From Flocking Mad to a Flock in Prayer

A couple of weeks ago I posted an article about faithful Catholics feeling rather abandoned by their shepherds during this past year.  My article “Flocking Mad, An Open Letter to Catholic Priests and Bishops,” was read by thousands with much feedback echoing comparable sentiments. Through comments, personal and public, people from all over shared how grateful they were for my “courage to express what they were feeling.”

I felt very strongly that this message was Divinely inspired, and so I surrendered it all to His Will. Our Shepherd, Bishop Olmsted, in whom I have great respect, wrote in response that it reminded him of the passage in Luke 12:48, “Much will be required of the person entrusted with much, and still more will be demanded of the person entrusted with more.” He clearly understands that those who have been called by God to greater positions of authority in the Church, have weightier performance obligations.

While this is true, neither does it mean the rest of us get to mindlessly frolic in the pasture while they do all the heavy lifting.

In attempting to understand why many of us felt frustrated over these past fourteen months, I believe we kept waiting for our shepherds to act and lead us in the crisis, to comfort and extol, to challenge and step out in trust, to remind us by their actions and reactions– that fear is not of God. I believe that was the minimum expectation. Was that a faulty premises? It was scary for all of us. No one was left untouched. We were not demanding the impossible.

As faithful followers of Christ, we His sheeple, had a responsibility to hunker down in prayer, to continue to trust in God, despite the turmoil and fearmongering that raged on every media outlet. God is more powerful than this tiny blip on humanity’s radar screen. I am reminded of the scene in Matthew 14:24-32, when the boat is being tossed at sea and Jesus came to them walking on the water. He beckons Peter to come out. “But when he saw how [strong] the wind was he became frightened; and, beginning to sink, he cried out, ‘Lord, save me!’”

“When he saw how strong the wind was…,” Peter quickly sank into something far more dangerous, FEAR! Wind makes a lot of noise and does damage; fear does much worse.

We too, saw a big noisy storm blowing from all directions. We let it occupy our minds, take up residence in our hearts, and fill our homes. Did we cry out, Lord save us? Did we surrender ourselves and trust that the Lord would not let us drown? Did we rely only on human solutions? Because when Peter cried out, “Immediately Jesus stretched out his hand and caught him, and said to him, ‘O you of little faith, why did you doubt?’” God was there for us, He never left.

Why do we doubt that the storms in our lives are bigger than the omnipotent God?

Countless times in Scripture we read about the awesome power of God to command nature, exorcise evil, raise the dead, transform hearts, and heal the sick. Maybe we think those are just fairy tales? Perhaps when Jesus reminds us that the size of our faith can move mountains, we assume he is exaggerating.

When our faith is little, it requires trials to grow. Step by step. Event by event. It does not magically happen without effort on our part. Spiritual muscles need to be exercised. Trust in God happens through learning to let go. Surrendering takes a lifetime, as we learn to relinquish control and put everything into the all-powerful hands of the Father. Faith requires stepping forward into the unknown.

Fear stunts our spiritual growth.

There is work to be done both by our Shepherds and by we the sheeple. God will not call us for something He has not equipped us to handle with His mighty help. We must pray daily for our clergy to be transformed by God. We must realize the good they are doing, rather than only dwell on the negative. We must pray for one another to be strengthened. We need each other. We are the One Body of Christ. Prayer helps us all!  

How do we transform from bleating, frustrated sheep? We must get involved. We must put skin in the game. We must support, pray for, and encourage our shepherds. We are the Body; Christ is the Head. As the Body, we are His hands, feet, and love in this time and place. We need to get to work; we have gotten lazy.

It starts with us being holy people, raising holy families, and ridding ourselves of unholy habits. And sometimes it means raising a little holy hell by reminding one another to do our part, stand firm, and trust God who is in control. Nothing happens outside of His Providence.

We were made for heaven, not to graze in the pasture all day getting fat. All circumstances are opportunities to form us into holy pilgrims on the path towards heaven. “If God is for us, who can be against us?”

Believe it. Your eternal life depends on it!

Flocking Mad, An Open Letter to our Catholic Priests and Bishops

Greetings from the pasture!

I thought I would reach out and apprise you about life from your sheeple’s perspective after being devastated from every angle. Perhaps you may think you know what it is like down here in the pasture–based on vetted emails, random blogs, or confessions (if you are doing those). You do not. We no more know what it is like to shepherd the likes of us than you know what it is like to be us in this time and place in history.

