Do You Reject Satan…

Many of us do not remember the Baptismal promises that were stated at our own Baptism. We relied solely on our parents and godparents to speak on our behalf. This weekend and several times throughout the Church year we are given the opportunity to speak for ourselves. I recommend that we pay full attention to what we say “I do” to as, you can stake your life on the fact, that God does. He takes our “I do” very seriously in these cases, including the ones said at the altar on our wedding day. God takes us at our word because we can take Him at His Word. “Let your ‘Yes’ mean ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No’ mean ‘No.’ Anything more is from the evil one.” (Matt 5:37)

Do you reject Satan? And all his works? And all his empty promises?
Do you believe in God, the Father Almighty, creator of heaven and earth?

Do you believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord, who was born of the Virgin Mary was crucified, died, and was buried, rose from the dead, and is now seated at the right hand of the Father?

Do you believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy Catholic church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and life everlasting?

Our firm “I do” is only possible with the help of God. On our own, we are too easily swayed when temptation and cultural norms cause us to rethink these promises. I do sometimes… when I agree, and then I do not… when I disagree.

Is our word trustworthy? What does it stand or fall for? When are we silent so as not to rock the boat, stand out or seem too harsh? Not speaking, is speaking. That silence is deafening. Not acting toward the good, is allowing evil to advance. Not knowing our faith and all that the Church teaches for our salvation, easily leads us to be persuaded in directions that muddle or oppose the faith.

After a couple of thousand years of dubious I do’s, opposition, and redirection, we find ourselves at this moment in history. I continue to hear from those who are frustrated and despairing. “How did all this happen?”

In these tumultuous times when all of us have had our world rocked by the pandemic, never imagined events and foul behaviors within our own borders, and seemingly endless deceit by those we should be able to trust, the question I am hearing the most is, “Where is God in all this? We prayed so hard and I feel so discouraged.”

Many of us “old farts,” of which I am now a delegate, can look back over our sixty or more years and think, “what the hell has happened to our country?” I use the word “hell” on purpose because that is exactly what is at play here. We are in an epic spiritual battle the likes of which we cannot imagine nor comprehend. We however get glimpses of its’ effects and how it impacts everyone and everything we once held dear; from the integrity of our clergy and religious from the top down, to the demise of “One Nation Under God.”

We could assume wrongly that God no longer loves or cares for His children.

If you have ever taken the time to do a Bible Study or have read Sacred Scripture you will no doubt recall the wanton history of the Israelites, God’s hand-chosen people. In Deuteronomy chapter five, God bestows to them the Ten Commandments. These were not merely suggestions, but keys that lead to happiness, prosperity, and holiness. In chapter six, God continues to exhort them to follow the commandments and to teach their children.

“Know, then, that the LORD, your God, is God: the faithful God who keeps covenant mercy to the thousandth generation toward those who love him and keep his commandments, but who repays with destruction those who hate him; he does not delay with those who hate him but makes them pay for it. Therefore, carefully observe the commandment, the statutes and the ordinances  which I command you today.” (Dt 7:9-11)

“Be careful to observe this whole commandment that I enjoin on you today, that you may live and increase, and may enter in and possess the land which the LORD promised on oath to your ancestors. Therefore, keep the commandments of the Lord, your God by walking in His ways and fearing him.” (Deut 8:1,6)

Then He continues to remind us over and again through the centuries, and finally through His Son Jesus

“Why do you ask me about the good? There is only One who is good. If you wish to enter into life, keep the commandments.” He asked him, “Which ones?” And Jesus replied, “ ‘You shall not kill; you shall not commit adultery; you shall not steal; you shall not bear false witness; honor your father and your mother’; and ‘you shall love your neighbor as yourself.’” (Matt 19:17-19)

I dare say we failed to learn from their mistakes and have shamelessly repeated them to a greater degree. You might think, this is not the same at all. Read them again my friend and you will see that we brazenly did the same and much worse. What is that saying?

