar. (Here I use their Hebrew names rather than the ones by which the pagans called them. See Daniel 1:6.)

 Because of their refusal to worship an idol, the enraged king cast them into a fiery furnace. To the king’s amazement, he saw them walking around unharmed in the fiery furnace—and Azariah prophesied about the sinfulness of the Hebrew nation and the justice of God (Daniel 3:1-31).

The Sin of the Nation

In essence, Azariah states that, as a whole, the Hebrews abandoned God. They have ignored God’s will and law, his call to be one with him and to enjoy an intimate life of grace. In spite of all he has done for the Hebrew people, God is dismissed from the depths of the human heart; at best, he is merely acknowledged by external observance of the law; at its worst, his people worship idols and profane his holy Name.

Could we not today, here in our own world, and particularly in our own United States, pray that same prayer as did Azariah? Here, where God has so lavishly blessed our nation with so many good things?

We do indeed have our own idols—the desecration of marriage, hunger for money and power, sex for sex’s sake, and the fear of aging and the desire to look forever young. Just consider carefully the following TV programs: “Dancing with the Stars,” “Bachelor” and “Bachelorette,” “Two and a Half Men,” “Naked and Afraid,” “Dating Naked,”  and that general genre.

We Need the Prophetic Voice

We need prophetic voices, in our Church and in all society, to speak fearlessly, honestly and charitably about the growing darkness in our world.  The old concerns remain and, in my mind, deserve more attention in parishes and in families: Christian frugality, sexual morality, modesty in dress and language, and corruption in government.

And, of great importance, is the responsibility to teach, not  only the things that are sins, but the source of our moral convictions and the unhappy consequences of sin.

St. Augustine was very clear about the responsibility to preach truth. He said that preachers (and I suggest parents and teachers as well) must speak the truth. If they do, and the sinner dies, it is the fault of the sinner; if they do not, and the sinner dies, the preachers, parents and teachers bear the blame.

Jesus, help us to love you purely and passionately and to trust you completely.

The Tiniest is Greater

8 Apr


Sometimes, God gives us an incomplete idea of what he wants of us–or so we think. Even a hint of what he has in store for us is more powerful than all  doubt and confusion.

 The fortieth chapter of Isaiah has long been a favorite. It launches the faithful one into a deeply rooted evangelistic spirit. It gives marching orders:

Comfort, give comfort to my people.… In the desert prepare the way of the Lord…Go up on a high mountain, Zion, herald of glad tidings, cry out at the top of your voice, Jerusalem, herald of good news. Fear not to cry out, here is your God! (See verses 1a, 9.)

What a wonderful commission from our Lord.

But, also in Isaiah 40 (6b-7a), we find the powerful admonition which we must believe and proclaim:

“All mankind is grass, and all their glory like the flowers of the field. The grass withers, the flower wilts, when the breath of the Lord blows upon it.”

The mere whisper of God’s breath, just a tiny hint of divine glory and power, is infinitely greater than the folly of self worship.

Sharing Faith: Joy and Responsibility

14 Mar


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.



‘Joy of the Gospel’

22 Jan



Exalt in the Word of the Lord! For he loves us unconditionally!

Pope Francis has given the Church a great gift in his “Joy of the Gospel” (Evangelii Gaudium).

In this book published last November, the Holy Father both edifies and challenges Catholics in their faith. He urges us to believe that God loves us. He challenges us to love others as God loves us.

That love for others, from the faithful heart, of necessity will result in sharing the cause of our joy and hope with others, with everyone in our life, with everyone we meet.

Continuing the vision of John XXIII, Blessed John Paul and Benedict XVI, he is calling us to recapture the fervor and focus of the early Church, that fervor which, for example, brought 3,000 people into the Church on the heels of that first Christian Pentecost. Or, again, the fervor which motivated Deacons Stephen, Ephraim, Philip and Francis to bring God’s Word and his wisdom to the people of their time.

And we can’t help but recall other great saints such as Teresa of Avila, Therese the Little Flower, Mother Teresa, John of the Cross, John Chrysostom and Peter Chrysologos.

Here are some gleanings from “Joy of the Gospel.”

Pope Francis insists that each Catholic is responsible for sharing God’s love and the Gospel of Christ. He says that the Church goes forth to bring God’s word to all people. The Church (that means all of us) must leave her comfort zone to follow Christ’s command to make disciples of all nations.

 The Church “which goes forth is a community of missionary disciples who take the first step.” This community knows that the Lord Jesus has taken the first step—he has lived among us, taught us and died and risen from the dead for us. He is asking us to do what he did. 

Pope Francis envisions a “ ‘missionary option,’ a missionary impulse capable of transforming everything, so that the Church’s customs, ways of doing things, time and schedules, language and structures can be suitably channeled for the evangelization of today’s world rather than for her self-preservation.”

Please, read and reflect on this message from our Holy Father. Reflect on it with family members, friends and fellow parishioners. Pope Francis is ushering us into a new Pentecost– and that’s what the “New Evangelization” is all about.

(You may download the document from and click on Apostolic Exhortations. Or, you may obtain it from Word Among Us Press, , for less than $10.00.)