These are crazy times, yes? We all seemed to be caught unprepared. However more alarming than a worldwide pandemic was your eerie silence and over-exaggerated responses to shut down the flow of grace and sacraments. We really needed your reassuring presence, the trustworthy example of stalwart faith, and comforting words. Instead, it felt like you disappeared and are only recently emerging. So much silence! Where did you go as you continue to leave us to wander without strong shepherds in these confusing times. You were particularly inaudible before the election when we needed to be reminded of Catholic teaching. Many sheep wandered into strange pastures heeding lies because the light of clarity and truth was concealed under the guise of our safety. Where was the timeless, never-changing truth boldly proclaimed with conviction? You neither brought lucidity, nor wisdom when we needed you.

I will be honest; it feels like we have been abandoned, and left to the wolves, as we watch through the thicket, the discord and mounting division between yourselves. It saddens us to see our leadership in disarray. Good holy priests who do boldly speak the inconvenient truth are reprimanded including forced resignation. I am curious, why would priests speaking truths cause this reaction? Threats surround us from all sides, both inside and outside Mother Church. Who can be trusted? So many wolves masquerading as shepherds and very few say or do anything.

“I know that after my departure savage wolves will come among you, and they will not spare the flock. And from your own group, men will come forward perverting the truth…”

Acts 20: 29-30

We feel like sheep without shepherds. God has entrusted us to you. How do we believe shepherds who are not even united on basic Church teachings? Are you as lost as we feel?

Why do you hide in Chanceries behind paper masks that will not protect you from judgment? You like seats of honor but fail to deliver when it gets too stormy outside. You bend and bow to the ever-changing winds of the culture. You regurgitate social lies through your unwillingness to correct and authentically lead. It seems you have become but an illusion of the high office so painstakingly bestowed upon you.

We wander about in inhospitable meadows with no bearing, while you cavort around with pomp and frivolity looking important wearing the stench of rotting souls.

Why do you fear a pathetic virus, and disregard the fires of Hell? Which is more perilous? The transitory has trumped the eternal. Rather than prepare us well for death and eternal life, you appear to have relinquished your office and surrendered to an agenda as predictable as Lucifer himself.

Where is your faith and trust in God? Where is your courage, your rod in hand, and willingness to protect the flock even at personal risk that you assumed at your ordination? With minute opposition the spigot of grace was shut down as you eagerly submitted to government bureaucrats rather than stand fast in seeking solutions and protecting the flock. During the Black Plague, where nearly one-third of Europe’s population died, it was Priests who selflessly stood in the breach knowing they faced certain death, yet risked their lives to give comfort, hope, and make available the sacraments.

Gentlemen, this is no Black Plague.

Never in all my life would I have imagined I would write such a letter. I am embarrassed for your failure to be the great men God called and equipped you to be. So many souls you will answer for that did not find refreshment and solace in your sermons, at the altars, and in the confessionals as you pandered to the fear and agendas of those who whispered insidious advice. How many died without viaticum as you concealed yourselves and encouraged others to do the same, unwilling to fight for our souls?

Even now, you unnecessarily continue dispensations further feeding the flock a disparaging diet of fear. Churches and Dioceses still mandating ludicrous requirements instead of being beacons of light in the darkness and extolling your brothers to be men of bold faith and trust.

STOP this madness. Fight the good fight. To Hell with your safely guarded reputations. Speak up, stand up, and fight for our souls. This trifling threat is nothing compared to what Christianity has endured over the ages. It is only an annoying pest that needs to be neutralized. A wise Priest once said to me, “Flies do not overwhelm us by their strength, but by their number.” And their number is steadily growing, while you only contemplate dialogue, and fail to act with authority and conviction.

Your silence is deafening!

Rally your sheep! Lead us in prayer and sacrifice. Plead before God begging for forgiveness for yourselves and for us all. Implore God to fill you with wisdom, courage, perseverance, and the determination to be the shepherds you were called to be. This is your moment. As Shepherds, you were ordained for this time in history.

Unite. Put your petty differences aside and direct us in the timeless never-changing truth.

It is time to get the fly-swatter boys and rid humanity of this infestation.”

One very little, very frustrated sheep,

Barbara Lishko

Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam

Clueless

It is hard to fathom, frankly. Could it possibly be true? Is it as He says? I suppose for me the starting point would be in my own heart. Who do I understand God to be? Everything and nothing hinge on that very point. Everything changes if I believe despite what I see. If I do not believe, it changes nothing because it is what He says despite my unbelief. Is He the God of the universe wherein nothing is impossible, who’s Word brought everything into existence and holds it there? Or is He an imposter whom we have elevated over the millennia?

You must decide.

Your faith practice may simply encompass Mass attendance when it fits in your schedule. You go through the motions, because that is what Catholics are supposed to do. Maybe this is what your family did. Perhaps your family was like mine, wherein we never missed Mass, and we prayed the Rosary regularly. That was the classroom of my childhood, and how I was taught to live out my Catholic faith.

