Thursday, May 27, 2010

Two reports over the last few days have me very excited about some upcoming film releases. The first is a film about martyred monks that recently received the second prize at the Cannes Film Festival. Usually something at Cannes does not interest me at the awards usually go to movies that are either very humanistic and worldly or political and celebrating hedonistic themes. The film is called "Of Gods and Men" and is about a group of French monks who were martyred in Africa during the 1990s. The French director, Xavier Beauvois, centers the movie around the true story of seven Cistercian monks who were taken hostage and murdered by Islamic fundamentalists in 1996. There are news reports that the audience members wept during the presentaion of the film in Cannes. The monks, who lived contemplative lives in the service of the poor in the Atlas Mountains built strong friendships with their surrounding community and lived in relative peace until conflict arises between the local government and extremist groups. Though the monks are advised by everyone involved to leave, each one decides to stay and is eventually held hostage and murdered by the fundamentalists. Beauvois uses a real incident to spin his story of monks, their meandering ways, their religion and the ritualistic harmony they share with the local Muslim population. Critics had noted that the narrative leads leisurely to the climax, handled with dignified care. I am anxious to see this inspiring story. In addition, "The Last Summit" is being released and was directed by documentary filmmaker Juan Manuel Cotelo. It is the story of a diocesan priest, Father Pablo Dominguez, (who is also a philosophy professor) who died a year ago in a tragic accident. The documentary features testimonies from friends, family members, students and acquaintances, as well as interviews with Cardinal Antonio Canizares, Bishop Demetrio Fernandez of Cordoba and Archbishop Jesus Sanz of Oviedo. According to critics, “The first half of the movie could be a very useful vocational tool. The second half, which deals with Father Dominguez's death, has already proven to be effective by helping people, whether they are believers or not, who have confronted the death of a loved one.” Finally some positive and truthful portrayals of men who chose to give their lives to and for Christ.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Fr. Hugo Blotsky, O.S.B., is Pastor of St. Francis Catholic Church in Thermopolis, Wyoming. Their website states that they are a faith community that is located at the southern end of the Big Horn Basin at the north entrance to the Wind River Canyon. Fr. Hugo was kind enough to share his thoughts to the Seven Question Survey. Please let me know what you think as I found his answers very inspiring, especially his reminder of the importance of the simple act of Mary agreeing to God's request. She is certainly an inspiration to all of us.

1. What is the biggest challenge to your faith that you have faced so far? Trying to make sense out of all the turmoil in the world today.

2. What scripture do you find yourself turning to most often? Gospel of Matthew: "Where two or more are gathered in my Name, there am I in their midst."

3. How do you think God is revealing his presence to us in the world today? God reveals Himself through His Word, His Church, and through the lived witness of His followers.

4. Do you have a book that you would recommend to people trying to develop their spirituality? "The Fulfillment of All Desire," by Ralph Martin

5. Why do you think bad things happen to good people? There is evil in the world, and the disciples of the Lord are faced with dealing with that evil. Jesus promises His disciples that they will suffer persecution, trials and tribulation.

6. What have you found is the most effective way to introduce the word of God to a nonbeliever? The New Catholic Answer Bible has 88 questions and answers about the Catholic Faith inserted in pages throughout the Bible.

7. Do you have a favorite saint and if so, why? The Virgin Mary because she was used by God to bring the Savior into the world.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

The Contemporary Christian group Skillet has a song called Awake. The song describes what many of us face each and every day. Namely, the inability to detach ourselves from the worldliness that is offered by our society. They explain that they are at war with the world and they feel themselves slowly slipping out of God's hands. You know the feeling perhaps even better if you have ever encountered a really terrific retreat or workshop. In the moment, you are on fire. The blaze intensifies over the period that you are at the retreat. When you suddenly realize that you are about to have to return to the "real" world, your enthusiasm starts to wain and you are troubled. It happens to the best of us. I am sure it is the feeling the apostles had when they realized that Jesus had died. In fact, we know that they locked themselves away from the rest of the world. What is it that we are so worried about? The fear of going it alone is probably the culprit. But we need to remember that God is walking along with us at all times. He is carrying us most of the time and we don't even realize it. Jesus has told us that He will always be with us if we follow Him. The Holy Spirit is ready to breathe new life into you just when you think the world will consume you. Skillet's song is a terrific reminder of the promises that God has made to us. he will not falter on those agreements. We must have faith. That faith will provide us with the weapons to function in this world. As Skillet says in the song, we must be alive and awake. The awakened state of being is something that we must model everyday but it can become a habit if we only focus on the end result. When you are feeling like the world is closing in on you, I urge you to turn to God in prayer. Ask Him to infuse you with His love, support, and presence. Wake up!

