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Once Alexander the Great was asked by a scholar, “Your excellency, once you capture Babylon, what will be your next goal?” “Well, Edessa is next. It is easy to capture that city. So, capturing Edessa and making it my own, would be my next target,” replied Alexander.
“Once you capture Edessa, what then?” the scholar continued.
“I will then turn towards Alexandria and defeat them.”
“Well, what about after you capture Alexandria?”
“Cilicia would be my next target for attack”
The scholar, curious, continued, “Your highness, please do not feel bad that I am questioning you. Can you please tell me what benefit you will obtain by winning all these battles?”
“After conquering the cities, I will rest peacefully and enjoy life,” replied Alexander the Great.
To this reply, the scholar raised yet another question, “Your excellency, then why is that you are not able to enjoy life right now?”
Even before he could enjoy his life, Alexander bid goodbye to the world. All his hard work was worthless, because after his death, everything that he captured was divided among other nations. And at the end, it was all just history.
Alexander’s tragedy is felt even today by those who desire to get more than what they need, those who are greedy, and those who solely focus on making a name for themselves. It is not just our accomplishments or busy lives that make our lives enjoyable. Rather, to be happy in life, we do not need new things. There is a persistent notion of “If I could only earn much more money, or gain more wisdom, or get another job—then my life would be so much happier!” However, these are all worldly ideas!
A peaceful heart is what is necessary for an enjoyable life. And how can we best obtain a peaceful heart? By believing and trusting in God.
If you are in a car traveling 100 miles per hour, you feel that the roadside trees and people on sidewalk vanish quickly. However, when going slow, you can easily see roadside scenery really well. In the same way, only when we keep our mind calm and peaceful, can we enjoy the beauty of flowers, the tranquility of dusk, and the sweetness of relationships. Only then can we truly enjoy life.
Lord, teach me to enjoy every day that You give me. Grant pardon to my weak mind that does not find happiness in this great pasture that You have gifted me. Please teach me that the one who can conquer his own heart is much stronger than the one who conquers the world. Oh Lord God, please steer this fast-paced life of mine. Grant me the grace to acknowledge the beautiful life that you have given me! Amen.'
While helping with a recent retreat for young people, I again watched the 1945 film, “The Bells of St. Mary’s” (Actually I ended up “watching” my towel as I embroidered for part of the time).
During the course of the movie, I was intrigued by a little dialogue which took place between Patsy, an eighth grader, and the Sister Superior at Saint Mary’s School. I was actually edified by a remark the script writers put on the Sister’s lips: Sister Mary Benedict: “You don’t become a nun to run away from life, Patsy. It’s not because you’ve lost something. It’s because you’ve found something.”
Wow, leave it to Hollywood to provide us with a beautiful, succinct reflection on the meaning of religious life! I was impressed! The only change I would probably make is in regard to the last word in the superior’s response to the distraught young lady. She might actually have said, “It’s because you’ve found someone.” Too bad this message is not better known to young people today!
Reprinted with permission from the blog ‘Our Franciscan Fiat’ by Franciscan Sisters of Dillingen-Hankinson, North Dakota Province.'
We all know what it is like when you begin your rosary and you have to say the same mysteries again. Mary sees an angel, Jesus gets born; by the time you get to the finding of Jesus in the temple you are wondering, “What can I possibly think about that I have not already thought?” Of all the Mysteries of the Rosary please do not skip this one, because the Fifth Joyful Mystery in particular has a huge amount of relevance for many people’s lives.
There are many parallels that can be drawn between the Fifth Joyful Mystery and each of our spiritual lives. At the beginning of the story Joseph and Mary were happy. They finally were able to visit the holy city of Jerusalem—after a span of what was probably several years—to worship God, whom they loved above all else. They were traveling with dear friends and family; people they loved and for whom they cared. Not only that, but their little Jesus was now a young man old enough to make the journey to Jerusalem; you can imagine their pride in having such a son. It was a joyous occasion—they were surrounded by God in His Holy City with His precious Son. They were filled with God’s peace and joy and they were happy. This is how we are when we ourselves are close to God and His Church, our new Jerusalem.