But Catholicism is deeper and richer than that.”

Perhaps, you are not entirely sure what the Church believes; but you are convinced there are aspects you are not in agreement with. Have you ever dived deeper into the topic to see what the Church in her wisdom actually teaches and why?

If pressured by a non-believer about who Jesus Christ was, could you comfortably and compellingly speak on His behalf in a way that would enlighten and influence them?”

One Christmas Eve at a progressive dinner in our neighborhood over eighteen years ago, I was goaded by a well-meaning Christian on various aspects of our Catholic faith. I fumbled with my answers and failed miserably in providing any collaborating data either Scriptural or doctrinal. I remember being tremendously embarrassed. Later that night in prayer I apologized to my Father in heaven for my lack of effort in growing in my faith. I had been a Catholic my whole life and knew squat. There was no valid excuse other than laziness and not making it a priority.

While it saddened me greatly, it also moved me to action. I strongly wanted to know more. How could I call myself a follower of Christ and active member of the Church He began, and yet know so little? I was in my forties and had maybe a third-grade education in the faith I professed.

I went right to work the next day and spoke to one of our Priests at Corpus Christi. Father was ready to help and pointed me in the right direction. I made it my priority to research answers for all the issues she had addressed and was blessed to discover so much more. I wrote to her apologizing for my inability to have answers for her and shared with her what I had discovered. I imagine she was not expecting my five-page response to her questions.  That embarrassing moment was the catalyst I needed to wake up and grow. I am thankful for it and continue to read, listen, and look for opportunities to learn. What I continue to realize with every new morsel of truth, is that I am starving for more, yet still know so little.

What about you?

Our Bishop, the Most Reverend Thomas J. Olmsted recently released an Apostolic Exhortation called. Veneremur Cernui. Like any good shepherd he seeks to educate his wayward, confused, and worldly flock. We wander away. We heed to the voice of others who are not the Shepherd, and we listen to wolves in sheep’s clothing which further cause division and misunderstanding. The exhortation is beautifully written, and easily understood. I encourage you to read it, talk about it, and share it. Why? Because it captures why we believe, and what the Church has always taught in a way that is digestible.

Truly accepting the truth about Christ’s Presence in the Eucharist is a game changer. If Christ did not rise from the dead our faith is worthless. If Christ just left us a symbol at the Last Supper, in the bread and wine, it is pointless. Men and women have died horrible, agonizing deaths for thousands of years rather than deny that the Eucharist is exactly what Jesus said it was. (read John chapter 6)

For we live by faith, not by sight.”

(2 Cor5:7)

Where are our eyes of faith?

If Jesus Himself was not convincing enough, if His Words in Scripture still do not persuade you, I implore you to read and pray for the Lord to enlighten your heart and mind to the undisputable truth of the Real Presence of our Lord Jesus Christ in the little humble host we receive at communion. Ask the Lord to eradicate all doubt in your heart and mind. Ultimately, our actions will speak loudest of this truth. Belief will impact how we prepare our hearts and souls for the reception of Jesus our Lord and God, how we ready our appearance and dress for the banquet and realization that it is before God that we stand.

I invite you to meditate and pray on these three particular quotes by saints who came to fathom this gift of Christ in the Eucharist.

“I desire to unite Myself to human souls, Know, My daughter, that when I come to a human heart in Holy Communion, My hands are full of all kinds of graces which I want to give to the soul. But souls do not even pay any attention to Me; they leave Me to Myself and busy themselves with other things…They treat Me as a dead object.” (St Faustina’s diary,1385)

He who is all-knowing knew of nothing more that he could give than the Eucharist. He who is all-powerful could not do any more than he does in the sacrament and he who is all loving had nothing more that He could give. The Eucharist is a Divine storehouse filled with every virtue.”  St Augustine

“What wonderful majesty! What stupendous condescension! O sublime humility! That the Lord of the whole universe, God and the Son of God, should humble Himself like this under the form of a little bread, for our salvation”  St Francis of Assisi

Cease in your unbelief and believe.

Beloved Dirt

Your plan so grand to fill the earth, with sea, and sky, sand, and dirt.

Reptile, mammal, and wild beast, predator, and prey, greatest and least.

Then scooped into your mighty hand, the dirt that lay across the land

To form a being unlike the rest, made in your Image, perfect and blessed.

Into his nostrils your Ruah blew, animated, in-souled, your life imbued.

A mate required to complement, beauty, grace, and provident.

Vile and dangerous the tempter slithers, words that deceive, their resolve withers.

