Saturday, December 26, 2009

Mass this weekend focuses on the Holy Family. Although we annually celebrate this feast at this time, it is particularly significant this year because of recent events in the news. The death of eleven year old Sarah Foxwell in Maryland and the announcement that a five year old who was missing had been found in Phoenix mirrors the pain and anguish that Mary and Joseph felt when they discovered their son, Jesus, was missing. In Luke’s Gospel, we learn that “Each year Jesus’ parents went to Jerusalem for the feast of Passover, and when he was twelve years old, they went up according to festival custom. After they had completed its days, as they were returning, the boy Jesus remained behind in Jerusalem, but his parents did not know it. Thinking that he was in the caravan, they journeyed for a day and looked for him among their relatives and acquaintances, but not finding him, they returned to Jerusalem to look for him. After three days they found him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions, and all who heard him were astounded at his understanding and his answers. When his parents saw him, they were astonished, and his mother said to him, Son, why have you done this to us? Your father and I have been looking for you with great anxiety.” This great anxiety that Mary describes is a heart wrenching feeling that consumes your mind and fills it with the most horrific thoughts imaginable. Joseph had to feel particular pain as he was asked by God to serve as Jesus’ earthly father, a task that undoubtedly made Joseph feel inadequate on a daily basis. As a father, I can certainly empathize with Joseph but again want to emphasize that Joseph’s typically difficult task was made monumental by the fact that he was being asked to care for the Savior of the world. Mary’s anguish is palpable and even if she knew of Jesus’ purpose and mission, she was his mother and could not deny her deep love and maternal instincts. I can only imagine how the Foxwell family is feeling at this moment. To have your child taken from you in such a brutal way is unfathomable and something none of us should have to experience. It goes to one of the questions I asked people in the seven question survey. Why do bad thing happen to good people? It is a difficult question to answer. We will have to console ourselves with the fact that Sarah’s death came at the hands of a sick and depraved individual who surely is not allowing God to lead his life. I am praying for the Foxwell family and all other families that have lost a child to evil this year. I urge you to do the same. Jesus’ answer to Mary’s question from the Gospel of Luke was simple and direct, “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” Being in God’s house at this time is a good thing. But we must extend His house to the entire world and maybe we can bring an end to any other innocent children dying at the hands of evil and destructive people.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

The holidays are a joyful time but can also bring apprehension and anxiety. We are excited about visiting with our family but we very often are anticipating discord. Frequently this time of the year involves going “home” to our parent’s house for the Christmas celebration. The anxiety level is often raised on both sides. The parents want everything to be perfect and for all of the existing problems to be put aside, at least for the day. The “children” (who are now adults very often with children of their own) are anticipating the judgment they will have to endure from their parents. A lot of people feel like their parents want to change them so the holiday celebration becomes one of avoidance and allusion instead of a day of enjoyment. St. Paul offers some good advice for times such as these. In Ephesians 6:4, St. Paul tells parents to not irritate or provoke their children to anger but instead to rear them in the training and discipline and the counsel and admonition of the Lord. Paul very wisely is pointing out that the provocation will usually only serve to create a resentful attitude in the child toward the parent. As parents, love and acceptance are two of the greatest gifts we can give our children. When we offer this path, our children are then free to become the people God designed them to be. If we try to manipulate our children, we are not loving them. Loving them means setting them free to be who they are and believing that God has a plan for them. The Book of Proverbs also offers us advice on this matter in 22:6, “Train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” He or she will also, more than likely, not depart from you either. That is, after all, what we are trying to do as we love and nurture our children to adulthood. We want to build lifelong relationships with them. We want to be part of their lives and we want them to be part of ours. If you are the parent in this situation, I urge to open your heart and your home this Christmas and invite your children in just as God created them. If you are the child in this situation, I encourage you to realize that your parents are not perfect but are usually trying to be the best they know how. Perhaps a frank conversation with them about how their manipulation makes you feel would be the best Christmas gift. But remember to honor their role in your life. Share with them the spiritual journey you are on and talk to them about your understanding of where God is leading you. Removing strife and disharmony from your life is an ongoing challenge but you should use this beautiful season as a time to make a change in your life. Taking the first step is the most difficult but think of Mary accepting God’s offer. Think of Joseph accepting his role as earthly father. Think of Jesus accepting the heaviest burden of all. Their example provides a great template for the rest of us. Have a blessed Christmas.

Friday, December 18, 2009

The scripture today comes from Mark 1:12-13, “At once the Spirit drove him out into the desert, and he remained in the desert for forty days, tempted by Satan. He was among wild beasts, and the angels ministered to him.” It is short and concise. The story is expanded in the other gospels, but the message is important when we look to how we should arm ourselves to deal with the temptation of the devil. We must be prepared to go to war with the devil each day. The temptations we faced are just as real as the ones that Jesus encountered over 2000 years ago. What sort of armor do you have? Are you accessing all of the weapons available to you to deal with Satan? We know from Ephesians 6:11 that the devil employs schemes against us using the forces of darkness. We are urged to take on the full armor of God and to stand firm against this dark force. Jesus was able to employ the help of angels and so are we. Many people have discovered the great aid offered by St. Michael the Archangel. He is one of the principal angels. His name was a war cry of the good angels in the war against the evil one and his followers. Saint Michael is spoken of in the book of Revelations 12:7-8, “And there was war in heaven. Michael and his angels fought against the dragon, and the dragon and his angels fought back. But he was not strong enough, and they lost their place in heaven. The great dragon was hurled down--that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray. He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him.” Prayer is a powerful antidote to evil and asking others to join us in prayer is a good strategy to combat the evil and wicked plans of Satan. If you are like me, you often feel that there are so many bad things coming at you at once that you quickly become overwhelmed. It is part of the plan of the devil to effect our lives without us even realizing what is going on and sending multiple threats and attacks is a time-worn war tactic. The armor that God has provided is the best method for fending off these attacks. The breastplate of righteousness is a good first step. Righteousness speaks to the fact that our actions are justified. We know they are if we are with Jesus Christ, who paid the price for us by shedding his blood. We are sanctified by Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross and his blood has been sprinkled upon the altar to cover all our sins. Every one of our sins have been purged by His blood, and we have been set apart to God because we are now His possession. Another useful piece of armor is the belt of truth. Living in the truth by walking the path set out by Jesus is extremely powerful. I challenge you to think of the many times in your life when the revelation of truth could have prevented something bad from happening. Being in the truth and urging others to be truthful provides a powerful foundation to build upon. More importantly, when you hear a whispered lie from the devil, stop and focus on the truth and provide the light that will dispel the misinformation. Very often that is the missing ingredient in our lives that prevents us from living happy and living on purpose for Jesus. Our baptism calls for us to attain a higher degree of virtue and holiness and to revel in the sanctification that is provided by the diving grace of Jesus. This battle is constant and ongoing but we are called to be God’s warriors and prayer is the best weapon we have.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

My wife and I taught religious education (CCD) for many years and enjoyed it immensely. It is an important part of the Catholic Church’s mission as there are many folks who cannot afford Catholic schools. One of the questions that we always got each year from our students and sometimes from parents was “what does catechism mean?” It is an interesting word. On the surface, we probably think of catechism for what it represents. It is school or class and we are taken to catechism by our parents once a week to learn about God and His Church. But the Church defines catechism much more deeply. After all, the definitive source for all things Catholic is the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Last updated in 1992, the Catechism was created by the Church in response to her mission to guard the deposit of faith which the Lord entrusted to His Church. It is the reference text that is a statement of the Church's faith and of catholic doctrine, attested to or illumined by Sacred Scripture, the Apostolic Tradition and the Church's Magisterium. It is used for teaching the faith and is a valid and legitimate instrument for ecclesial communion. It is a “sure and authentic reference text for teaching catholic doctrine and particularly for preparing local catechisms. It is also offered to all the faithful who wish to deepen their knowledge of the unfathomable riches of salvation (cf. Eph 3:8). It is meant to support ecumenical efforts that are moved by the holy desire for the unity of all Christians, showing carefully the content and wondrous harmony of the catholic faith. The Catechism of the Catholic Church, lastly, is offered to every individual who asks us to give an account of the hope that is in us (cf. 1 Pt 3:15) and who wants to know what the Catholic Church believes” (taken from the opening of the latest edition). It is this local catechism that I think most of the questioning was about and it is an intriguing question. One of the best examples I could find to use as an example of a local catechism comes from the great Catholic writer, Father John Carville who writes a column in the Catholic Commentator, the official newspaper for the Diocese of Baton Rouge. He notes that “Christmas is a complete catechism. The feast teaches us through Scripture, through story, through song, through symbol, even through smell and taste. We are led by revelation and imagination from the event of Jesus’ birth to the mystery that pervaded his entire life: “And the word became flesh and dwelt among us.” We rejoice at the dawning of a light that in 2,000 years the darkness has never overcome and we wonder at the vulnerability of God’s unconquerable grace which came to us in human flesh.” Carville’s description allows us to see through example that a catechism is the means and method that we use to understand our faith. The use of the Bible to understand God’s message is integral to our faith. We listen to the proclamation of readings from the Bible each Sunday and for daily communicants, each day. The use of songs further illuminates the message and also allows us to offer praise and worship to our Lord. The symbolism of Christmas surrounds us in the form of the Nativity, trumpeting angels, the star of Bethlehem, and Joseph leading the pregnant Mary on a donkey. Christmas does have its own smell and taste. Fr. Carville has captured the concept of catechism perfectly but also offers us the perfect gift when he reminds us that the “word became flesh and dwelt among us.” It is the ultimate gift from God and the entire reason we prepare to celebrate the most important birthday in the history of the world. I hope that the catechism of Christmas provides you the perfect opportunity to celebrate the birth of our Savior and allows you to deepen your relationship with God our Father.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