As they started the journey home, you can be sure Mary and Joseph did not believe they were growing further and further from Jesus. Just as we and many of our fallen brothers and sisters do not realize that through our actions we are actively leaving Jesus behind. If that most holy of couples had realized the separation, they would have rushed back at once—but they did not, and every step they took led them further and further away. Distracted as they were by the joys and comforts of life—such as sharing good times with family and relaxing around the campfire—they did not realize Jesus was not there. Too often, we get distracted by what seem to be good things when, in reality, we are walking away from what is most important. Do not get me wrong—family is one of the most precious things we have in this world, sharing an amiable conversation with a neighbor is a beautiful thing and relaxation is wholesome and good, but not when they get in the way of your relationship with Jesus. These things are not bad in themselves; they cannot be condemned or shunned by good and holy people, which is why so many people get confused.
We know to avoid lying at any cost. We know it is wrong to kill and hate. We know adultery is a mortal sin. These things are easy to distinguish and avoid because they are cut and dry, plain and simple, easily identifiable. These are outside actions. Things we can see and feel. It is harder to recognize when something is taking over your interior life because we honestly do not pay much attention to it. This is why Jesus told us to pray—so that we could actually learn to pay attention to a very important part of ourselves that is often neglected. When you do take a moment of interior reflection you are jolted into shock just as Mary and Joseph were when they exclaimed, “Where is Jesus?!” Because you honestly thought He was there and He was not. You did not notice the growing miles that separated you with every footstep and now Jesus is lost, or rather, you are lost. Jesus has been where He will always be—at His father’s house.
So what should you do when you discover this alarming void in your life? You should be like Mary and Joseph and frantically scramble to recover what you have lost. However, take a note from Mary and check the temple first. Mary and Joseph searched all over trying to fill the gap in their life—trying to find Jesus. When people first begin to get that nagging feeling that something is missing, they often do not know what is causing it and that makes them uneasy. So they search everywhere for it. Just like Mary and Joseph they check the market stalls, the side street entertainment, the food vendor—and after three days or months or years or sometimes even longer, they finally think of checking the temple. They find Jesus, sitting exactly where He was supposed to be the entire time.
When it feels like something is missing from your life and you get a nagging feeling that you forgot something, take the time to stop and look around for Jesus. You may just find He is back in that temple and you have been busy walking in the opposite direction. If you discover this separation do not lose heart! After all, this mystery is called the finding of Jesus for a reason.
© Margaret Schachte is a seventeen year old homeschooler who lives in an old rectory in the little coal mining town of Ashland, Pennsylvania. She is working her way toward her life’s dream of becoming a librarian. When she is not writing, she can be found volunteering at the local library, exploring the mountains that surround her town or sitting with her face buried in some old and dusty tome.'
“It is cancer.” His voice trembling, my husband brought me the news of my new reality. Breast cancer, I have breast cancer. The thought just kept replaying in a terribly painful loop.
This is so hard to write about. I do not want any reminders of cancer or the painful treatment required to save my life. I do not want the physical reminders still left on my body in the form of scars and fatigue and lymphedema. I do not want to be reminded of what I lost and what I cannot now recover.
My body, both the source of life for so many children is also my betrayer. Having allowed this cancer to grow and spread, my body betrayed me. How can I see it any other way? Only, I need to see it differently. I must in order to heal.
How can the scene of such pain and suffering, my body, become in my eyes something worthy and good again? How can any such contradictions ever be reconciled?
For a time, I was resigned to ignore the problem. I hoped that with enough distance from the trauma of treatment that these feelings would go away. However, two years later, I realized that scars do not fade that much, especially to the eyes of the afflicted.
In fact, the more I tried to distance my thoughts from cancer’s assault on my body, the more distance I felt from God. I hated the physical part of His creation in me. I became disembodied in my relationship with God. Somehow in wanting to avoid the trigger for my pain (my body), I blinded myself to my faith’s mystical and unique ability to reconcile the contradiction of love and suffering.
Ours is a bodily faith, a Eucharistic faith, a faith that exalts the Cross of Christ. The Cross is the greatest of all contradictions; an instrument of both death and salvation. The source and summit of our faith is the sacramental reception of the Body and Blood of Christ. His Body and Blood upon the Cross. His wounded and scarred body. His sacred Blood that flowed for my sins. Ours is a mystical and yet also a bodily, tactile faith.