“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” Santayana

What is a good and loving Father supposed to do to save his children? As a parent myself, I get it. Sometimes we only learn by making mistakes and suffering the consequences. While it is sometimes difficult to watch this process, saving our progeny from learning from their mistakes leads them to never learn the lessons.

We think we are different than the early peoples. We think we are more advanced technically and intellectually. Yet we continue to repeat the same mistakes, cutting out God, making our own fluid rules, disfiguring the human person made in His Image and likeness.

God did not abandon them, and He does not abandon us. He will give us the time to learn, repent and turn back to His waiting arms. I pray we realize the error of our ways quicker than those before us. “Four hundred years” seems to be a reoccurring number before humanity got their heads and hearts in right relationship with their Maker.

In the words of St. Pio of Pietrelcina, “Pray, hope, and don’t worry.”

Never lose hope. Turn to God, grow in love and faithfulness to the Church Christ left to aid us, and trust God has a plan bigger than this current conundrum.

Hindsight is 2020

It is appropriate to take stock of 2020. Like every year before it, there were aspects out of our control. However, there were and continue to be much that is firmly within our power. Some questions we should ponder deeply are:

  1. Where did I grow and improve this past year physically and spiritually?
  2. Where did I draw strength in difficult situations and struggles?
  3. Am I more firmly grounded in my hope and faith in God, and if not, what needs to change?

 After all, as Catholic Christians we must weigh everything with an eternal perspective. Matthew Kelly reminds us in his newest book, Dig the Well, Before You Get Thirsty” of this important point.

“Our quest for ease and comfort is killing us, body and soul. Life is difficult. Anybody who tells you otherwise is not to be trusted.”

Matthew Kelly

I am currently reading the book. Like most things, it came at the perfect time that I needed it. This book is a unique combination of inspiration, motivation, prayer journal, and a method of discernment. It is an easy read. You may instantly think, “I don’t like to journal so it’s not for me.” Consider this, when we take time to journal, we are better able to discern various patterns over time which help us identify our values and character. Additionally, we can look back and note any progress or pitfalls. It is simply a means of measurement, so do not let that dissuade your desire to move forward to rediscover yourself and the habits that either help or hurt your progress. The real effort comes in the required work that is necessary to discover the best version of ourselves. Included is a section called, “Twenty-one Questions” designed to get us thinking. For example, “What needs to be on your not-to-do list?” Or “How do you want your life to be different one year from now?” Or, my favorite, “What is on-hold in your life, and how would addressing it change your life?” In the step-by-step discernment process, you will learn how to listen more attentively to God and to discern His Will for your life.

“When we lose our connection with the Divine, we go mad.”

Matthew Kelly

I highly recommend it, especially as we close out 2020, but more importantly as we begin each new moment of the rest of our lives.

Matthew Kelly is fond of saying, “Our lives change when our habits change.” This could not be truer, and I think we realize this at our very core. Breaking bad habits and forming good healthy ones takes time, discipline, and effort.

What does it take to move from a mediocre version of ourselves, one that trudges through life, neither hot nor cold about anything, not unhappy, but not passionately on fire either; to becoming someone that naturally exudes a positive energy and faith, joyful, self-motivated, and possessing an inner peace- despite outside circumstances to the contrary? I believe we all want to be the best version of ourselves but often settle or “feel like” we are too busy, too tired, too lazy, or too distracted, to even consider it. Perhaps it is easier to think we were not dealt a great hand, rather than to become all that God desires and equips us to be. Look at our Blessed Mother Mary as a example of a human like ourselves who allowed God to form her into her best self which continues to bear incredible fruit that impacts humanity for all time.

Is there a mystery to becoming the best version of ourselves? Is there a secret map or formula required which is only available to some people? No. It is obtainable to all of us. I read somewhere that when you are not sure what to do next, simply take “the next right step.” We are all capable of that. If we are spending too much time with friends who bring us down or lead us into negative behaviors, the next right step is to lessen or end that relationship for our own well-being. That may seem harsh, but what are we willing to do to become our best self? What needs to go or to change for that to happen?