There is controversy today about a poster that is being used to promote the upcoming U.S. Census. You can view it here but it essentially depicts the Holy Family making their way back to Bethlehem for the census. As we all know, when they arrived there was no room at the inn so they were allowed to stay in the barn and Jesus was born there. Some folks are saying that the poster is sacrilegious. I do not think it is and in fact, brings focus to Jesus just when many folks lose sight of what Christmas is all about. Maybe my logic is simplistic but I think that it depicts the truth about the birth of Jesus. It also sends the message that we should try to be more like Jesus, Mary and Joseph. The art work is not derogatory, as is often the case, and in fact is similar to what you would find on a Christmas card. I was alerted to the controversy by an article in a national newspaper. The comments on the poster are mainly about the census itself. It seems that people are very concerned that the U.S. Government will now know where they live. I am not going to try to figure that out. I also wanted to mention that I received a few comments on the Yahweh post. The conversation centered on the fear that a return to the past, i.e. Latin Rites, etc., will be detrimental to the Church. Many fear that our young people will not respond to this tradition. I agree that the current form of Mass is much more beneficial to me as a Christian. I am much more engaged and truly feel connected to the Lord throughout the worship and praise. It is my hope that people will become more actively involved in their salvation and spiritual journey. That requires each of us to live in the moment. When we are praying, we should be only focused on that. It is important to reserve part of our day for conversation with the Lord. Finding the time and place for solitude is equably important and very often the most difficult task we face. Take another look at the poster of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph. I am sure that Mary and Joseph spent much of that trip in conversation with God. Maybe we all need a Bethlehem journey moment in this time of frenetic rushing.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Did you know that Pope Benedict has had the name Yahweh removed from all things Catholic? I discovered this yesterday, on the third Sunday of Advent, called Gaudete (Latin for "rejoice") Sunday. The choir was warming up and I heard the director tell everyone to change the word Yahweh to Lord in the song "I Lift Up My Soul." Of course the director merely offered that the pastor had made the change without an explanation. I went to the Catholic News Service (CNS) and discovered that this change was made last year in deference to the Jewish people. It really is an interesting story. The name of God has been declared unpronounceable in the Jewish tradition and it is related mostly to honoring God. The Jewish people used the four letters YHWH to represent God. I guess over the years that came to be pronounced as Yahweh. At the end of the day, I am fine with this change. What I found to be disturbing is the abruptness of the change. Little did I know that the instruction had come form the Vatican last year. I guess my pastor was busy with other things. I would have liked an explanation from the pulpit on this as I think it is a wonderful teaching moment. I did send my pastor an email about this, just in case you think that I am only complaining but not doing anything about it. It also allowed me to send an email to the choir about what was going on. Who knows, maybe it will prompt someone to learn more about their religion and the rich tradition that exists. I have tried to stay up to date with the Church's announcements but I guess I was busy doing other things as well. Returning back to the season of Advent, the CNS did have a terrific story about Pope Benedict's message for this Christmas. "The secret to experiencing true joy is not found in accumulating lots of things, but from feeling loved by the Lord and being generous to others," Pope Benedict XVI said. Real joy is feeling that one's personal and social life "is touched and filled by a great mystery, the mystery of God's love," he said December 13 before his midday recitation of the Angelus with pilgrims in St. Peter's Square. It is a nice reminder especially at this time of the year when billboards, TV and radio are blaring that there are only ten shopping days left before Christmas. In reality, there are only ten days left for us to plan how we will reach out to friends and family in a manner that is respectful of the birth of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. I urge you to take a half hour or so to think about that. What could be more welcomed by someone who loves you than to get to spend some time with you? Spend a little less time at the mall and a little more time in fellowship with those you love. Merry Christmas.

Friday, December 11, 2009

The pro-life Nelson-Hatch amendment (the Senate version of the Stupak ban on public funding of abortion) has been rejected in the Senate by a 54–45 vote. The opposition of Senator Reid and his colleagues to the Hatch-Nelson amendment illustrates clearly that this bill is not about health-care accessibility or affordability. It is largely a vehicle to sneak in the wolf of federally-funded elective abortion under disguise of health-care-reform clothing. Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, Chair of the bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities, said: “Congress needs to separate facts and truth from political rhetoric on abortion funding. Even our opponents claim they do not support federal funding for elective abortions and they want current restrictions to apply. The way to settle this often misleading debate is simply, clearly and explicitly to apply Hyde restrictions to all the federal funds in the legislation. That is what the House did and what the final bill must do. The Senate should not approve this bill in its current form.” I literally feel like I have been transported to the world created by C. S. Lewis in his masterpiece The Screwtape Letters. The current administration is coming at us so fast and furiously, we literally do not have time to stop and think. It is clear that this strategy has been adopted in hopes that we will not have time to mount any opposition as they continue to ride roughshod over our civil liberties and the process of democracy that is so dear to the American way. I am prayerful that the Christians in Washington D. C. are being vigilant and letting the rest of us know what is happening. It is a very unsettling time to be an American who chooses to life his life following Christ's example. I know that in the end, the Lord will achieve victory but the ensuing journey is nauseating. Case in point: Diane Francis calling for planetary adoption of China's one-child policy. This policy calls for any woman who already has one child to murder any of her other children at conception. What sort of person develops villainous ideas like this? How does Ms. Francis justify this policy? I am fearful that something terrible must have occurred in Ms. Francis' life that has prevented her from developing compassion, empathy, and logic. I urge you to pray for the conversion of Diane Francis and an end to her lunacy.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

The response to the seven question survey has been terrific. I have found inspiration in the responses from the participants and I hope they are helping you on your spiritual journey as well. Today I am adding the thoughts from Monsignor Charles B. King, who serves as Pastor of Immaculate Conception Church in Denton, Texas. Founded in 1894, Immaculate Conception is the older of the two Catholic parishes in Denton. They described themselves as a welcoming and friendly parish family; a community that is both multi-cultural and multi-ethnic, with more than twenty-five hundred registered families. I hope you enjoy Monsignor King’s thoughtful reflections. If you would like to respond to the seven questions yourself, please do so and send them to me at Merry Christmas!

1. What is the biggest challenge to your faith that you have faced so far? The biggest challenge to my faith has been the temptation to put material things and satisfactions ahead of my commitment to Christ. My daily prayer is a petition to Christ to keep me from temptations to the flesh and material attractions.

2. What scripture do you find yourself turning to most often? My favorite Scripture passage is the Sixth Chapter of the Gospel of John in which John shows Jesus power over the forces of nature in the multiplication of the loaves and fishes and His ability to control the forces of nature as He walks on water, both of which events preceded His teaching on the Eucharist at the synagogue in Capernaum.

3. How do you think God is revealing his presence to us in the world today? I am satisfied that God is revealing Himself in the forces of nature that challenge us to use our God-Given powers to bring nature under control for the good of mankind.

4. Do you have a book that you would recommend to people trying to develop their spirituality? I would recommend to those able to handle a more challenging book, The Confessions of St. Augustine.

5. Why do you think bad things happen to good people? I think bad things happen to good people because good people fail to practice the commandments of Chris to love. If we were faithful to those commandments, then the expenditures we put into the forces of destruction could have been used to create the environment that would enable people to live a quality life. Beyond that, the bad things that happen in our world are part of the mystery that daily challenges us to take up our cross to follow Jesus.

6. What have you found is the most effective way to introduce the word of God to a nonbeliever? The most effective way I have found to introduce non-believers to the Lord are the actions by which I live my faith day to day. That seems to get people’s attention and arouses in them the interest that often leads to questions about my faith and a desire to share it.