Saint Irenaeus of Lyons (AD 195) wrote, “He [Jesus] has declared the cup, a part of creation, to be His own Blood, from which He causes our blood to flow; and the bread, a part of creation, He has established as His own Body, from which He gives increase to our bodies.” According to this early Church father, it is the Eucharist that causes “our blood to flow” and “gives increase to our bodies.” A mystical marriage of the supernatural and corporal indeed!
Saint Irenaeus was writing before the third century to dispel the heresy of a disembodied faith–a faith divorced of the supernatural grace of the Eucharist and the Real Presence of Christ’s Body and Blood!
His words ring true today! Modernity promotes a spirituality devoid of the sacramental life. Modern culture is content to be “spiritual but not religious,” forgetting the heart from which the spiritual lifeblood flows–the Body and Blood of Christ in the Eucharist!
Even within the Church Jesus established, Catholics are ignorant of Our Lord’s True Presence in the Eucharist–Ignorant of Our Lord waiting for you in the sacrament of His sacrifice and love.
God who is all–powerful chose the Cross for our salvation. He could have chosen another form, right? He can do anything. Instead, Christ’s spiritual and physical obedience onto the Cross was God’s perfect means for our salvation, both a physical and spiritual surrender to God the Father.
The physical, the bodily has become a perversion in today’s culture. We separate the body from the soul in order to abuse one another. We deny the personhood/soul of the unborn to crush the life of the most helpless. This “freedom” is dehumanizing, dividing what God designed in His work of creation. We are meant to be body and soul and both are “very good” in His eyes. We are meant to be fully alive in Christ in body and soul. This life flows from the Eucharist.
My Lord Jesus gazes back at me from the Cross, as I adore Him in the monstrance. His spiritual and physical presence radiate Love. Knowing that He would ascend to the Father, my beloved left Himself as the Eucharist here on Earth. He left this gift of Himself for me to adore and receive into my body as food for my spiritual and physical life. In fact, because Christ holds my body in such high esteem, making it the means through which I am able to receive Him in the Eucharist, I am no longer disembodied. I have reconciled the contradiction of cancer in this body. I accept that which God loves and uses to come near to me–the Eucharist in me.
By the Cross of Christ, I have begun to reconcile physical suffering with love even as I struggle physically each day. Humanity cannot artificially divide body and soul or sacrifice and love. This is the lie of modernity and it separates us from God. God wants us body and soul just as He offers us His Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity in the Eucharist.
The greatest mystery of our faith is that to experience His amazing nearness in the Eucharist is to truly possess ove Itself. The Gospel of John is clear; “He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him” (John 6:56). He is waiting for you in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.
© Shannon Magbalon is a wife and mother of four. She is a breast cancer survivor. With a doctorate in psychology, she writes with a view of both psychodynamic and theological. God’s love compels her to write. The blog www.amazingnearness.com is her “yes” to God.'
Can a Catholic woman get married, be twice divorced, give birth to eight children with two different men, become a nun, and eventually found a new religious order? The answer is “Yes!” In fact, this same woman would, on Mother’s Day in 1990, walk the stairs alone to present the gifts to then Pope John Paul II for the Mass he was offering during his visit to Mexico and, in return, receive his blessing. After all, with God, all things are possible.
I am writing about Mother Antonia Brenner who came to be known as the “Prison Angel” of La Mesa Prison. Mother Antonia died on October 17, 2013. I believe history will show that this woman was one of the greatest among Catholic women of the late 20th and early 21st centuries.
Mary Clarke was born in Beverly Hills on December 1, 1926. Her dad, Joe Clarke, was a successful businessman and Mary and her two siblings grew up surrounded with affluence and the glitz of the movie world. Their neighbors included luminaries such as William Powell, Hedy Lamarr and John Barrymore.
Joe Clarke had a deep love for all people. No matter how good life was for his family, he made sure that his kids were always taught to help the less fortunate. That desire to help others, nurtured by her father, would blossom in Mary and was destined to explode. However, before the “explosion,” Mary embarked on a circuitous life journey.
She married at eighteen years of age and had three children, the first dying shortly after birth. That marriage ended in divorce. As a divorcee, Mary now felt distanced from her Catholic upbringing. She married again, this time in a civil service in Las Vegas. It was to a man named Carl Brenner. She and Carl had five children together, but ultimately, that marriage also ended in divorce. God “writes straight with crooked lines” and apparently the Holy Spirit had His eye on Mary Clarke Brenner her entire life. He was about to shower His grace all over His daughter.