Monday, May 17, 2010

What have you done lately to further God's reign? We as Christians proclaim that God reigns over all the earth and we are called to be the hands and feet of the mystical body. But that means that we must be active in our ministry and we must work to extend God's reign. What does that mean to you? I think it calls me to engage in conversation about God with others. I am instructed to bring the Good News to everyone. Only when we share the message of Jesus and His sacrifice can others come to truly understand what that gift allows. I also think we should be more active in doing. We need to notice where the needs are in our community and respond to those needs like Jesus did when He walked the earth. The economic downturn has caused us all so much difficulty and the burden of new taxes and monumental governmental intervention will only worsen that for us. However, there are those that are being forgotten because we are troubled by our political leadership and the strain of oppression. It must not cause us to forget out responsibilities. Do not forget to respond to our brothers and sisters who are homeless, poor, and hungry. Can you get involved in a prison ministry and bring Jesus' message to them? Is there a modern day orphanage in your community that needs your support both financially and prayerfully? Even when we feel like the burden of the world is crashing down on us, we are called to be the hands and feet of the Lord. Finally, remember to exhibit a Christian attitude in all that you do; even in disagreement or uncomfortable situations. Even when we are sad or burdened or troubled. We need to pray our way out of it and spread the message of our Lord and Savior. God does reign forever and ever and we should be sharing that message in all that we do and say.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Some times I find that I am so far gone that I have to tear everything down and start all over. It infiltrates everything, like relationships or habits. I have recently been in a situation where I do not have access to a television. On the surface that sounds like a terrible ordeal but it has actually given me a new perspective. My quiet time has increased. So how have I chosen to spend this time? Well part of it has been consumed by work related tasks as I have started a new job. But a lot of it has been taken by more reading and most of that reading is spiritual in nature. I finally have the time to finish reading a lot of the books I have bought over the years. In addition, the quiet time is wonderful for reflection and listening. My conversations with God have become more pronounced and involved. It is a good thing and I am enjoying it for as long as it may last. There is song called Hurricane by Jimmy Neadham which perfectly expresses this sentiment. Jimmy calls on God to send in a hurricane to tear his walls down and remove his pride and fear. He pleads in the song to have God remove all of the barriers so the he can give himself fully to God. It is stunningly beautiful. For those of us who live with the threat of hurricanes, it is the perfect metaphor. We know firsthand the power that is unleashed by a hurricane. We often have bad habits, addictions, and problems that are so deeply rooted in our hearts that the only thing that can remove them is a hurricane-like force. That is the power of God. He will unleash His awesome power in order to allow us to have all of the walls torn down. These are the walls that the devil has helped us build. The walls that tell us that it is okay to do it just one time and then that turns into a lifetime of bad habits. Listen to Jimmy's song and let me know what you think. Hopefully, you too will ask God to send the thunder, wind and rain crashing down on you so that you can be cleansed and return to your relationship with God our Father.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Have you ever been so angry with someone that it consumed your every waking thought? In fact, it may have even driven you while you slept. I mean the kind of anger that is not quickly quelled? This usually occurs when someone does something to you that you consider to be unfair or unwarranted. It has certainly happened to me. You are left feeling vulnerable and puzzled by the action taken by someone you probably trusted. It is not a healthy situation and really can begin to cause you physical damage. It reminds me of the situation that Jesus was in when his friend and confidant Judas turned on him. Contemporary study reveals that Jesus may have chosen Judas for this task. We certainly know that it had to happen in order for Jesus to be crucified which in turn released us from original sin. This despicable act by Judas allows us to live eternal life with God in Heaven. Returning to the original point of this message, I began to wonder if Judas was forgiven. The answer is a resounding yes. We know that our God is a forgiving Father who is always ready for us to return to His loving embrace. Jesus has told us personally that we are to forgive those who trespass against us. Jesus, the ultimate perfection, would never have held a grudge. I can only imagine that Jesus may have forgiven Judas even at the instance that He was betrayed. Of course, the Bible does not tell us this. The apostles were still neophytes when it came to theology and faith development. Even after spending all of their days living with Jesus, they were quickly filled with fear and doubt. It would have been difficult for them to grasp this concept that quickly. With time and study, a luxury they did not have, we are able to discern that Jesus had to have forgiven Judas. It just makes sense. So what does that say about our holding on to grudges? How can we even begin to compare what has happened to us with what happened to Jesus? We also know that holding onto hate and anger only really causes us pain and separation. We are not living our lives in harmony with God. It is imperative that we forgive and forget and let this anger go. In the end, we benefit most and ultimately we grow from the experience.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

The visit of the Legionaries of Christ to the Vatican has provided a good example of someone allowing themselves to become the focus rather than God. Fr. Macial, the founder of the Legionaries, obviously lost his way and allowed the devil to overtake him. The comments from the Vatican are stinging and include the follow, "The serious and objectively immoral behavior of Fr. Maciel, supported by incontrovertible evidence, at times constitutes real crimes, and manifests a life devoid of scruples and of genuine religious feeling. The large majority of Legionaries were unaware of that life, particularly because of the system of relations created by Fr. Maciel, who had skilfully managed to build up an alibi, to gain the trust, confidence and surrounding silence and strengthen his role as a charismatic founder." I am not sure about a life devoid of scruples as I assume he was walking the right path at one point. How astonishing is it that someone as revered as Fr. Maciel can make so many wrong choices? It certainly is an example to us that we must be very vigilant in our walk with God. In addition, we must pass judgment when we know something is not right. Judgment is very different from condemnation, of which Jesus says we must not do. That task is best left to our Lord and Savior. But we must be able to assist our brothers and sisters when we feel they are being led astray. The report from the Vatican goes on to say, "Not infrequently the lamentable disgracing and expulsion of those who doubted his upright conduct, and the misconception of not wanting to harm the good that the Legion was doing, had created around him a defense mechanism which made him untouchable for a long time, thus rendering knowledge of his real life difficult." This illustrates perfectly what I am talking about. Our Church became lax in being vigilant and it happened during the seventies. At that time, people were urged to go with the flow and look the other way. Many of our leaders refused to tell people that there was a difference between right and wrong. It has brought us to this watershed moment in time. We, the followers of Christ, must reclaim His Church and move forward. We must be vigilant and understand that all men can sin regardless of their title or station in life. But we must do all of this with compassion and empathy, especially for the victims. No one can be untouchable unless God proclaims them to be.