7. Do you have a favorite saint and if so, why? My favorite Saint is Charles Borromeo, a reformer in the Church who gave his life to getting the Church straightened out and led a life of austerity that backed up his conviction in Jesus Christ. He was named a Cardinal at the age of 16 and devoted his life to the reform of the Church and in particular to the reform of Clergy Formation.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

I just finished a great book by Edward Rowell called Emma's Journal. I found myself crying at the end. Not becasue it was sad but because it was simply a beautiful story. The premise is based on the life of Emma Estes who was in an abusive relationship for most of her life. Once her husband dies and her grown children have left, she makes a life altering decision to turn everything over to God. Her journey is mainly guided by the scripture in Luke 1:80 which describes Jesus' life between His childhood and when He begins His ministry. Emma decides to live a life of purpose and to make a difference in the world around her. This is not a literary masterpiece but a simple book that brings hope. Rowell gives us a nice blueprint for improving our life each day with small steps that get us to change our bad habits into good. It is easy to read and would be appropriate for children as well (ages 10 and up). What this book did for me was two-fold. It was reassuring in the fact that people can change if they want to but it is best to set small, reachable goals that can help us get to the person we were meant to be. Living a life on purpose means that we are making conscience Godly decisions; ones grounded in our beliefs and faith. In addition, it reminded me that Jesus again provides the best example of how we should choose to live our lives. He was relational and sought people out. He engaged them in conversation (woman at the well) and truly cared for them. He did not judge, although He could, and He sought to help them see that God loved them. The heroine in the book, Emma, is an oversimplification but her journey is inspirational. Although she was not a great mother to her two children, when she decides to live a purposeful life, she becomes a great mother to so many others. The first entry in her journal reads, "When it’s time for me to go, I just want to know that my life made a difference, Lord." Isn't that something we all desire? Merry Christmas to you.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

One of the most beautiful modern Christmas songs that has emerged recently is Mary Did You Know? I have heard a number of folks sing it and the impact is always the same. The song makes you stop and think about Mary and what she experienced when she was asked to carry Jesus. Isn't that what a good song is supposed to do? Not only entertain you but take you to another place. It always makes me think of the time before Jesus' birth when Mary was in Bethlehem. Her relationship with Joseph was already established but we know that this certainly caused him to reconsider the prospects of marriage with this young woman, that is until God sent his angel to intervene. Since I am not a woman and cannot ever experience the miracle of child birth personally, it is almost impossible for me to know on a biological level what Mary felt as this baby grew inside of her. But I can, as a parent, empathize with her feelings of doubt, concern, and wonder. How was this child going to change her life? Would she be able to be a good parent? What type of adult would her child become? It is here, of course, that Mary has a distinct advantage over all of us. She is assured by God that this child is coming to save the world. Her child, Jesus, will provide the path to heaven for all of us. Those facts probably did more to make her anxious than comfort her. Yet she is the picture of calm and composure. Mary even travels to visit Elizabeth her cousin. I especially like the part in the song where it asks, "Mary did you know that your baby boy would one day walk on water?" She probably did not think of it but if she had, I assume she would have known that this was a possibility. After all, this is God's own Son. He could do anything and was not bound by the limitations of humanness. Another wonderful line in the song says, "When you kiss your little baby, you've kissed the face of God." That is surely something that we can all dream about. To one day kiss the face of God in heaven provides me with great hope and incentive. I am driven to meet my God in heaven and show my adoration face to face. I hope that this Christmas season brings moments of great joy to you and yours. I encourage you to take the time to listen to songs like this one. I assure you it will help you to prepare for the celebration on December 25.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Anticipation and preparation are the keywords for the Advent Season. How are you preparing to celebrate the birth of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ? Is the anticipation you are feeling merely the pressure created by shopping, parties, and other commercial hassles? It is very difficult to slow down at this time of the year and really think about the meaning of December 25. But is it incumbent upon you to find the time to focus on the meaning of Christmas as a Christian. Not only are we celebrating the birth of Jesus but anticipating His second coming. The manifestation of Jesus to the world in His human form provides us the perfect opportunity to realize that we are not alone. A good example of the anticipation comes from Mary's cousin Elizabeth and appears in the Gospel of Luke 1:41-45, "When Elizabeth heard Mary's greeting, the infant leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth, filled with the holy Spirit, cried out in a loud voice and said, 'Most blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And how does this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For at the moment the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the infant in my womb leaped for joy. Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled.'" Although Elizabeth was expecting her own child after being barren for many years, she realized the importance of Mary's pregnancy. Elizabeth could be described as the first Christian. She is faithful to God's word and honors and adores Jesus while He is still in Mary's womb. What a wonderful witness and example for us all. Later, her son John provides a perfect example of preparation when he is baptizing people in the Jordan as the Gospel of Mark 1:3-5 tells us, "A voice of one crying out in the desert: 'Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths.' John (the) Baptist appeared in the desert proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. People of the whole Judean countryside and all the inhabitants of Jerusalem were going out to him and were being baptized by him in the Jordan River as they acknowledged their sins." How can we make straight the path for the Lord? I think this is again an example of God asking us to be His hands and feet on earth. We are called to share the Good News. We are called to talk with each other about God. That is why I started this blog and why I have asked folks to answer the seven question survey. Being in communication about our spiritual journey allows us to grow personally but also offers a path for others, those who are struggling or may just need a nudge. I hope that you are able to spend a portion of each day during Advent preparing to celebrate Christ's birth and anticipating the glory that is to come. Merry Christmas!

Monday, November 30, 2009

Just back from a vacation with the family and it brought some issues to the surface. Anytime you spend 5-6 days with adult children in close quarters, I think there will be times when tempers will flare. Many times it is because people are tired. Anyway, I encountered a scenario that I want to share with the other fathers (parents). One of my daughters, who has been designated the family’s complainer, had a trying set of days. Our schedule for the trip was very heavy and she was looking for some time to relax. Unfortunately there were few breaks and the pace took its toll on her. Eventually, as it always does, it bubbled to the top and her temper let loose. She said something that was extremely hurtful to me. It was a flippant statement and in hindsight, she did not intend for it to be so hurtful but it was. My reacion was not what I wanted it to be as I was also tired. The entire scenario changes when parent and child become two adults. As a parent, you always have expectations. When they are not met you are disappointed. But at the end of the day, it is still your child. How exactly do you prepare for this situation? Most of the Bible scenarios depict the Holy Family when Jesus was a child. The Wedding at Cana gives us a concrete example of Jesus and Mary as adults but I am relatively sure that Mary was aware of Jesus’ divinity at that point so that changes the paradigm. Jesus had a divine mission and Mary was definitely part of the plan. Was she disappointed with Jesus’ response? John 2:4 says, “ Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, how does your concern affect me? My hour has not yet come.’ What would we do if our child addressed us as Jesus did to his Mother in this passage. Of course we are missing the tone here but it appears to be abrupt. We know of course from the Bible that Jesus was tender, loving and gentle. Of course he would have held his Mother close to his heart. He knew that God had chosen her to be the mother of the Savior of the world. Still the rebuke seems harsh. Her response is not. John 2:5 says, “His mother said to the servers, ‘Do whatever he tells you.’ Her response does not express anger at all. Is this how God expects us to react to hurtful comments from our children? I think we must review each situation as it comes. What sort of comment is our adult child making? Is it a personal attack? Are they delivering a message from our Father that will benefit our spiritual growth? I always return to my early philosophy of child rearing. I have set certain expectation for my children, who are on loan from God. I expect for them to be good Christians who love God. I expect them to live by the Ten Commandments and the fourth addresses this point. Respect for you parents involves controlling your tongue. I have done it many times with my parents and I expect my children to do the same. But I must also respect them as a gift from God and I must learn to curb my tongue as well, no matter if I am tired or worn out. I guess it was a teaching and learning moment in this journey as a parent.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Becoming the person you want to be is not an easy job. Being of the world rather than in the world leads us to make many choices that do not assist our spiritual journey. The message is very fuzzy at best when you are operating in the humanistic realm. Should we collect worldly goods? Is my car and house good enough? Why is that person making more money than me? God's message is clear on the other hand. We are to love and honor God. We are to love our neighbors as we love ourselves. Jesus even gave us beatitudes to give us something to do while on earth. So as we choose our path to become who we want to be, these choices are the very things that turn us into the person we become. That is why it is so important to make our decisions carefully. I suggest you make them in consultation with God. He is here to help us on our journey. I know it is very easy to ignore the Godly path. We are offered so much in our world, especially in the U.S. but not here alone. How often have you found yourself stuck down a path that you did not even know you were choosing? We learn how to make choices but very often leave out the most important step: prayer. By praying we are asking God for help but we are also stopping the process long enough to notice that there may be consequences for our decisions. Did we anticipate that twist? Does this path really accomplish what we thought? God wants to be in conversation with us. But it is not the human conversation we hold with one another. It is between our Creator and us. That is a conversation that takes place on many difference levels. It may come from your conscience. It may be a guardian angel that is sent to help you. It could be a book that you are compelled to read. It could be an interruption to your day that stops something else. Allowing God into your life allows you to be more thoughtful in your decision making process. It makes you think for a higher purpose. It makes you make decisions for eternity rather than for the next day, week or month. Ask God to be in conversation with you. Then the choices you make will start to become the ones that will help you become the person you want to be rather that what you have merely become.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

The pelicans are back in Baton Rouge. Passing the City Park Lake this morning was a stunning experience. The gleaming white of the pelicans contrasted against the greenish water of the lake and made for a beautiful start to the day that the Lord has blessed us with. I had to stop and thank our Father God for creating such incredible creatures. Their long golden beaks pecking in the water for nourishment created ripples that made the entire lake come alive. It reminded me that the Church uses the pelican as a symbol and I have seen it used in many churches around the U.S. The pelican is a iconic symbol of the atonement and the Redeemer. Many years ago, people began to realize that the pelican would wound itself in order to feed its young with its blood and to bring to life those who were dead. "Pelican in her piety" in iconic and symbolical art, is a representation of a pelican in the act of wounding her breast in order to nourish her young with her blood, a practice fabulously attributed to the bird. The pelican cutting open its own breast represents Christ’s death on the cross, and the shedding of His blood to revive us and therefore adopted as a symbol of the Redeemer and of charity. An explanation of this is that the pelican’s bill has a crimson red tip and the contrast of this red tip against the white breast probably gave rise to the tradition that the bird tore her own breast to feed her young with her blood. Because early Catholic explorers found indigenous brown pelicans along the U.S. Gulf coast, and because of the pelican’s special place in Christianity, the pelican was chosen to represent the Catholic Church in Louisiana. From these traditions, the pelican became the official emblem of the State of Louisiana, and the brown pelican, the state bird. The pelican was adopted for the State Seal in 1902, and the State Flag featuring a pelican was adopted in 1912. Just another example of the Catholic Church establishing traditions and creating lasting symbols that have become part of the fabric of America, once and forever a Christian nation. The sacrifice of the mother pelican for her young is a perfect symbol to remind us of Christ's ultimate sacrifice on the cross. Being washed by the blood of Jesus allows us to live in the security that we only need Him in order to be saved and that we do not have anything to prove because He is there to save us.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

