Mary Undoer of Knots

Christ came to bring JOY;

Joy to children, joy to parents,

Joy to families and friends,

Joy to the sick and elderly,

Joy to all humanity.

In a true sense, JOY is the keynote message of Christianity,

And the recurring motif of the Gospels.

Go, therefore, and become Messengers of Joy!

~ Pope John Paul II

Monday, September 2, 2013

The Value of One Priest & Two Regular Joe's In The New Evangelization








       All life is intrinsically valuable, for no less of a reason than the simple fact that every human person is made in the image and likeness of God.  Every single human being is created by Love, for Love.  Yet in some worldly circles, the life of a priest is considered to be one of little or no value.  In these same circles, you may find many a misunderstanding about the call to the priesthood and the call to the celibate life.  In a society where contraception has come between men and women as a way to usurp God’s authority as the Creator of life, and where many seek to redefine marriage to be anti-life and anti-creation, the value of a man who sees things a little differently and chooses to live a life of self-sacrifice makes no sense to many.  And for those priests who enter religious orders and take vows of poverty, forget it!  No sex, no kids, no wife AND no money??   It’s downright counter-cultural!

So what is the true value of a priest?  Well, let us begin with another question:  What is the value of a soul?  I am not speaking of the precise value of a priest’s soul, but of the value of a regular Joe’s soul.  That is not to say that one is more important than another, for all have infinite value to our Creator, but let us ask instead, what significance does the role of a priest possess if he can be the instrument God uses to save just one or two souls in the course of his priesthood?  And what importance do those laypeople souls possess if they follow their baptismal call to holiness and mission?  How important are just one priest and two lay people in the New Evangelization?  How important are YOU to the New Evangelization and cooperating with the Holy Spirit to bring the people in your life to Jesus?

My own spiritual journey was not unlike many people I meet.  Born around the time of Vatican II, I find that many of my contemporaries lived in homes where religion was present, but confused.  Misinformation abounded, and many of us went on to ignore our faith in college.  It was not until after college, coming into our own as adults, that we began to revisit the idea of faith, and for many of us, through adversity or through the ups and downs of life itself, we found ourselves drawn to God in a new way.  As He always does, God used these moments as opportunities for great conversion, and we became what is often termed as ‘re-verts’ to the faith.  My reversion, return to the Church and setting of my heart on fire for God was, (I am sure), the result of many prayers of long gone, rosary-prayin’ grandmothers, faithful friends, and Holy-Spirit-driven opportunities for grace.  But there was one priest who was the instrument God used to ‘close the deal’ and bring me back to a life of grace and continuous conversion.

Father Peter O’Rourke was a fairly new priest when he showed up at my office looking for me to volunteer to play the organ.  He was new in town and needed an organist for his new parish and had heard that I was a musician and could play.  I wondered if he also heard I had not darkened the doorway of a Catholic Church in many years?  But after a nice lunch and chat about what brought him to my home town, I relented, saying, “Father, I can help you out, but I can’t come every week.”  The thought of giving up my Sunday sleep-in every weekend did not amuse me.  Little did I know at the time, that God was using this man in a powerful way, and that Father O’Rourke was exactly the feisty kind of priest I needed to get my sorry butt back into a pew and get to know Jesus in a way I had not known Him before. 

Over the next few months, I may have missed Mass a couple of times.  But Father O’Rourke didn’t complain.  He just kept showing up at my office once in awhile for an impromptu lunch, where we would discuss faith matters and business and I would argue with him ‘til I was blue in the face.  And I wanted to win.  But every time we fought about this or that, I would research the issue online and buy books and grow ever more hungry for the Truth.  To my great surprise, he was right every time.  And over the next few years, I began to see the genius of Catholicism, and my soul was ignited with a desire for all the world to know what I had learned.  No more ‘cafeteria Catholicism’ for me.  I wanted it all, 110% Catholic.  And this new direction was due, in large part, to the prayers and commitment of Father O’Rourke.  This is still true, more than a decade later, when this dear priest continues to pray for me every day, and is still only a phone call away when I need help on the journey.     