Mary became more and more involved in charity work. In 1965, she met a priest by the name of Father Henry Vetter. He took her along on a delivery of food, medicine, and clothing to the prisoners at La Mesa Penitentiary in Tijuana. The plight of the prisoners at La Mesa (considered among the worst in Mexico) impacted her greatly. As time went by, her growing compassion and love of neighbor would become focused on these people. They would become her specialty, her ministry, her purpose in life.
Mary Brenner spent the next ten years traveling back and forth to La Mesa Prison bringing needed supplies, but mostly love and mercy. Her presence became well known and the prisoners, both men and women, began looking forward to her visits. They began calling her “La Mama.” The warden even gave her accommodations so that she could sleep over.
Mary took the name of Antonia (after her mentor, Monsignor Anthony Bowers) and became Mother Antonia Brenner. She sewed together a nun’s habit, put it on, and went to see Bishop Leo Maher of San Diego, California. She got down on her knees and told him her story. He had heard all about her and gave her his blessing, validating her ministry. She would even start a new order—the Eudist Servants of the Eleventh Hour, an order for women forty-five years old and older who wanted to serve the less fortunate. In addition to the blessing from Bishop Maher, Mother Antonio also received the blessing of Bishop Juan Jesus Posadas of Tijuana. She had Church authorization for her ministry from bishops in two separate countries.
After her kids were grown, Mother Antonio gave away her belongings, moved out of her home in Ventura and headed to La Mesa Prison. She had received permission to live there. Her new home was to be a 10 foot by 10 foot cell in the women’s section of the prison. She would live as any other inmate, sleeping in a concrete cell and having only cold water and prison food. The amenities in her room included a Crucifix on the wall, a Bible, a Spanish dictionary, and a hard prison bed. In the mornings, she would line up with the other prisoners for roll call. This was to be her home for the next thirty-two years.
“La Mama” also became known as “The Prison Angel.” She moved freely among the drug traffickers, thieves, murderers, rapists and others, touching cheeks and offering prayers. Many of these people were among the most violent and desperate of both men and women. Yet she happily walked with them and comforted and consoled them, dried their tears and held their heads between her hands as they were dying. She even singlehandedly stopped prison riots.
Mother Antonia Brenner truly saw the face of Christ in each and every prisoner she came in contact with and extended God’s mercy and love to them all. Why else would hardened criminals, some of whom who had never loved or been loved, call the diminutive woman who hailed from Beverly Hills, “La Mama”? They loved her in return.
I believe that one day Mother Antonia Brenner will be canonized a saint. She is an example for each and every one of us, showing us how to selflessly love our neighbor no matter who our neighbor might be. Her life also shows all of us that no matter who or what we are or where we have been or what we have done, God is always calling us.
Mother Antonia, please pray for us to be merciful like our Heavenly Father!
© LARRY PETERSON (www.larrypeterson-author.com) is a Catholic/Christian blogger. His work has appeared in publications such as Zenit from Rome, Aleteia, New Evangelists, Top Catholic Blogs, Big Pulpit, Catholic 365.com and others. His first children’s picture book, “Slippery Willie’s Stupid, Ugly Shoes” was published in 2011. His novels include “The Priest & The Peaches” and “The Demons of Abadon.” Peterson belongs to the Catholic Writer’s Guild, The Catholic Writer’s Society, The Knights of Columbus, and the Saint Vincent de Paul Society. He has been an Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion for over twenty years, bringing communion to the homebound and hospitalized. Peterson resides in Pinellas Park, Florida and his kids and six grandchildren all live within three miles of each other. Visit www.slipperywillie.blogspot.com to enjoy more of his inspiring writings.'
We are strangers before You, and sojourners, as were all our fathers. Our days on the earth are as a shadow, and there is no abiding (1 Chronicles 29:15), so prayed David the king as he let his life go back to God.
You feel it most sharply in the fall, when leaves let go, when light and warmth fade. But even if we were not outwardly wasting away, even if the sun stood still for an endless succession of moments—so that summer never ended and life never dwindled—it would still be true that only what is unseen lasts forever. All of us, like Saint Augustine, yearn for the beauty, timeless and always new, that is our only lasting home.