The Washington D.C. City Council inched closer to allowing same sex "marriages" in the District of Columbia last Tuesday when they voted the legislation out of the Committee on Public Safety and Judiciary. The panel refused to include protections for religious organizations, putting at risk the numerous churches in the region that provide goods and services to the needy. It places a horrifying burden on the religious organizations who would have to decide between their faith or compliance with the district’s demands. One of the largest area provider of relief services, the Catholic Archdiocese of Washington, took a stand last Wednesday, just as their counterparts in Massachusetts' had done in that state, and refused to back down to the D.C. Council's bullying tactics. The Catholic Church provides a wide range of direct services for those in need in our nation's capitol, including physical and mental health care, legal care, immigration, employment services, counseling, shelter, education, adoption, foster care and services for the developmentally disabled. During the committee proceedings many of the council members were openly mocking religious concerns and one councilman, David Catania, told those gathered that if people of faith refuse to comply with his demands, the city will find someone else to take over everything they do. That will be very difficult for the city to do for they will quickly find, without faith there is little good works. It speaks volumes about the folks on the City Council and what their service to the public is really about. Separation of church and state works both ways. It appears when they need Christians to do the heavy lifting, we are welcomed in. But when we stand up for our faith and try to remain true to the path of God, we are shown the door. I am reminded of the beautiful mural of the wedding of Joseph and Mary that is painted on the walls of St. Joseph Abbey in Covington, Louisiana. It is the only time I have seen this depiction but it is full of life and love. Joseph stares tenderly at his bride. Mary looks content and holy. It is, of course, an idealized image of marriage but it truly represents my feelings on my wedding day. The actions of the City Council remind me of the legal system disputes discussed in the Bible. When Jesus discusses the casuistic law system and how it differs from the laws of the Torah, he is illustrating the differences in man-made laws and the commandments of God our father. The debate continues unabated but we must stand firm as Jesus and his disciples did more than 2,000 years ago. The disappointing fact in the modern day disagreement is that the poor and helpless may be the victims. But I am reassured by my God that good people will not let this happen and there will be a new group of Jesus radicals who will answer the call of the poor.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Father Bill Osborn is pastor of St. Bernard’s Parish in Redfield, South Dakota. He graciously took the time to answer the seven questions and I am thrilled to post his responses below. If you would like to answer the brief survey, simply cut and paste the questions followed by your responses and email them to I promise to post them. Now get ready for some straight to the point wisdom from Father Bill.

1. What is the biggest challenge to your faith that you have faced so far? People leaving the church.

2. What scripture do you find yourself turning to most often? John 6:53 (“Jesus said to them, "Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you.”)

3. How do you think God is revealing his presence to us in the world today? In so many ways through others.

4. Do you have a book that you would recommend to people trying to develop their spirituality? The Bible

5. Why do you think bad things happen to good people? As a test to strengthen their faith.

6. What have you found is the most effective way to introduce the word of God to a nonbeliever? Show God’s love to them in action.

7. Do you have a favorite saint and if so, why? St. Jude hears prayers. St. Anthony of Padua finds lost things.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Have you ever felt like a doormat? Jesus tells us that we are supposed to forgive but does that mean we lose ourselves in the process? Are we okay with not being right all the time? Sometimes we think we are just as right as the other person but we are probably just as wrong. I find that taking some time away from the situation helps tremendously. We try so hard to convince the other person that our point of view is right that we forget about God in the process. Sometimes stepping back and letting God work is the best solution. Sometimes God works on us as well. Understanding that what is driving us often is mind garbage. The devil spends a lot of time placing this mind garbage in our brains. The best time to do this is when we are creating the list of bad habits, traits, and quirks of the person that is disagreeing with us. We focus very often so intently on the negative things that we fail to see the positive things. Mind garbage can infiltrate our lives and make us become very negative people. It can also train us to always focus on the negative aspects of our relationships, our lives, and even ourselves. How do we prevent this garbage from being dumped on us? By focusing on the positive. The next time you are confronted by a friend, family member or spouse that is disagreeing with you, take a step back and list the positive things about this person. Thinking about all of the good things that this person brings to the relationship allows God time to remedy the situation. It also crowds out the negative and pretty soon, you are not even able to remember the things that you consider to be nuisances. Isn't that the way you want to be treated? Why not try it out today.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

The reading for today was Mark 7:7-9, "In vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines human precepts. You disregard God's commandment but cling to human tradition." He went on to say, "How well you have set aside the commandment of God in order to uphold your tradition!" Doesn't this look like it was written today? Doesn't this apply to the humanists of today who put aside all things Godly and want to focus on the world? You have to put aside the commandment of the Lord to allow the murder of innocent babies and have the audacity to call it abortion. You have to put aside the Lord's commandment when you describe the United States as a non-Christian nation. You have to put aside the commandments of the Lord when you force additional financial burdens on a people who are already hurting so badly that they are losing hope. As we move towards the Advent season, it is a good time to reflect on where we are in our spiritual journey. Are we worshiping God with our tongue but placing human precepts above all us? Have we become money chasers? Do we measure our worth by the size of our car, house and bank account? When we think of the commandments of the Lord, do we consider them optional? Do we think we can pick the ones we want to do and forget the rest? The mission of a Christian life is to get better each day. We should be striving to be like our brother Jesus while he was on earth. As a man walking the middle east, Jesus worked to make a difference in the world. He ignored the precepts of man in favor of his Holy Father's commandments. He created new traditions for us. He chose men to work with him that were unorthodox for the times (maybe even for now). I find it is often easier to look at the lives of the apostles for the inspiration to improve my life. After all, Jesus was and is perfect. How can we ever achieve this? We can't, but we can look to the apostles, who made mistakes yet Jesus still loved them. We can be doubters and Jesus will still love us. We can deny knowing him, ask for forgiveness and Jesus will welcome us back with loving arms. We can learn to praise Him with our tongue and our actions. We can learn to keep the Lord's commandments while we put aside the precepts of man. Now that is something we can focus on as we approach the holy Christmas season.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

If you have ever been to the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington D.C. you may have seen the Hall of American Saints. They recently installed a new statue, that of Blessed Teresa of Calcutta. Everyone knows the story of the saint from Albania who spent her life working with the poor and ill in India. She received a Nobel Peace Prize and many other awards which meant nothing to her. If you read her books, you will know that she was focused on being the hands and feet of God on earth. She was also very hard on herself and never felt as if she was worthy of the praise and adulation she received. Mother Teresa was clearly focused on receiving her reward in Heaven where she joined our Lord upon her death. I have noticed that there are already a number of Catholic schools and churches named for this diminutive nun who cast such a large shadow. She visited Baton Rouge and established a local chapter of her order at St. Agnes Parish in the downtown area. She also formed a beautiful friendship with Bishop Stanley Joseph Ott, who passed away from cancer a number of years ago. Seeing these two holy and reverent people together was inspirational. They both revealed the face of Christ to me in different ways. I have not doubt that Teresa will shortly be named a saint and I must admit that I assumed it had already happened. I am not sure if Stanley Joseph Ott even has a group working towards his cause for sainthood but there should be. In many ways he exhibited the same humility and reserve that Mother Teresa exhibited. He was quiet and shy but his smile could light a room. And when he needed to speak out, his voice was strong and clear. He was clearly a man of God and I know that he is still intervening on behalf of the lambs in his former diocese. When his name comes up in conversations, the tenor changes. People are more reverent and contemplative. He effects the way we think and feel and he helps you to focus on what is really important. That is why he and Teresa had this holy alliance. They were cut from the same cloth. They were children of God who were always trying to make a difference during their short time on earth. I do not know if there will ever be a statue of Stanley Joseph Ott in the Hall of American Saints but there should be. He would fit right in.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Do you know someone that has allowed the past to capture them in a jail cell? I am not talking about a literal cell but the kind that creates isolation and depression in their lives. It might even be you. Learning to lead a life that is filled with forgiveness is a very freeing experience. Living for the present rather than in the past allows us to fully experience our Father God's love, grace, and providence. Allowing strife to keep you captured by the events of the past brings delight to the devil. But when you focus on becoming someone who is quick to forgive, the grace of God is allowed to flourish in your life. I have just begun to become acquainted with the writings of Henri de Lubac. He is considered to be one of the most influential theologians of the 20th century. During the Second Vatican Council, Pope John XXIII appointed de Lubac as theological expert to the Council. He later was appointed a Cardinal by Pope John Paul II. de Lubac co-wrote a series known as the Christian Sources, a collection of bilingual, critical editions of early Christian texts and of the Fathers of the Church that reinvigorated both the study of Patristics and the doctrine of Sacred Tradition. de Lubac was also responsible for the emergence of covenantal theology, a distinctive approach to Catholic biblical theology that emphasizes the doctrine of the "four senses," encompassing the literal sense and the three spiritual senses (allegorical, moral, and anagogical). I know that this is not going to be light reading but I feel it is important for my spiritual development. I will share with you my thoughts as this project moves forward and I ask that you pray for my success in this endeavor.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