A year or two into my reversion, Father O’Rourke asked if I would go to a Cursillo weekend, and the fire grew stronger.  I could no longer deny it --- I knew I had to bring this information and the love of God and His Church to everyone I knew.  It seemed to me that people simply had a misunderstanding, and if I could clear it up, they would be like me and rejoice in the knowledge of truth that this incredible priest had brought to me in word, deed and the sacraments.  Of course it was not as easy as walking around telling what I knew, and so I began, learning and sharing with family and friends and then clients and colleagues and anyone who would listen.  I did my best to pay attention to the Holy Spirit, and cooperate in quiet ways, not so quiet ways and in prayer.  I read the gospels and tried to follow the example of Christ by authentically loving people, enemies included.  I can not tell you what is in the hearts and souls of anyone I meet on a daily basis, but if I can be the instrument that cooperates with God to pierce even a pin-hole of light into their darkness, then maybe that is all God needs me for that day.  If He wants more, I am trying to listen and ready to go and do whatever He tells me to do.  It was God and Father O’Rourke who did that for me, and so anyone who gets anything good from me, has them to thank.

There have been other heaven-sent priests in my life.  And from each one, I have learned something new.  By way of example, I offer Father John Chmil, who in his peaceful, contemplative witness, taught me the same, and he hardly had to even say a word about it.  His example was enough, as I learned obedience and trust to a greater degree by watching the way he handled adversity and trials.  I wish I was as good as him, but I am working on it. 

I could say the same of Father Chris Sahd, who I never had as a Pastor, but only spoke to a few times regarding vocations when he was the diocesan vocation director.  There is a peace and love that emanates from him that is nothing less than Jesus Himself living within this dear priest.  My current Pastor, Father Ed Michelini is yet another great example and companion on the journey.  He is a great teacher, and I see how he humbly teaches great truths of the Catholic faith, but also stands up strongly when the faith and religious liberty and the unborn are threatened.  He is a tireless worker in the vineyard, and seems always to be bringing Christ to parishioners and strangers alike.  All these men have greatly increased the likelihood of my continuing on the journey, as God uses them every day to make straight my path and yours.

If you are 40+ years old, you may remember a shampoo commercial, I think it was from the 1970s.  I do not remember the brand, but it said something about telling your friends how great the product was, and that if they would tell their friends, and so on, and so on, and so on, then everyone would be better for having this shampoo.  And as they said it, the pictures multiplied over the screen, so that it would seem the whole world could be using this incredible new shampoo in a matter of a few conversations.  This is the result of what is known as exponential growth.  Here is how it works.

If one priest, during the course of his priesthood, was able to cooperate with the Holy Spirit and be the instrument for converting just two souls during his lifetime—just two—And those two souls took heed of their baptismal call to holiness and mission and cooperated with the Holy Spirit to bring Jesus to just two souls, and those four souls brought two souls each to Jesus and those 8 souls did the same, and so on, and so on, and so on……..Then in just 30 steps—thirty—over a billion souls would be brought to Christ through the initiative of that one small priest.  One billion, seventy-three million, seven hundred forty-one thousand, eight hundred twenty-three souls could find their way to Jesus.  Can you imagine?
                     1

                     2

                     4

                     8

                   16

                   32

                   64

                 128

                 256

                 512

              1,024

              2,048

              4,096

              8,192

            16,384

            32,768

            65,536

          131,072

          262,144

          524,288

       1,048,576

       2,097,152

       4,194,304

       8,388,608

     16,777,216

     33,554,432

     67,108,864

   134,217,728

   268,435,456

+ 536,870,912

1,073,741,823

 