How do we get there? The Master clearly told us. He is the one Way to the eternal beauty that is the Father. He empowers us to move to the Father by so uniting Himself with us in the Spirit that, if we want, we can live His life, see with His eyes, love with His heart. And what does this mean? He tells us, “Love one another as I have loved you” (John 15:12).
The more we try to love another—to share a person’s life, to embrace that person’s flesh in marriage, to experience this one in another way, in friendship and humble service—the more we love, the more certainly we must let it all be carried away on the cross and be brought back from the tomb by Christ Himself, for whose power and goodness we can scarcely find words.
The essence of the human person—never mind God—is so mysterious that to open ourselves to that inner core of another’s being seems to leave behind everything we love most in her or him. All that we love—bright hair, face in repose, pitch of the voice in speaking our name, eyes where childhood still lives, features shining with unique light, body shaped just this way and no other—is passing away. We cannot hold that beauty unless we let it go; yet what love is this that asks for love’s end? Christ our Master spoke of that place on the other side of death and made Himself the way to it by our own passage into and back from darkness:
“Where I am going, you cannot follow now, but you will follow later … Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in Me. There are many rooms in my Father’s house … I am going there to prepare a place for you. I will come back and take you to be with Me, that you also may be where I am” (John 13:36, 14:1-3).
One cold day I was struggling once again with the mystery and pain of love. I was living the anguish of knowing that the flesh and all its beauty is passing away into separation, illness, old age, forgetfulness and death.
Then suddenly, like the gentle opening of one’s eyes after a long sleep, I “saw.” The Lord within me touched my inner eyes and I saw that all the beauty in those I had loved was simply the outer brightness of a deeper reality. Not what we normally think of as the “soul”—something misty and insubstantial—but the spiritual substance that is the true core of the human person.
I realized that all my life I had clutched at people because I could not bear to let go of the beauty of the seen—this moment, this flesh, that look or way of being. I realized that my “love” had often caused death because I would not let go. Suddenly I knew that if I did let go, not just once, but over and over and over again, I would always be traveling into the very center of the other, whomever I wanted to love, not leaving the body behind, but finding the source of its beauty in the unseen depth of the mystery we call person.
I saw that Jesus my Master was asking me to let go of regret and desire so that I could follow Him to that deeper place. As I let go and let my eyes, my heart, my being pass beyond all I could see and touch and hold, the sorrow of all my goodbyes would vanish as well. In the place I had always thought of as emptiness I would never have to say goodbye again.
As the unseen Lord made His real presence known to my true eyes, as He taught me to stand still and alone in my own inner most being—where I already abide in Him—He would reveal to me the beauty in each person that is beyond withering and fading. I saw that my risen Master was offering, now, His Kingdom: a communion in His Father’s love where I would always be at home with all those I loved.
“The world will not see Me any more, but you will see Me. Because I live, you also will live. On that day you will realize that I am in my Father and you are in Me and I am in you … He who loves Me will be loved by my Father… My Father and I will come to him and make our home with him.” (John 14:19-21, 23).
God is at home with us. The Father holds us and we fall always into His light—the light that this present world can neither see nor overcome. All is well: we begin to love with the love that cannot pass away.
© Father Robert Pelton recently celebrated his 50th Anniversary as a priest, the first to be ordained for Madonna House. The article is an excerpt from his book “Circling the Sun” available from Madonna House Publications. Reprinted with permission from Madonna House Publications (www.MadonnaHouse.org).'
You probably know the pattern. A smart and gifted boy leaves home for school. He makes new friends. They spend most of their time partying, chasing girls, and embracing new philosophies. The son becomes drawn to a trendy religious cult. Eventually, he moves in with his girlfriend and they have a child, without being married. The boy’s mother can only sit by in despair, heartbroken over his choices and helpless. The only thing she can do is pray.
That is the story of many Catholics today—and maybe your story. Parents think that they are alone in facing these sorts of troubles, but this pattern is not a new one. It stretches back for centuries, and in the above case, even more than a millennium. It is the fourth-century story of Saint Monica and her young wayward son, Augustine. It is worth remembering how she led her son back to the Faith.