One of my favorite things to do is attend a wedding. This past Friday, I was able to witness the joining of two young people in holy matrimony. Both of these young adults have been through a dark journey lately. The difference is that the journeys turned out very differently for each of them. The bride recently lost her mother to cancer. To lose your mother at any time is devastating but to lose her to an aggressive and destructive disease when you are planning for one of the happiest days of your life is particularly trying. The good news is that the pair was able to spend the last days of the mother's life planning every aspect of the wedding. It allowed the mother and daughter to focus on the future rather than the present. The influence of the mother was evident in every aspect of the sacramental wedding. I fully expected the bride to be excessively weepy because of her recent loss but she was radiant and beautiful. I think that she was infused by her mother's spirit. The groom had recently been through a very similar experience. His father had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer about nine months ago. As we all faced the likelihood that our friend and his father would not be with us for the wedding, we also began to pray mightily for his healing. The son stepped forward and created a website about his father so that everyone could keep track of the situation. The son updated the website faithfully and shared his personal thoughts with us. The website became a beacon of light in the darkness of the journey the father was making. In the end, as I reported earlier on this blog, the father has been healed by a miracle from God our Father. The son was beaming at the wedding ceremony as his father and mother walked down the aisle together. I couldn't help but think that the father and his new daughter-in-law are closer becasue of this shared experience. The wedding itself was beautiful and the presiding priest did a wonderful job of describing marriage as a joining of the bride, groom, and God. He urged the bride and groom to focus on prayer to sustain themselves and warned that the years will bring different trials but the solution is not to separate or divorce but recommit and ask God for help. The priest turned to the stories in Tobit as an example of how God can be depended on in times of trouble and sadness. The wedding of Tobiah and Sarah was used as a parallel for what the couple had endured recently. In Tobit 11:17 we read, "When Tobit reached Sarah, the wife of his son Tobiah, he greeted her: "Welcome, my daughter! Blessed be your God for bringing you to us, daughter! Blessed are your father and your mother. Blessed is my son Tobiah, and blessed are you, daughter! Welcome to your home with blessing and joy. Come in, daughter!" Would that we all be so welcomed when we are married. Tobit chose to solidify his family and to honor Sarah by calling her daughter. As my wife and I renewed our vows at the wedding, we felt energized and rekindled. All in all, a very good night.

Friday, October 30, 2009

The last acceptable prejudice has reared its ugly head again. I am talking about anti-Catholicism in the United States. Take a look at the editorial entitled Foul Ball. I have spoken of this terrible occurrence before and reminded everyone that the Devil loves when Christians fight amongst themselves. This article also points out the difference in treatment between Catholics and Jews. Again, score one for the Fallen One. Some of our very own, Patrick Kennedy namely, have chosen to go public with anti-Catholic remarks recently. This after his departed father was treated with respect and dignity even though the late Ted Kennedy did not stand up for his faith illustrated most clearly by his votes for abortion/legalized murder. I do not know what is in Patrick Kennedy's heart but I am praying that he take some time to explore his apparent dislike for the very Church that has nurtured and sustained his family for over 200 years. The Catholic Church provides health care to the indigent and forgotten everyday, especially in the U.S. The Catholic Church has been involved in the health care industry for a long time. If they are saying that the health care reform legislation being offered by Congress and the President is misguided, we should probably give them a listen and take a harder look at the plan. I know that the Catholic Church made a prayerful decision, something I am not so sure about with an administration that has been openly hostile to Christianity as a whole.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

A co-worker approached me to talk about a preacher she heard this weekend. The topic was grace. The kind of grace that only God can give us. She said that she knew what grace was or thought she knew but the more the preacher spoke, the less convinced she became about her current interpretation of grace. It made me think about grace and what that really means. I guess that I immediately think of a special blessing that God gives us when we accept Him into our lives. But doesn't that make it seem like pixie dust or something? I then thought about grace being all of the things that God allows us to enjoy like cherries, chocolate-covered doughnuts, beautiful music, or a wonderful movie. I decided that this was a very limited way of viewing God's grace. The more I thought and prayed, the more I realized that grace is about life itself. Living in grace is about being in a loving relationship with our Father God. Having the Holy Spirit whisper in your ear when you are confused or lonely or sad is certainly grace. Feeling the real presence of Jesus Christ when you receive Holy Communion is certainly grace. I am not suggesting that grace has to be religious in nature but I am merely giving you my thoughts on where my thought-process was moving. The freedom to make decisions is certainly God's grace. The redemptive grace offered to us through the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross is another powerful form that is available to us. As always, I had to turn to the Bible to hear what God has to say about grace. I found a few interesting themes. St. Paul continuously offers grace to the people as he begins his letters to them. In Romans 1:5 we learn that God gave Jesus grace and we are saved because of it. That is very deep. Jesus, we know, was perfect in every way, yet he was a human. I always assumed that Jesus did not need grace but God gave it to him. And God gives us grace. God gives us the same gift that he gave his earthly son. That is very powerful. In 2 Timothy 1:9 we also learn that God gave us grace because he wanted to. We didn't even have to do anything for it. That set me to wondering what I did to deserve this grace. Do I thank God for my grace? Do I protect my grace by modeling Jesus Christ? Am I worthy of God's grace? The answer to the final question is yes. God created us so that we could have a deep, loving relationship with him. He is so good to us yet we very often take Him for granted. Living in God's grace is a powerful feeling. It straightens my spine and makes me walk taller, confident in the fact that I am supported in all things by God's grace.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Miracles are happening still today. I know this because I have seen a miracle happen. I wrote on this blog earlier about a good friend of mine who had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Many of you know the survival rate for this terrible cancer because of the high profile case of Patrick Swayze who recently passed. Most doctors are reporting a five-percent survival rate for patients who contract this type of cancer. We began to pray mightily for my friend that he be healed of this terrible affliction and that all evil forces that could come against him be blocked by the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Our great and powerful Lord has answered our prayers and my friend is cancer free. Praise God! This miracle is a testament to God's immense empathy and might. During this terrible ordeal, I would talk with my friend and he never strayed from his strong belief that God would intervene for him. I told him that he was bringing more people to Christ everyday by his strong convictions and he just smiled but I will tell you that this is true. I have spoken to so many people that have been shaped by this experience. It has allowed so many to deepen their faith and increase their prayer life. I have written before that God replaces the bad with the good. It may also be the answer to one of my seven questions, specifically "Why do bad things happen to good people?" That is exactly what happened here and not just in the end. Throughout the journey, God was calling people to respond and they did. My friend's happiness is so infectious. The benefits will continue to multiply because my friend can now minister to others who are facing the same situation. He is in a unique position to tell them with conviction that God is here for us. Even in the dark times. Even when we think it is hopeless. Each time I see him, I will be reminded of our miraculous God and so will many others. Every time I talk to a prayer warrior who accepted the daily challenge to prayerfully ask God to remove the cancer, I can see the tremendous effect this has had on them. Tremendous good came from this difficult and trying journey. Miracles are still occurring. Don't let anyone tell you they are not. By the way, my friend gets to see his son celebrate the sacrament of marriage this Saturday. God is good all the time and all the time, God is good.

Friday, October 23, 2009

I find it very interesting that most of the national holidays celebrated in the United States have their origins in Catholic Christian history. Even the modern day Halloween celebration is tied to the Catholic Church. In 835, Pope Gregory IV moved the celebration for all the martyrs (later all saints) from May 13 to November 1. The night before became known as All Hallow’s Even or “holy evening.” Eventually the name was shortened to the current Halloween. On November 2, the Church celebrates All Souls Day. The purpose of these feasts is to remember those who have died, whether they are officially recognized by the Church as saints or not. It is a celebration of the “communion of saints,” which reminds us that the Church is not bound by space or time. The Catechism of the Catholic Church says that through the communion of saints “a perennial link of charity exists between the faithful who have already reached their heavenly home, those who are expiating their sins in purgatory and those who are still pilgrims on earth. Between them there is, too, an abundant exchange of all good things.” If you have not listened to Josh Wilson's beautiful song Savior, Please you must do so. I have found such comfort in the words. I find myself praying this song during the day. It really has touched my heart. One line that brings me great comfort is, "I can't do this alone, God I need you to hold on to me." I hope it blesses you too.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

We have another first for the Listen Quickly blog. Deacon Alfred Ardon becomes the first deacon to respond to my seven questions. Deacon Al is in his second year of formation to become a Roman Catholic Deacon. He lives in Kingston, Washington and records his thoughts on his blog A Cascade Catholic. If you would like to participate, please respond to the seven questions and email them to me at In the meantime, enjoy Deacon Al's responses.

1. What is the biggest challenge to your faith that you have faced so far?
The biggest challenge to my faith has been the way things are heading in our country. It’s hard to believe sometimes. People and attitudes bring you down. I have to remind myself no matter how bad it gets, God is still in control.