You had it all, Paradise. Yet traded it for a deceptive compromise?

Why do we like our first parents, listen to the lies? Subvert the truth, and rationalize,

Good and evil we compartmentalize; it only hastens our demise.

The deception ongoing, only called a new name. Beneath the facade it’s the same ugly game.

Time has come we must reclaim, and boldly proclaim, “Be merciful oh Lord for we have sinned!”

Forgive us, renew us, the lies we rescind.

We are learning and realize to your mercy we cry, our errors you have crucified. Your friendship paramount when we die.

To our true home in heaven please carry, sorrowful, forgiven, redeemed, make haste and do not tarry.

Betrayed

I have been both betrayer and betrayed. When you think about it, you probably have too. Starting with Santa Claus and the tooth fairy. These are harmless examples you might think. I remember when our oldest son was nine or ten, it occurred to me that I should enlighten him on the matter of Santa. It was maybe the week before Christmas, all the other kids were in bed and we sat by the Christmas tree as I told him the truth. Ok, my timing should have been better. His reaction was unpredictable. He felt betrayed and very sad. Sad because he began to connect the dots on his own, including the global implications. “So, you and daddy bring the presents?” Yes, I answered. “What about the poor kids, who brings them presents? What about kids in other countries? What about kids with no parents?” We cried together at the sad reality of children who did not receive presents and who only knew Christmas as heartbreak.

Around that time there was a 60-Minutes episode focusing on a gentleman from a poor section of St Louis.  This man owned a little BBQ restaurant that was open to anyone who was hungry on Christmas. There was no cost, and lots of cheer to go around. When asked why he did this, he related that when he was a child his family was extremely poor. He had heard other children talk about Santa, so he held great hope for Santa Claus to bring him a present on Christmas. He awoke on Christmas morning to nothing. He wondered if “Santy Clause did not come to poor children.” This seventy something year old man, recalled this moment in his life with sadness and tears. He grew up never wanting others to feel left out of the joy of Christmas.

There are moments in our life that put us on a trajectory. We can choose to be victims or victors.

What does this have to do with Holy Week?

“Jesus was deeply troubled and testified, “Amen, amen, I say to you, one of you will betray me.”” (Jn 13:21) The disciples may have noticed something different about Jesus that week, his somber mood, the depth of his silence at times. I do not think they were ready however for this shocking statement. Judas was not the first nor the last to betray God. Betrayal runs throughout human history like an insidious mutation that appears to grow stronger in each generation.

Christ knew this when he pointed it out to his disciples. One among this tightknit group would betray his Master. He too knew our own betrayals and the treacheries to come, Christ’s love is greater than our duplicities. Yet, he went to the Cross with it all to suffer for the sins of humanity. “We must not commit the fallacy of thinking he suffered less because he was perfect…He suffered more, not less, because his sensibilities were absolutely perfect.” (Mother Francis of Our Lady)

That sign which was meant to frighten, humiliate, and torture agitators, those who went against the current ideologies, has become a sign of triumph. “By his wounds we have been healed.”

Plenty of people have clothing with Christian art, wear crosses as jewelry, and even have tattoos on their bodies. Awesome. However, Christianity is far more than that. In reality it does not require any of those things. How we live out our Catholic faith IS the sign par excellence. No one will do this perfectly. We have and we will betray Jesus in one way or another during our lifetime but, how we get back up, seek forgiveness, and return to the Lord makes all the difference.

This Holy Week and Sacred Triduum can be a source of incredible grace if we enter fully into the depth of each significant event. We need to be there at the Last Supper with Christ who washed the Disciples feet, modeling for them servant leadership and instituting the Eucharist. We must accompany him into the Garden of Gethsemane, feel the weight of his anxiety, the drops of blood he sweat, see his betrayer kiss him. Will we be like the disciples and run away? Hiding in safety and comfort avoiding danger, playing it safe. Or will we dare to walk alongside our Lord, our Savior and Redeemer as he does for us what we could never do for ourselves. Will we stand with his Mother at the foot of the Cross as he dies a slow agonizing, excruciating death?

“…do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather, be afraid of the one who can destroy both soul and body in Gehenna.” (Matt 10:28)

We can go about our busyness this week, scurrying to buy bunnies and chocolate, giving only a passing shallow nod to these momentous days. We can get lost as we do at Christmas with all the exterior trimmings and unimportant frivolities as we completely miss the actual meaning of the holy day. We can betray the true meaning and settle for a commercialized secular illusion. The choice is up to each of us, and our opportunities to take full advantage of these grace-filled moments are fleeting and numbered.

“Behold my betrayer is at hand.”

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