Father Cassian Yuhaus was a beautiful, holy priest.  He lived a humble life at St Ann’s Passionist Monastery at the basilica in Scranton.  Who would have known that this dear, brilliant, unassuming, frail man, with an extraordinary love for the Church, had worked side by side with Popes and religious all around the world just a short time ago?  He was friends with Pope John XXIII, Paul VI, John Paul II and he probably knew Cardinal Ratzinger before he became Benedict XVI.  He worked with religious orders worldwide and promoted the cause of Servant of God, Theodore Foley.  He knew Padre Pio and Mother Teresa.  And in his humility he knew me, a person nobody knows at the Vatican or even the Chancery, a person who sits alone in the pew on Sunday.  And yet somehow God brought us together, and this humble saint of a priest cared about me and gave me abundant spiritual direction in the last years of his life.  How blessed I was to know this dear man who helped me on the journey and brought me ever closer to Jesus in his words and in his final suffering.  Little old me received Jesus in many ways from this man, and now I bring what I have learned to others, in word and deed, as best as I can.  But I am just one person—He gave this same help to nuns and priests and brothers around the world who have a far greater impact than I could ever hope to have.  What was the value of this dear priest’s soul when it was breathed into life by our Creator when he was just a tiny little baby in his mother’s womb?  Our Father knew the value.  He created Father Cassian because He loved Him.  And he knew the impact this one small life would have on the world.  And even though Father Cassian has been born into eternal life and met his Beloved Creator face to face, his work for souls continues, and his impact on this earthly plane will last forever in the exponential growth of the seeds he has planted. 

What is the value of a soul?  It is infinite, immeasurable.  Do you realize the value of your own soul?  Of the mission and plan God has for you to help Him in the mission to bring all souls back to Him, so that not one should be lost?  Can you be the instrument that God uses to inspire and save two souls?  Maybe God has even more in mind for you. 

You are beloved by God.  You have a mission in the New Evangelization.  Will you be a planter of seeds and allow God to someday show you how the seeds developed over time, and the importance of your participation?  Or will you let the garden go and let it turn to weeds?  Your soul was made for a purpose—to love God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength.  You are made to know Him, to love him, and to serve Him in this world, so you will be happy with Him forever in heaven.  Let us strive together to be two regular Joe's who do our part for the Kingdom, so that one day we will hear, Well done, my good and faithful servant!

Monday, March 18, 2013

Viva Il Papa!


We have a Pope! Habemus Papam!

      I don’t know about you, but these words fill my heart with joy! And this pope in particular—WOW! Thanks be to God! I am already deeply in love with this dear Papa of ours. And so are a lot of people.

      What makes this man so special? What is it about him that fills me with glee and hope and excitement for the future of the Church? I mean, I have loved our previous popes, and knew them to be our Vicars of Christ on earth, but this dear man seems different. Is it just me? Or does this man, in his uncommon humility and service, exemplify the Jesus we know in the gospels? Our hearts respond to him, because he is already bringing Jesus to us in his powerful example, with barely a word. And it is not that other popes have not also done this, but there is just something different. Can you feel it?

      I was soooo happy that Pope Francis was not one of the ‘Vegas picks,’ so to speak. Watching TV—even EWTN—made the conclave seem like the ‘sausage making’ they talked about last year in Congress. I hated to watch it, and often turned down the sound, waiting for the smoke. The pundits, and even some of the priests, made the conclave seem like politics and factions and decisions based on the notions of men. Barely a scintilla of what I heard actually mentioned the Holy Spirit being responsible for the choice and directing the hearts of the cardinals to pick the man that heaven itself had in mind. Seeing a cardinal (who was unknown to most of the world), walk out on to the balcony, made me feel that this decision came from the hearts of men in tune with the Holy Spirit, and not voting with their own agendas in mind. And THEN, when he made that deep bow, asking the blessing of God by the prayers of the people, and all fell silent, I could not help but pray and cry in thanksgiving for this humble, beautiful Shepherd. My friends, we are BLESSED.


      Once Pope Francis left the balcony, I watched ABC news and EWTN simultaneously, waiting to learn more about our new Holy Father. But having my weekly prayer group meeting that night with 3 of my dearest friends, I decided that I would bake a cake to celebrate the occasion instead. Since I could not help but sing and pray, I ran around the house doing just that, while assembling the ingredients, and decorating the cake with, Habemus Papam! I was thrilled when my friends showed up, and everyone had the same idea. Our simple weekly prayer group turned into a spontaneous celebration, with lasagna, pear gorgonzola salad, crusty bread, ├ęclairs, chocolate covered strawberries, wine, champagne and Pope cake! All this for the love of just 4 ‘Jesus, Mary and Pope-lovin’ girls!’ I love bein’Catholic!

