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?





























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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!

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