Either we think we are worth the effort and deserve to become all that we were meant and created to be, or we simply settle for a third-rate version of our self.

God is always speaking to us through various means, are we listening or paying attention? We let so many distractions drown out the voice of our Creator. “Learning to hear God’s voice in our life throughout the day is like having the ultimate friend, coach, consultant, advisor, and teacher always at your side.” There is no wiser, more inspiring, or all-knowing friend than the One who brought us into existence.

I wonder if we are sometimes fearful at times of what God might ask of us. We need not be. That is the whisper of the evil one, and fear is one of his greatest weapons. God would not ask anything of us that would not bring us great joy and happiness. This I know first-hand and He continues to equip me to do things I never imagined. Matthew Kelly further asks us to ponder a deeper meaning and God’s voice through questions like these, “What is God saying to you today…through other people, or the emotions you are experiencing?”

We can have mixed feelings when it comes to making New Year’s resolutions. We are not limited to the beginning of each calendar year to start anew and intentionally move in a direction toward an improved physical and spiritual well-being.

Each new day is a new beginning to either stay on the same mediocre path or to seek excellence.

Don’t be afraid to take the next right step in becoming the best version of yourself so that six months from now you will see a notable difference in yourself, in your relationship with God and others, and you will have the satisfaction of making positive strides towards the best you ever.

With God’s help, I will strive to become the best me possible. This path ultimately leads us to becoming a saint which is our goal after all. God will bless any efforts we make as we move closer to that amazing destination.

Naughty or Nice

Naughty or nice is our choice after all

Even when life throws us a curveball.

No one can make us kind or sweet, not in life, nor in a Tweet.

Our mothers tried to do their best may their efforts be forever blessed.

For us to choose rightly is their bequest.

We are big kids now, our own paths we must plough, and all things naughty, disavow.

Today is a bright new opportunity, to shed all that lowers and causes disunity.

If germs can be passed and we acquire immunity, so does love and joy, build community.

There is no mask that can save us from eternal impunity.

Do it now, make the decision, have a beautiful world vision.

Hate, impatience, and distrust; only brings division.

A lazy cow you are not. You have a mind, heart, and brain,

Live each day to the fullest and not in vain.

So, start this moment to be the best YOU, and no regrets if this you do.

A Blessed Christmas to one and all

Christ is here when we call, and does not count all the times we fall.

Why not invite Him into your life, and he’ll show you the best way once and for all.

Pain is Gain

Working at a Catholic Church feels like I am right there in the vineyard of the Lord at times. It certainly does not imply that only those who work in churches are knee deep in grape juice. No, the world is the vineyard and opportunities abound in every corner of it. Specifically speaking, it is the part of the vineyard where broken and wounded souls wander when they are finally ready to actively seek the Master.  Perhaps they have tried to fix matters on their own through various means good and bad and have come as a last resort hoping to find within her walls, answers that have eluded them. In other words, I occasionally am honored to be a bridge along the pathway that leads to the Shepherd.

Youth ministry was my initial passageway into church work, but for years now, I work with adults preparing for marriage, or have challenges therein.

Age is of no matter, hurting souls need a listening ear and sometimes clarifying tongue. It is hard especially now, to find someone who will speak Christ’s truth and light into the darkness. I never know what someone will need to talk about when they come to my office. My prayer is always just to be God’s instrument and voice. I know I have my own thoughts and experiences which God uses to assist someone in a similar situation. Ultimately, although each person is unique, most situations are common and require the person to speak out loud as they process. Most of us know what we need to do in our hearts but lack encouragement to follow through. Listening will always be a big part of what I do. When we are all willing to hear the various narratives that are part of the human journey it benefits us all. 

There was a time that I gaged everything I did according to tangible, measurable work. It was how I determined if I was productive that day or not. Some days I would be frustrated because I felt I had “not gotten anything done.” I imagine I am not alone in this thinking. We ask our spouses, friends, and neighbors the same thing when they return home from work or at Happy Hours. We are more akin at times, to be human doings rather than human beings.  