      Something is changing. The Spirit is moving dramatically in the world. Several of us felt a strong urge to pray for the conclave during the hour before the white smoke appeared. I have no doubt that there were many around the world who heard this same call. It was not the average passing thought of, “I should pray for’ this or that, but a strong urge to pray deeply, right then and there, for the conclave. It is interesting to note, that there were cardinals who said before the conclave, that these are ‘dangerous times.’ And if I have learned anything in my life, especially by studying and praying the Gospels, the best attribute to have during dangerous times is not brute strength, but quite the opposite---authentic humility. Jesus had it. Mary had it. Mother Teresa had it. And their lives in Christ changed the world.

      Pope Francis is the chosen Shepherd for this time in history. He is alter Christus. I have no doubt that his life in Jesus, through Mary, will bring great grace and blessing to the Church. Let us make it our commitment to pray more than ever for this dear pope of ours. Viva il Papa!

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Are YOU Ready?


Anything worth doing, is worth doing well, or so the saying goes. Therefore, if we are going to try to make something of our Lenten observance, we should consider now, what will bring us closer to our Beloved Savior, and not leave to chance, what a well thought-out plan can do to help us make the best of this most beautiful, penitential time of the Church.

If we are going to commit ourselves to getting the most out of Lent, then we must first recall what is the purpose of this period of Lent, and how might we fulfill this purpose in a way that is unique to the needs of our individual souls, as well as to the world at large. Scripturally speaking, prayer, fasting and almsgiving are an ideal means for obtaining closer union with our Creator, and they make a great place to start in our consideration of how we might rejuvenate our prayer life, enlivening or strengthening our faith and the practice thereof.

Let’s begin with prayer. How can we pray more? Is it merely a matter of time for you? Has setting aside daily time solely for God been lacking in your life lately? Consider scheduling God into your life, by getting up earlier, staying up later or giving up something that takes time away from Him. If you endeavor to keep this daily appointment with God, you may well find that this habit of conversing with Him becomes one you will never give up, even long after Lent is over.

How can we enrich our souls by praying differently? Are you someone who has set prayers to recite? Maybe your prayer is more about you talking at God and never letting Him get a word in edgewise? Would some time in silence benefit your relationship with the Lord, giving Him the chance to minister to your soul and bring you peace? Spending time in silence in front of the Blessed Sacrament is always a good idea. Or maybe you are someone who would benefit from praying some of the Liturgy of the Hours or adding more of the ‘hours’ to your prayer life? The Office of Readings is a great way to read scripture every day, and to also read a page or two from the writings of the Fathers of our Church. If you don’t have the books to do this, you can find the prayers online here. Maybe you are so busy, that the best you can do some days is to make your work a prayer? Endeavor to live every moment of your life in the presence of God, by keeping Him on your mind as you work and offering your work and daily chores to Him for all of His (and your) intentions.

What about spiritual practices like going to confession and attending daily Mass? Receiving the Eucharist is food for the soul, and what better time to feed your hungry soul with a little more ‘soul food,’than in the days leading up to the commemoration of the ultimate sacrifice of our beloved Jesus, when he literally gave His Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity for our salvation. And speaking of the ultimate sacrifice, how about attending the Stations of the Cross at your parish? Maybe find a companion book or booklet on the stations, and spend time meditating on the Way of the Cross and what each step means to your life. If you are looking for some inspiration for your meditations, you can find Blessed Anna Catherine Emmerich’s ‘Dolorous Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ,’free online here.

Fasting is another great tool for tuning up your prayer life and growing closer to the Lord. The Church asks us to fast on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, but you might be surprised to see what happens in your spiritual life, when you add another day, here and there. Giving up the daily comfort of so much food, actually draws your heart and mind to thoughts of God, and He always blesses this small sacrifice in ways far beyond what we give.

Fasting could also be fasting for the duration of Lent on just one thing that you really like. Many people fast from eating sweets or drinking coffee, things like that. But you could also fast from doing something you like, for instance, giving up TV or computer games or Facebook. Ever time you think of doing the thing you’ve given up or you miss doing it, your mind is immediately directed to Jesus, the reason for your sacrifice. It may seem small, but every glance toward heaven is a step closer to the ultimate Lover of our souls.