Monica was raised as a Christian, but like many people today, she married someone from a different faith. In her case, the man, Patricius, was an atheist politician. They had three sons together but their marriage was rocky. Patricius was a violent man and regularly abused her. He also was unfaithful to her throughout their marriage. But Monica remained patient. Other wives with marriage problems came to her for advice and she became a source of comfort for anyone suffering through difficult marriages. She served Patricius with selfless love and devotion, and she prayed for him every day. Eventually, her prayers bore fruit. A year before Patricius died, he converted to Catholicism—due mostly to Monica’s prayers and powerful example.
Although the conversion of Monica’s husband pleased her, she still worried about her son, Augustine. Though brilliant and gifted, he spent most of his time carousing the streets with friends, stealing food, and living promiscuously. He even fathered a son out of wedlock. Yet Monica refused to give up on her son, just as she committed to her husband. She prayed daily and intensely for Augustine, fasted for his sake, and begged God to help him return to faith. When Augustine traveled to Rome and Milan for his education, Monica followed him and continued praying.
While in Milan, she met Ambrose, the local bishop who would later be canonized a saint. Ambrose became a spiritual guide to her. He noted her restless longing for her son and the hours she spent praying for him. He promised her, “Surely the son of so many tears will not perish.” His prediction would eventually prove correct.
Augustine and Ambrose struck up a friendship and began discussions about Christianity. Ambrose was the first high-level Christian thinker Augustine had met. As a result of their many back-and-forth dialogues, Augustine finally decided to convert to Catholicism. Ambrose baptized the 32-year-old Augustine, who would eventually grow into one of the most influential thinkers in Western history, and one of the greatest saints in the Catholic Church.
Monica could hardly contain her enthusiasm after Augustine’s baptism. She and her son began sharing beautiful conversations about God and heaven. As she lay on her deathbed, content at having seen both her husband and her son come back to the faith, she felt her whole life’s mission had been accomplished. Today, the Church celebrates Saint Monica and Saint Augustine right next to each other in the liturgical calendar, with her feast day on August 27 and his on August 28.
Saint Monica exemplifies the power of a praying parent. She was not able to convince Augustine with words, and in fact, whenever she tried to talk to him about religion, he brushed her away. But through her daily, committed intercession, over more than fifteen years, Augustine was able to journey into the Church.
What can we learn from Monica’s example? First, do not stop praying for your child. When Monica complained that Augustine would not listen to her admonitions that he become a Catholic, Ambrose urged her, “Speak less to Augustine about God and more to God about Augustine.” She took his advice and never gave up, even when things looked dark. Eventually, her persistence paid off.
Jesus tells of a widow who was upset that a judge refused to hear her case. The widow kept coming to the judge with her request, over and over, until he finally relented, saying, “While it is true that I neither fear God nor respect any human being, because this widow keeps bothering me I shall deliver a just decision for her lest she finally come and strike me.” Jesus explained the parable, saying, “Pay attention to what the dishonest judge says. Will not God then secure the rights of his chosen ones who call out to him day and night? Will he be slow to answer them?” (Luke 18:1-8). In other words, God loves persistent prayer. He never tires of your requests, even if you bring the same needs to Him every day.
Joan Hamill knows that from experience. Joan prayed weekly for fifteen years for different family members to return to the Church. “I prayed for Saint Monica to intercede for our family members,” says Hamill. “As a result I had two brothers come back to the Church as well as my sister and brother-in-law.”
So, do not give up praying for your child. Like Saint Monica and the persistent widow, have confidence that God will reward your perseverance. The more resilient your prayer, the more likely God will answer it.
The second thing to learn from Saint Monica is not to just pray for your child—you should also pray for an “Ambrose” to step into your child’s life. Perhaps there is just too much baggage between you and your child so that he will no longer hear truth from your lips. That is understandable. Pray that God will bring someone else into his path, someone with just the right combination of personality, interests, motives, and heart. Just as Ambrose stepped in to help Augustine, so you might need someone to nudge your child along.
(Also, keep in mind that while you are praying for someone to step into your child’s life, other parents are praying the same thing for their child. And you may be that person! Even if your child tunes you out, do not be closed off to helping other children return to faith. You could be the Ambrose for someone else’s Augustine!)