A few years back I read, Katrina Zeno’s book, “Every Woman’s Journey.” It was instrumental in helping me understand and define my time, and I believe it is helpful for both women and men.  In fact, it gave me a whole new outlook on a different kind of productivity that cannot be measured, fruitfulness.  Let me explain. When I take time to listen to someone who needs advice, encouragement, or loving support, I am being fruitful. Willingly entering into another’s deepest pain is sharing the raw reality of the human experience. It is an honored place where trust in God, empathy, and love, are the tools that help navigate the darkness and confusion bringing light and hope.

Some days are very fruitful, but cannot be measured on a spreadsheet, or in a tangible detectable way. It is not something I seek out. There is nothing to tabulate, ship, or shelve.  Its effects may never be known nor bear fruit for decades. Yet its worth is incalculable. God knows, God sees, and God magnifies the little work we do in this area producing efficacious results.

An amazing consequence I finally discovered was that in all those things of life that often make us crazy, leave us questioning why, or the suffering we encounter- are just more sources we can use in fruitful work. I cannot tell you the number of experiences in my life that at the time, I begged God to take away or to lessen, which turned out to be the very salve necessary to help bring comfort to someone else’s wounds. It is a miraculous gift to behold what God accomplishes when we share our stories and afflictions.   I don’t have to buy it, make it up, or search the world for it. “It” is our own real experiences and God’s pure and free gift for us to share with our brothers and sisters. I would have never guessed that many of my own painful experiences would be useful later to help another. What a generous and perfect present. So personal, so real, yet it cannot be wrapped, purchased, or cloned. Our painful moments can be a source of healing and strength for another.

We are one week away from Christmas in the year we all wish would go away. It is easy to be caught up in gift buying and preparations for our facemask-clad celebrations. Do not underestimate this gift of 2020 wrapped up in corona paper. It is something universal, much like Catholicism.  Rather than simply commiserate and complain, try instead to reach out and share wisdom and hope through the eyes of faith during your holiday. That gift may be the priceless present someone dear to you desperately needed to receive.

So, when we encounter someone in the midst of confusion, doubt, despair, and hopelessness or are there ourselves, receding into self is not the answer; reach out. We are here to help one another, and we have the balm of the Good News and the salve of hope that soothes.

May you and your family laugh and be filled with joy this Christmas season and upcoming year. In the words of Fr. Edward, “God is good, all the time. All the time, God is good.”

Never forget that.

Am I Not Here, Who is Your Mother?

Mothers are a sturdy bunch. In fact, motherhood is not for wimps. We all had one, and it is easy to overlook the role and influence our mother had in our lives. While there is a plethora of “how to books” and plenty of unsolicited advice, there is not much that can adequately prepare a woman to be a mother. It is on-the-job training, in a sometimes-hostile environment, with natives who don’t speak the language, where one must rapidly adapt while grossly sleep deprived.  After all, children are beginners at life outside the womb.

Mothering is often the brunt of jokes or looked down upon. While it is important to laugh, to be laughed at is contrary to the dignity of that noble calling. In this disordered culture, their contribution is looked upon as a less important in the scheme of possibilities and careers for women. Somehow raising the next generation, influencing the future of society, and forming healthy, happy, hardworking citizens is “demeaning” for women. Nothing is further from the truth. Yet, it requires heroic virtue, cosmic patience, and supernatural strength for this work.

Nothing can turn a mom to mush faster than an inconsolable, eight-pound, un-swaddled miniature version of herself. Her work does not often produce ripe fruit for years.

I am curious why society has disdain for such a critical contribution to the good of humanity. Then again, the devil doesn’t trouble himself with things that are not a threat. Attacking marriage and the family, distorts the Image of God who made us.   Deluding and engrossing men and women into pursuits far worthier of their time and effort, than “just having kids.”