Fasting also gives us extra time for something else. If we give up something that takes too much of our time and is not good for moving us closer to God, we can replace that thing with something that brings us greater understanding, such as reading scripture and spiritual books, listening to uplifting podcasts or CDs on faith issues, spending time in adoration or whatever helps you, as a unique child of God, to bring you in to closer union with Father, Son and holy Spirit.

Finally, we consider almsgiving. Most people consider almsgiving as a matter of giving freely to support the poor. But there is more to it than that. Perhaps you can consider the works of mercy and give to the poor in other ways you have never thought of trying. Feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, visiting those in prison or in hospital are just a few of the things you can do to bring Jesus to the most vulnerable. Giving money is one thing, but giving of yourself is entirely different, and we should be doing it every day. Maybe someone in your own family is living in a poverty of spirit that could really benefit from your presence, easing their lonliness. Maybe you have an idea for reaching out to people in your local nursing home. Maybe this Lent will be the time when we offer ourselves to the One who offered Himself, by giving of ourselves in greater and more meaningful ways.




And the king will say to them in reply,

‘Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.’ MATTHEW 25:37-40


Let’s make this the best Lent of our lives and be truly ready to welcome our Risen Lord when Easter comes and we can at last proclaim, He is risen! He is risen indeed.

www.SentByTheSpirit.com

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Angels Among Us

           I have a great love for my guardian angel. Too many people forget they even have a guardian angel after they leave their childhood behind. But from the day of our conception, God has given us this great gift. This is the story of my most recent and wonderful encounter with my dear angel.

      On the day after Christmas, we had a huge snowstorm here in NE Pennsylvania. I could not avoid driving, as my father slipped on ice when the storm began, and broke his leg, needing some help and a ride home from the hospital.
 
      The ride to his home, 5 miles away from the hospital, was treacherous. I was driving his car, with him in the passenger seat, and the roads literally had not been plowed. It was dark, and all I could do was follow the tracks ahead of me. It was a long, slow, white-knuckle ride, with 6+ inches of snow on the road. All I could do was follow the tracks of the last vehicle to travel this way.
 
      By the time we arrived and got him settled into his house so I could go back home, there were another 2 inches on the car. I again cleaned the snow off, and as I backed out of the driveway, I said a prayer and asked my guardian angel to keep the car on the road. I had not gone far, when from out of nowhere, I noticed a vehicle in front of me, just far enough away that I could not identify it. This was odd, because I saw no vehicles pass me when I backed out on to the road. It had seemed completely deserted.

      The snow was perfectly even on my side of the road, but it did not seem like snow, as it was seemingly pristine and smooth to the ground, with the 8+ inches on the other side of the road still very visible with deep tire tracks. It was snowing like crazy, so this did not make sense. At first, I thought this vehicle must have been a plow, since I was the first one on this perfectly white road, but the path was much wider than a plow. And the vehicle did not look like a plow, with yellow flashing lights on the top and brake lights on the back. All it had was two spotlights on the back, (no brake lights or flashers), one higher and the other lower, guiding me home.
 
      Finally, it dawned on me---How is it that I was driving on this white road with a vehicle in front of me that left no tracks? A plow usually leaves a mess behind it, better than the snow in front of it, yes, but a mess, nonetheless. It was if I was the only one on the road! And what kind of a vehicle has no brake lights? I have never seen a plow with no yellow flashing lights.....So when I got close to my house, I tried to get a better look, thinking I would see better in town with the street lights illuminating the path. When we rounded a bend in the road, coming close to the part of town with lights, I lost sight of the vehicle for about 2 seconds. When I got back on the straightaway, the vehicle was gone--It had completely vanished! I looked right and left and checked all of the parking lots it could have pulled into. But I only lost sight of it for 2 seconds! It could not have travelled fast enough to lose me in that storm.....it simply disappeared when I no longer needed it.
 
      Thanks be to God and my Guardian Angel!