2. What scripture do you find yourself turning to most often?
Psalm 51:10 “Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.”

3. How do you think God is revealing his presence to us in the world today?
Sunrise and Sunsets. A thing to remember, God holds all things together in himself. If he for one second did not, we’d vanish in a nano-second.

4. Do you have a book that you would recommend to people trying to develop their spirituality?
Spiritual Direction by Henri Nouwan or Experience of God, Pray the Scriptures with Lectio Divina

5. Why do you think bad things happen to good people?
Bad or Evil is the absence of good. I have no idea. We all have to get back to God somehow, some way. We all are subject to the laws of nature and chance. I do think the experience can lead us to a stronger version of ourselves.

6. What have you found is the most effective way to introduce the word of God to a nonbeliever?
Your actions. They speak louder than words. Non-believers are as close to believing as we are to non-believing.

7. Do you have a favorite saint and if so, why?
St. Peter – He’s my patron saint. We have lots in common. We have our moments of glory as well as moments of blunder.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Do any of you remember the Keep on Truckin t-shirts from the seventies? Well the artist who drew that and other bizarre cartoons has just released a new book that might shock some of you. Robert Crumb’s new book is called The Book of Genesis Illustrated and is exactly what it sounds like. Crumb says that he used a King James version of the Bible along with a 2004 translation called The Five Books of Moses by scholar Robert Alter. It is 224 pages that graphically depict the stories of Adam and Eve, Noah and The Flood, Abraham and Sarah, as well as Joseph and his brothers. Biblical scholars say they are pleasantly surprised at the outcome. Apparently Crumb merely drew what he read and did not add a comical slant or infuse his work with comments or opinion. I am anxious to take a closer look at this work (disclaimer: I have not read it and am not making a recommendation yet). You can find more information about the book in a story by USA Today. If it is as true to the original text as the scholars quoted in the story are saying, I think this has good potential. There are a number of people who are better at learning using visual stimulus and this might be the book that brings them to God. Crumb describes himself as agnostic and admits he just does not understand God but that he is a spiritual person. I would suggest he find a spiritual adviser and quick. He might also read The Shack as it would seem to appeal to someone that is creative. What the reporter failed to ask Crumb was how reading the Bible impacted him. It is very seldom that someone picks up the Bible and begins to read it and does not feel a connection with God. That He speaks to us through this book is undeniable. Here is hoping that Crumb’s book brings many folks to the wonder and glory of our Lord and Savior. God has used stranger people to accomplish His goals before and will do so again.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Just how far are people willing to go in this society to get a laugh or provoke a response? The dialogue about politics has become increasingly uncivil and ratcheted up a level from Clinton to Bush and Obama. But the current prize may go to Sarah Silverman who happens to be Jewish. She unleashed a diatribe against the Catholic Church capped by a suggestion that Pope Benedict sell the Vatican to feed the poor. The Vatican sensibly did not offer comment but several Catholic organizations did come forward to explain the error in Silverman’s thinking. I can’t help but think how outraged our Jewish sisters and brothers would be if their leader(s) were lampooned like Pope Benedict. Her misstep will hopefully not set off a backlash against the Jewish people similar to what happened after the terrorist attacks of September 11 did against the Muslim population. I think that we as Catholics have become all too familiar with this type of insult. The Catholic Church has served so many for so long yet people still try to come against God’s church. I wonder if Silverman has ever contributed to a St. Vincent DePaul ministry. I wonder if she has ever served at a soup kitchen. I wonder if she has ever visited an inner city school where Catholics are brining hope and education to the poor and neglected, often free of charge. I remember my Grandfather talking about the hate-filled speech that was launched against President John F. Kennedy as he ran for office. I realize that we are the largest Christian church in the world and that brings a huge responsibility which we have accepted. But I also wonder when some of our fellow Christians will step up to defend the Catholic Church as well. Again I say, when we as Christians are not standing together, we are doing the Devil’s work for him. My last entry is well suited for what Silverman has done. Her tongue is uttering bombast. She is talking about things that she knows nothing about and perhaps we should ignore her. I would rather pray for her and I urge you to do the same. Let us pray for her conversion that she realizes the folly in her idol worship. Money will not serve her in the afterlife.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The scripture that emerged today for me is from the epistle of St. Jude 1:16, "These people are complainers, disgruntled ones who live by their desires; their mouths utter bombast as they fawn over people to gain advantage." I have fallen prey to this many times in the past but have been working to expunge this desire from my heart. I was never one to chase after people for autographs. It never made sense to me and I have urged my children as well as students I have taught in religious education to avoid this urge as well. We are all children of God on the same journey. Why does our society choose to place some above others and generally because they are attractive (actors) or good at running, catching and throwing (athletes)? It is absurd and a cancer that continues to plague us as a people. I especially enjoyed the part in the scripture that describes the mouths uttering bombast. That of course reminded me of my favorite parts of the Epistle of St. James that urge us to control our tongue. All of this "rock star" adulation makes me miss Mother Teresa, Pope John Paul II and Bishop Stanley Joseph Ott more every day. I have been praying about President Obama being award the Nobel Peace Prize. What I have come to understand is that it is unfortunate but a reality in a world that has its priorities confused. How can someone even be considered a peacemaker if they are an abortionist? Many would say he does not perform abortions but I disagree. He is the conduit for abortions being performed not only in the U.S. but around the world. He provided the authorization for funding for abortions. He supports abortions. He does not understand that abortion is murder. As the Bible says In Matthew 5:21-28, "Do not commit adultery.' But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart." The parallel must be true for other forms of sin. In this instance, it is abortion which is murder and disobeys the fifth commandment.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Kurt Hilgefort, is a Catholic father of six who publishes his thoughts on his blog Shadows of Augustine. He responded to my seven question survey with the following answers. Kurt is the first layperson to respond to the seven question survey and I think that his experience is extremely relevant to me personally and I hope that you are inspired by his thoughts as well. If you would like to respond, please send an email to with your thoughts and I will be happy to publish them as well.

1. What is the biggest challenge to your faith that you have faced so far?
The biggest challenge for me has been the whole dying to self thing. On an intellectual level, there are no barriers. It comes down to a matter of accepting the authority of the Church that Christ founded upon Peter. My challenge is not in the intellect, but rather in the will.

The challenge for me has always been to continually seek conversion. I want to be transformed, but I want it to be over all at once. Instead, it’s been a gradual thing that often seems not to be quite taking hold. I might take several steps forward, then suddenly I’m not moving, then I’m several steps back. The key, for me, is knowing that God’s mercy awaits me in the sacrament of reconciliation, that God loves me too much to want me to stay separated from him, and that true happiness comes only in fulfilling God’s will.

2. What scripture do you find yourself turning to most often?
As a father, I often find myself meditating on Malachi 4:6, “And he will turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the land with a curse.” The verse is invoked in Luke 1:17 in reference to John the Baptist as an indication of the Messianic age. And then there’s that terrible phrase at the end.

Among New Testament verses, I return again and again to Hebrews 5:8, “Although he was a Son, he learned obedience through what he suffered.” How can I hope to bring my will into accord with his will without suffering, if even Christ himself had to suffer to learn obedience? In a perverse way, it almost makes me desire suffering, that I might learn to obey God.

As Christians, we place a special emphasis on the Gospels. Interestingly, my favorite Gospel passages all involve Peter: his call in Luke 5:1-11, in which Peter, after recognizing the miracle that has occurred with the catch of fish, falls to his knees and says, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord;” his denial in Luke 22:54-62, where, after the third denial, the Lord turned and looked at Peter, and his rehabilitation in John 21, where three times the Lord asks him if he loves him, and directs him to feed his sheep. Peter failed greatly, and yet he repented and received mercy and love. There is, therefore, hope for even me.

3. How do you think God is revealing his presence to us in the world today?
Creation itself continues to point to God’s presence, as it always has. Just today, I read about how the science of astrophysics increasingly points to a singularity that has no explanation outside of God. Miracles continue to occur, and I don’t mean natural things like the birth of a child. I mean things that have no natural explanation, which the Church herself examines with skepticism. The Eucharistic miracle of Lanciano, Italy has been with us for twelve hundred years. It was subjected to scientific examination in the 1970s. It’s real, it’s permanent, it’s empirical, and it reinforces Catholic doctrine regarding the Blessed Sacrament. And yet, for some people, it’s not enough.

Miracles, however, are rare. I believe that God’s normal mode of acting in the world (other than through the liturgy) is through people. When we receive Christ at mass, we become tabernacles of His presence. It is up to us to carry Him into the world. If people are starving, we need to show them God’s love by feeding them. It might be a cliché, but it is no less true that ours are the hands and feet and arms of God. It’s up to us, as followers of Christ, to show the love of God to the world.

Unfortunately, the converse is also true. Our lack of charity becomes a scandal that prevents others from discovering God.

4. Do you have a book that you would recommend to people trying to develop their spirituality?
My intellectual journey was strongly influenced by works of apologetics. Catholicism and Fundamentalism by Karl Keating and Surprised by Truth by Patrick Madrid both helped me early on to accept the authority of the Church. Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis, Orthodoxy by G.K. Chesterton, and The Everlasting Man (also by Chesterton) are among the greatest works proposing the truth of Christianity. The Catechism of the Catholic Church, with all of its cross-references, is a testament to the organic unity of the faith. Naturally, the Bible, and especially the Gospels, is a bottomless well of living water. Theology and Sanity by Frank Sheed gives the best explanation of the Trinity that I’ve ever read. True Devotion, by St. Louis de Montfort is the best source of Marian spirituality.