Yesterday was the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe. I began to write my thoughts at two am having every intention of posting it by eight am on the feast day. Clearly, I am now a day late and a dollar short. Life happens and yet the reminder is valuable and so I beg you to continue to read on.

Under the title of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Mary is the Patroness of the Americas. This is one of the many titles of our Blessed Mother. Like any loving and caring mom, she is active and present in the lives of her children, encouraging and imploring them to turn from evil and leading them to her Son. At Guadalupe she appeared as mestiza in this her first appearance in Mexico to Juan Diego. It was on the feast of the Immaculate Conception which was December nineth in the calendar at the time. It was later moved to the eighth as we know it today.

“Juanito, dearest Juan Diego. Juanito, my dearest son, where are you going?  

Know and understand well, you my most humble son, that I am the ever-virgin Holy Mary, Mother of the True God for whom we live, of the Creator of all things, Lord of heaven and the earth.”

Notice the tenderness in which Mary addresses Juan Diego in this short segment of her greeting.

The Bishop asks for a sign from Juan Diego and he delays for a bit due to taking care of his sick uncle. Mary finds him. You cannot hide very long from your mama. She always knows where to find us. Mary inquired why he had not done what she asked. He replies to her that the Bishop wants a sign.

On the fourth visit she says in part, “Hear me and understand well, my little son, that nothing should frighten or grieve you. Let not your heart be disturbed. Do not fear that sickness, nor any other sickness or anguish. Am I not here, who is your Mother? Are you not under my protection?… My dear little son, this diversity of roses is the proof and the sign which you will take to the bishop…”

The “sign,” was a variety of flowers not native to the region and Castilian roses all blooming in the dead of winter on Tepeyak hill, modern day Mexico City. Juan Diego picks them placing them in his tilma. Mary, herself arranges the flowers for him. He heads to see the Bishop.

As Juan Diego opens his tilma the flowers fall out and a miraculous image of this beautiful lady is left there on the tilma. That gets the Bishops attention. There is no record of any divine painting other than this beautiful gift from God to us in this image of Mary.

If you get a chance to read more on this fascinating topic and get to know your Mother more personally, I highly recommend these books; first by Carl Anderson, “Our Lady of Guadalupe: Mother of the Civilization of Love,” or Bernal Diaz, “The Conquest of New Spain.”

Every feature on the image of the Virgin of Guadalupe is significant. For example, “The reflections that have been detected in the eyes of the image. If the tilma is laid horizontally across a map of Mexico, the major glyphs, the large symbols discernible to the Aztecs, all line up with the major volcanoes of Mexico. The constellations on Our Lady’s mantel are the precise constellations of the sky at the moment on December 12th.The image of our Lady of Guadalupe is reproduced more than any other image of any woman in history. God painted the image of Our Lady for us all to see and still miraculously survives to this day in the Basilica of our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City. It is the most visited pilgrimage site, getting about 20 million visitors annually.

Everywhere our Mother Mary has appeared, she takes on the appearance of the people she is there to aid. She is the Mother of All Nations and Peoples. She is the Queen of Heaven and our Mother too. I encourage you to read more about Marian apparitions, and to pray the Rosary which she has asked us to do countless times. As our Mother, who loves us dearly, she is trying to help us avert future chastisement, but there is only so much any mother can do. She can ask and ultimately it is up to the person to decide if they follow that advice and act.

To think that we can continue in the debauchery and outright flagrant sinfulness and think God is ok with it or has somehow turned a blind eye is exactly what evil would like us to think.

It was said that at Kibeho, when she appeared to the girls in Rwanda, as she tried to warn them to pray to avert the genocide, that she was inconsolable. Can you imagine the Mother of God, being inconsolable because as hard as she is trying to help us, we chose to go about our merry lives excluding God and doing our own thing?

Any mom is heartbroken when one of her children makes bad choices. Mary is trying to help all of humanity. We must do our part. Let us seek to please our dear sweet Mother and do what we are told.