The third takeaway is that you can ask Saint Monica’s intercession for your child. A recent survey asked Catholic parents, “When you pray, how often do you pray to or ask the intercession of…” and then listed several options. By far, the most common responses were “God the Father” (74% prayed to him always or most of the time), “God the Son, Jesus Christ” (59%), and “God the Holy Spirit” (45%). But you know what the least common response was? The saints … Only one-in-five Catholic parents regularly asked the saints’ intercession. That means the most Catholic parents are missing out on some of the greatest spiritual support available to us.
For Catholics, the saints are not dead and gone. Saint Monica did not cease to exist when she died in 387. Her body may have stopped functioning when her soul departed, but she remains alive in Christ, residing with Him in heaven for all eternity. And because the Church is one, indivisible body (1 Corinthians 12:12), which neither death nor life can break apart (Romans 8:38), we can still connect with those holy men and women who have already passed into the next life and ask for their prayers.
Among all the saints in heaven, few know the gutwrenching pain of a wayward child more than Saint Monica. Reach out to her and ask her to pray for your child, just as she did for Augustine. We regularly ask our friends on earth to pray for us, and we can do the same with the saints. In fact, the saints’ prayers are generally more powerful than ours here on earth since they are closer to the mind and heart of God—the saints are already in heaven! So next time you pray, offer a short request to Saint Monica such as this:
“Saint Monica, I need your prayers. You know exactly how I’m feeling because you once felt it yourself. I’m hurting, hopeless, and in despair. I desperately want my child to return to Christ in His Church but I can not do it alone. I need God’s help. Please join me in begging the Lord’s powerful grace to flow into my child’s life. Ask the Lord Jesus to soften his heart, prepare a path for his conversion, and activate the Holy Spirit in his life. Amen.”
In all these ways, Saint Monica offers not only example but help in drawing our children back to the Church.
© Brandon Vogt is the Content Director at Word on Fire Catholic Ministries. He’s an award-winning writer, blogger and speaker. He’s been featured by several media outlets including NPR, CBS, FoxNews, SiriusXM, and EWTN. Vogt converted to Catholicism in 2008, and in 2011 he released his first book, ‘The Church and New Media: Blogging Converts, Online Activists, and Bishops Who Tweet’. This article is an excerpt from his new book and video series titled “RETURN: How to Draw Your Child Back to the Church.” Vogt lives with his wife, Kathleen, and their four children in Central Florida.'
In Luke 10:19, Jesus told the 72 other disciples, “Behold I have given you the power to tread upon the serpents and scorpions and upon all the forces of the enemy and nothing shall ever harm you.”
We read in Luke 4:17:21, “Jesus stood up to read and was handed a scroll of the prophet Isaiah. He unrolled the scroll and found the passage where it was written, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because He has anointed me, to bring glad tidings to the poor, He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, and to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord.” Rolling up the scroll, He handed it back to the attendant and sat down, and the eyes of all in the synagogue looked intently at Him. He said to them, “Today, this scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing.”
In the Book of John 14:12, Jesus said, “Amen, I say unto you, whoever believes in me will do the works that I do, and will do greater ones than these because I am going to my Father.”
“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”—Acts 1:8.
From these different passages in the scriptures, we can say that the Lord’s will and design for our lives are for us to live a power-filled style of living. The source of this mighty power, this divine power in our lives, is the Holy Spirit. It is not from our own wisdom or knowledge or ability but from the Holy Spirit. However, many people, including Christians, do not live in the power that the Lord wants them to have. Many Christians claim for themselves only a minute portion of what God has made possible for them in Christ Jesus because they are ignorant of what the Holy Spirit can do and wants to do for them and through them. In John 7:37, Jesus says, “Let anyone who thirsts come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me as scripture says, “Rivers of living waters shall flow within him.” When Jesus mentioned the “living waters,” He was actually referring to the Holy Spirit, the third Person of the Holy Trinity. The Holy Spirit is the uncreated power of God. Jesus says in Luke 13:11, “If you then who are wicked know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will my Father in heaven give you the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him?”
Some people describe His power as “dunamis,” a Greek word meaning “dynamite.” But I believe that this power that the Lord is giving us is more powerful, more potent than all the atomic bombs and weapons combined in this world. We have an awesome God and His power is mighty. There is no limit to His power. There is no description to His power. His power creates as well as destroys power that is not of Him and from Him. His power is Divine in nature and nothing is more powerful than divine power.