5. Why do you think bad things happen to good people?
Sometimes bad things happen to people as the result of free will. Some people make poor decisions that they later regret, other people choose to perform evil actions. At other times, bad things apparently at random, and we call it an act of God. We might never know why God allows, or directs, these apparently random acts. What we do know, is that God somehow draws forth a greater good. Suffering certainly is not pleasant, but it need not be fruitless. Ultimately, all things work for the good, even if we don’t understand how.

6. What have you found is the most effective way to introduce the word of God to a nonbeliever?
St. Francis is said to have preached the Gospel, and used words when necessary. Likewise, I try to let my life be a testament. I firmly believe that acts of love are the greatest tools of evangelization, and so I try to let love be my guide. I don’t usually do a very good job at it. I don’t try to hide the fact that I’m Catholic, and I don’t shy away from it or make excuses for it in conversation. At the same time, I take seriously the counsel of 1 Peter 3:15, “Always be prepared to make a defense to anyone who calls you to account for the hope that is in you, yet do it with gentleness and reverence.” I live and work in an area that is majority Catholic. I rarely meet anyone who is unchurched.

7. Do you have a favorite saint and if so, why?
I like St. Augustine and St. Thomas Aquinas, for the way in which they incorporated Platonic and Aristotelian philosophy into explaining Christian theology. I like Padre Pio, though I’m not exactly sure why. I like St. Therese of Lisieux for her Little Way, which says that I don’t need to be great, I can excel in holiness by being a little flower if that is what God has called me to be. As a husband and a father, I have a special devotion to St. Joseph as the head of the Holy Family, the Guardian of the Redeemer, the Patron of the Church, and the most chaste spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Of course, I honor Mary, and ask that she wrap me in her mantle to make me presentable to her Son, to whom she is always pointing.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

I listen to the news now and wonder how we came to replace our journalists with ideologues. There is no more impartial recounting of the day’s events. Everything has context. And to be honest, most of us choose our cable news by our politics more than anything else. “If the news is going to be bad, I might as well hear it from someone who thinks/talks/acts/looks like me” is the prevailing thought. I receive many emails each day that point out the short comings of the folks in charge of our nation, state and city. What I do not receive are emails offering solutions to any of these problems. Paul writes in Philippians 2:14-16, “Do everything without grumbling or questioning, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine like lights in the world, as you hold on to the word of life, so that my boast for the day of Christ may be that I did not run in vain or labor in vain.” Does this call for us to merely stand by the side and ignore the wrong? Does it allow us to live in a sheltered bubble and not try to make a difference? I think not. Paul is challenging us to work without tiring. He wants us to be examples of what is and can be right. Avoid the crooked and perverse for sure, but do it as an innocent child. Do it because it is right and not for any other reward. What kind of world would be have if we focused on coming up with Godly solutions to our biggest problems? I for one would enjoy our world so much more without the grumbling and finger-pointing that is going on now. Take it a step further as well. Be like St. Paul and labor for God. Let you labor count for the salvation of others. Work for the Lord without grumbling or complaining. I accept this challenge today and pray that I will not labor in vain.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Have you ever been approached by someone who asks you if you believe in the afterlife? How did you respond? I think that we have all heard the adage that it is better to believe and be wrong than not believe at all. The Bible talks about faith a lot and Jesus dealt with the faith issue head on in the post-resurrection incident recounted in John 20:24-29 which says, “Thomas, called Didymus, one of the Twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples said to him, "We have seen the Lord." But he said to them, "Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands and put my finger into the nail marks and put my hand into his side, I will not believe." Now a week later his disciples were again inside and Thomas was with them. Jesus came, although the doors were locked, and stood in their midst and said, "Peace be with you." Then he said to Thomas, "Put your finger here and see my hands, and bring your hand and put it into my side, and do not be unbelieving, but believe." Thomas answered and said to him, "My Lord and my God!" Jesus said to him, "Have you come to believe because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed." While not specifically about the afterlife, it does speak directly to maintaining our faith while still having doubts. The opposite of faith is not doubt but unbelief and there is a big difference. Jesus addresses this matter in Mark 9:22-24 when he encounters a man who has faith and doubt. Jesus does not condemn or turn away from the man but instead removes a demon from the son of the man. It is a human condition to have doubt but we must work to overcome it. We should seek to identify the root of doubt and that usually involves getting to know who God is and exploring our understanding of what being a Christian really means. Christianity is certainly not a blanket of protection that will ward off all bad things but instead a confidence in knowing that we should turn to God in all things. He will lead us down the right path. In addition, we should not keep our doubt to ourselves but seek guidance from God and others who can help. Speak to your priest, spiritual advisor, family or Christian friend. The apostles turned to Jesus for guidance when they had doubts. There is our example.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Did you hear about Blasphemy Day? I discovered this latest version of the Devil's work via a newspaper article describing that yesterday was apparently the time for the world to "promote freedom of speech and the freedom to challenge, criticize and satirize religion without fear of murder, litigation and reprisal." I mourned Blasphemy Day by praying that the Lord would come into the hearts of these misguided souls. When I turned to the scripture today, miraculously I landed on 1 Timothy. In Chapter 1, Timothy talks about the exact kind of folks that would find satirizing religion to be a form of entertainment. 1 Timothy 1:3-11 says, "I repeat the request I made of you when I was on my way to Macedonia, that you stay in Ephesus to instruct certain people not to teach false doctrines or to concern themselves with myths and endless genealogies, which promote speculations rather than the plan of God that is to be received by faith. The aim of this instruction is love from a pure heart, a good conscience, and a sincere faith. Some people have deviated from these and turned to meaningless talk, wanting to be teachers of the law, but without understanding either what they are saying or what they assert with such assurance. We know that the law is good, provided that one uses it as law, with the understanding that law is meant not for a righteous person but for the lawless and unruly, the godless and sinful, the unholy and profane, those who kill their fathers or mothers, murderers, the unchaste, sodomites, kidnapers, liars, perjurers, and whatever else is opposed to sound teaching, according to the glorious gospel of the blessed God, with which I have been entrusted." I encourage you to spend some time with this epistle as it certainly brought me comfort in the wake of Blasphemy Day.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

When I started writing this blog, God placed on my heart a desire to share how we are all walking a very similar path. I am not saying that we are all exactly alike but I often feel that my problems are unique and that is just not true. In addition, I find that fellow Catholics have experienced similar events. I was guided by the Holy Spirit to develop a list of seven questions and I have been sending them out all over the U.S. asking for a response. I admit it is an unusual method and probably has made some of the recipients nervous but I am happy to say that a second brave soul has responded to me. Rev. Michael Diochi of St. Bernadette’s Parish in Kansas City provided the following responses. I have listed each question before his response. To see the first response by Fr. Al Baca, refer back to the August 20 entry. If you would like to participate, simply respond to the following seven questions and forward your answers to Enjoy!

1. What is the biggest challenge to your faith that you have faced so far? I have no serious challenge to my faith, because, I went to the Priestly Vocation as a determined child, and earlier in my life through the Junior Seminary. I have no doubt about it and I do not regret it, because, I am happy with my Priestly Call from God, whereby, I do serve God and humanity in sincerity. However, I am not impressed on how some people doubt the existence of God and, consequentially, they disregard other people's Dignity and Rights, and hence mishandle their humanness.
2. What scripture do you find yourself turning to most often? The part of the Scripture I turn to most of the time is "Jesus Christ wept" (John 11:35ff.).
3. How do you think God is revealing his presence to us in the world today? God is revealing His presence in the world, through the miraculous works He constantly does, and by His careful sustenance of the world, in spite of mankind's sinfulness and deviation from Him.
4. Do you have a book that you would recommend to people trying to develop their spirituality? The appropriate book I do recommend for you to read is the Holy Bible and other Spiritual Books dealing with the life of Saints.
5. Why do you think bad things happen to good people? Bad things happen to good people through which God aids them in the solidification of their Faith.
6. What have you found is the most effective way to introduce the word of God to a nonbeliever? The most effective way to introduce the Word of God to non-believers is through one's sincere acting out his/her Faith and Believe with good works towards Neighbors. That is to say, "A Practical Living Faith accompanied with Good Works".
7. Do you have a favorite saint and if so, why? My favorite Saint is Jesus Christ, who is the sincere Redeemer.
God bless you! Rev. Fr. M. Diochi.

Monday, September 28, 2009

What I find so fascinating about the Catholic faith is the rich history and depth. I am constantly learning new things about being a Catholic and more often than not, much of our religion is rooted in Biblical text. Which is confusing because often those that attempt to tear down the Church try to use the Bible to do so. That is a topic for an earlier day as I explained before when I wrote about doing the Devil's work for him. We as Christians should always look to commonalities rather than building walls to separate ourselves. What caused me to start this topic was the practice that many Catholics observe of having a Mass said for a deceased family member or friend. I learned today that that practice is rooted in 2 Maccabees 12:39-46. It makes sense of course if we simply think critically about our lives as humans. Are we ever in a perfect state like Jesus was when he died? We are striving for this perfection but know that ultimately our humanness will get in the way. So offering prayers of forgiveness for those we have lost is logical. Our God is loving and full of forgiveness. We just need to ask and then turn away from sin. I will continue to pray for the loved ones I have lost and I hope that my family and friends do the same for me once I am gone to my heavenly home. So that I don't leave you with a heavy heart, I thought I would share a joke on the matter as well. A priest and a bus driver both died and went to Heaven at the same time. They get to the pearly gates where Pope St. Peter greets them. He motions to the priest, and they both hop in a jeep and go out the back door. There are about 50 acres of rolling hills with a little cottage on the knoll. St. Peter turns to the priest and says "This will be yours for eternity. A perfect little cottage, right next to lovely pond, a lush little garden, and a library full of books." The priest says, "Thank you so much. This I shall enjoy!" St. Peter drops off the priest, goes back to the pearly gates and motions to the bus driver. They hop in a stretch limo and go out the front door. There are about 500 acres of land, with mountains and lakes and rivers. There is a huge 200-room castle on one of the mountains, and a wishing well that makes wishes come true. St. Peter says "This will be yours for eternity. You can live in that castle with servants to wait on you hand and foot, and you can have everything you want." The bus driver looks and St. Peter and says "Well, now, don't think I'm not grateful, but why am I getting so much more than the priest?" St. Peter just laughs and says "You brought more souls to Heaven! When the priest preached, everyone fell asleep. When you drove your bus, people prayed!"

Friday, September 25, 2009

In a recent conversation, I suggested that one of the missions of local Catholic high schools is to promote vocations, specifically to religious life but overall as well. Also participating in the conversation were several nuns who quickly admitted that their numbers were dwindling and there was not a succession plan in place to provide new sisters for the school. The conversation began to evolve and we talked about the recent success of the local Diocese in recruiting men for the priesthood. During the meeting, I noticed a lack of participation by the nuns at the table. After the meeting, I approached two of them separately to find out what they were thinking about this topic. Both expressed to me that they were excited about the topic and very grateful that I had brought it up. I mentioned their lack of input and they shared with me that they did not want to anger the parents who might accuse them of self-interests. Who is going to recruit for them if not themselves? I must say that their attitude is backed by some new science that was conducted by the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA) for the National Religious Vocation Conference (NRVC). The CARA report entitled "Recent Vocations to Religious Life" revealed some interesting data. Many of the younger people who had recently chosen the religious life were not supported by their families. But my idea has merit as well according to the research. Most of the respondants noted that they first became acquainted with religious life and the various orders at school but the most frequent method of invitation came from a priest. This certainly solidifies the need for priests to be involved in our local schools. The report is extensive and can be found here (CARA). I would encourage you to read and share it. Also, as this is the Year of the Priest, all of us should be focused on how we can promote the religious life as something to be valued and respected.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Today is the feast day for St. Padre Pio. As I was growing up, I can remember my grandfather talking about this great man. He predicted, accurately, that Padre Pio would one day be named a saint. When my grandfather passed, I inherited some of his book collection. In it were several books on Padre Pio which I have spent some time studying. Padre Pio believed that the love of God was inseparable from suffering and that suffering all things for the sake of God was the way for the soul to reach God. Many say that he embraced this concept so well, he was blessed with the stigmata. He felt that his soul was lost in a chaotic maze, plunged into total desolation, as if he were in the deepest pit of hell. During his period of spiritual suffering, his followers believe that Padre Pio was attacked by the Devil, both physically and spiritually. He sincerely thought of himself as useless, unworthy of God's gifts, full of weakness and infirmity, and at the same time blessed with divine favors. Amid so much admiration around him, he would say, “I only want to be a poor friar who prays." He died on September 23, 1968. So many people struggle with the concept of Saints often citing the fact that many lived so long ago. Padre Pio is a man of our time and therefore very relevant to us. I would encourage to spend some time getting to know him better by visiting his official website here: St. Padre Pio

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Have you ever been faced with an overwhelming feeling of doom? Have you ever felt like you were in the presence of the Devil? I had a recent conversation with a friend who said he truly felt that a certain person we both know is working for the Devil. He described this person as "evil incarnate." I asked him why and he said that God had placed this on his heart and he asked me to avoid this person at all costs. I must tell you that I was shaken as I had worked closely with this person for a while. I did notice a lack of willingness to embrace the Word of God but perhaps I was not being observant enough. It is nice to know that God sends guardian angels to warn us and I truly am thankful for this authentic friend. Today's reading is appropriately enough from Joel. The book itself is about a threatening catastrophe and the warning the people receive from the prophet to repent and turn to the Lord with fasting and weeping. The people did as they were told and the Lord answered their prayer. It is a frightening scene but the Lord proves that he is trustworthy and good. St. Peter writes about the Book of Joel in Acts 2:16-21, "No, this is what was spoken through the prophet Joel: It will come to pass in the last days,' God says, 'that I will pour out a portion of my spirit upon all flesh. Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your young men shall see visions, your old men shall dream dreams. Indeed, upon my servants and my handmaids I will pour out a portion of my spirit in those days, and they shall prophesy. And I will work wonders in the heavens above and signs on the earth below: blood, fire, and a cloud of smoke. The sun shall be turned to darkness, and the moon to blood, before the coming of the great and splendid day of the Lord, and it shall be that everyone shall be saved who calls on the name of the Lord." Are we ready for the day of the Lord? It will come even if we are not ready.

Friday, September 18, 2009

While listening to a local Christian radio station yesterday, I had the privilege to hear an 11 year old call in for a contest they were running. The idea was that you had to sing or rap any part of a Toby mac song. This young fellow sang almost half of Mac's song City on Our Knees. It was very inspiring because he sang with such conviction and belief. It is why Jesus sought out the children during his time here on earth. Their spirituality can be truly inspiring. I saw on a fellow blogger's site that Fr. Simeon Gallagher had been in the Boston area recently. If you have a chance to hear him speak, do not miss it. He is truly inspired by the Holy Spirit and in this Year of the Priest represents the best there is. In 1 Thessalonians 5:11 St. Paul writes, "Therefore, encourage one another and build one another up, as indeed you do." Is there nothing nicer than hearing a compliment. In the business world, good managers know that credit is free and should be spread around often. We as Christians should also look for opportunities to build each other up. Because our society is moving at such a fast pace, we need to take the time to build one another up. St. Paul goes on to say, "We urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, cheer the fainthearted, support the weak, be patient with all. See that no one returns evil for evil; rather, always seek what is good (both) for each other and for all." I can only imagine what our city, country and world would look like if we merely took these simple suggestions to heart and implemented them in our lives everyday. Sacred Heart of Jesus, I trust in You. Sacred Heart of Jesus, I believe in Your love for me. Sacred Heart of Jesus, Your Kingdom come.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

One of the easiest ways that Satan can enter your life is by using your ego. I find this particularly frustrating and taming my ego has become a routine exercise for me. Strife enters your life through little, insignificant incidents. It can be when someone ignores you or is short with you in conversation. Our ego then becomes bruised and decides that this person does not like us. Before long, we are having thoughts that this person is spreading gossip about us and we retaliate. Just as C. S. Lewis's characters Screwtape and Wormwood celebrated with glee, the Devil delights in creating this scenario over and over. He can quickly check us off his "to-do" list for that day and move on to others. We quickly become his servant and accomplish his task for him. Lewis gives us the perfect example of this in his book and as I have said before, if you have not read it, The Screwtape Letters should be on your must read list. Take a closer look at the world around you and see if you can identify the ways in which Satan has insinuated himself. Is there strife in your family or your workplace. One of the main targets for this type of destructive work is the Church. Does your church have problems and dissension? Do you know what is causing it? Can you help to stop it? If Satan can take root in our Church, what is sacred? We must work together as the Body of Christ to rid our Church of strife and sin. And it may just start with taking a look at your ego.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

No matter what you think of Whitney Houston, you have to agree that her voice has to be a gift from God. I really felt sorry for her last night as I watched an interview she was doing. I really felt her sincerity when she talked about staying with her self-destructive and abusive husband because she took her wedding vows seriously. She shared how she was brought up in a Christian house and that she had pledged her commitment before God in church and that meant she had to endure no matter what. I can remember the time when she sang the National Anthem before the Superbowl. Is there a more beautiful or heartfelt rendition out there? The voice is so pure. What about her remake of I Will Always Love You? God certainly gave her a gift. I hope that her return to God will prove to be permanent. I have missed her voice. The reading today is from Colossians. St. Paul is confronted with new Christians who are still confused about who Jesus is and their old cultic practices. Paul asks them, "If you died with Christ to the elemental powers of the world, why do you submit to regulations as if you were still living in the world?" I will never know why God sent me to this passage but it does relate to Whitney Houston. She admitted to being seduced by the money and power that she amassed by becoming a star. She also admits how she came to realize that it all meant nothing because she lost herself in the process and she found her way back through the Bible. I think Paul is referencing the exact types of things that seduced Whitney Houston. We are frequently dazzled by the lifestyles of the rich and famous but when we are exposed to the truth about their lives, we frequently think we would be different. Why is that? I have firmly set my sights on enjoying my rewards in heaven. If that means I have to live a more aesthetic and austere life, then that is fine. God is working in me now to move to this new goal. I hope He is happy with the end result.