Allow me to share with you some principles to obtain power-filled living:
1.) Have a constant, moment by moment, right personal relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ. He should be number one in our life. He should be the King, the Lord, the Savior of our life 24/7. In John 15:7-8, Jesus said, “If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask for whatever you want, and it will be done for you. By this is my Father glorified, that you bear much fruit and become my disciple.” Every time I read this passage in the scriptures, a feeling of tremendous excitement starts to “well up” within me.
2.) Be an imitator of Christ. In other words, we should strive to be like Jesus in every way. As a matter of fact, this should be the number one goal of a Christian. This necessitates for us to talk like Jesus, think like Jesus, act like Jesus did, have an attitude like that of Jesus and do what He commands us to do. Furthermore, it means “dying to self” so that we will be truly “alive in Him”(cf. Romans 6:11). I believe it is not impossible to achieve. Yes, we can achieve all of these through the power of the Holy Spirit. With God, nothing is impossible at all. In Phillipians 4:13, Saint Paul states, “I can do all things with Christ who strengthens me.”
3.) Constant, day-to-day, communication with God. This is what prayer is—communication with God. We can do it with our eyes closed or our eyes opened. We can do it kneeling down or sitting down or standing up or walking around or even lying down. We can do it anywhere we are. We can do it with verbal outburst of emotion or without verbal words. Jesus said, “Ask and you shall receive, seek and you shall find, knock and the door shall be opened unto you. For everyone who asks, receives; and for the one who seeks, finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.” Now, how many Christians do you think pray but do not really have faith that God is going to do anything great? On the other hand, how many Christians have faith but do not have the discipline to pray? If we want to see the supernatural take place in our lives, we need to live a lifestyle that is focused on constant communication with God. In Phillipians 4:6, Saint Paul says, “Be anxious for nothing. But in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God.” In James 4:2-3, we read, “Yet, you don’t have what you want because you don’t ask God for it. And even when you ask, you don’t get it because your motives are all wrong—you want only what will give you pleasure.”
4.) Be filled with the Holy Spirit. Saint Paul says in Ephesians 5:18, “And do not get drunk on wine, in which lies debauchery, but be filled with the Holy Spirit.” Every day, we should ask the Holy Spirit in faith to fill us with His presence, His power and His grace. In Luke 11:13, Jesus said, “If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him?”
5.) Obey the Lord’s commands and the promptings of His Holy Spirit. In 1 Samuel15:22, the word of God says, “Obedience is better than sacrifice, submission than the fat of rams.” Our obedience to the Lord and His commands for us really moves the heart of God. Once, I was praying over a man born blind in a Catholic Coptic Church in Bethlehem, Holy Land, during a Healing Rally. This Arab Christian, named George, was 58 years old and I could only see “the white flesh” in his eyes. I could not even see his pupils because they were covered with this “white flesh.” As I was praying over George, I heard the Lord’s voice in my heart, telling me to command the “spirit of blindness” to leave him in Jesus’ name. I obeyed what the Lord was telling me to do. Minutes later, he said he could see “shadows,” then, as I continued to pray over him, he said he could see “lights” and finally he said he could see “everything” around him. George was totally healed of blindness that day! Only in obedience to the Lord and His commands can we experience the miracles unfolding before our eyes. The following year, I went back to the Holy Land as a tour leader for 48 pilgrims. We went to Bethlehem and I came to the same Church looking for George. But Father Yacob the Parish priest told me “You can no longer see him here. George has been out there sight-seeing ever since he was healed of blindness.”
6.) Saturate your entire being with God’s words. Jesus said in John 6:63, “My words that I speak to you, they are spirit and they are life. “Psalm 109:105 tells us, “Your word, oh Lord, is a lamp for my feet and light to my path.” Indeed, God’s word is power! In Revelations 12:11, the Word of God says, “We conquer Satan by the word of our testimony and by the blood of the Lamb.” The “Catechism of the Catholic Church” (CCC) 104, states, “In sacred scripture, the Church constantly finds her nourishment and her strength, for she welcomes it not as a human word, “but as what it really is, the word of God.” “In the sacred books, the Father who is in heaven comes lovingly to meet His children, and talks with them.” Saint Jerome, one of the Doctors of the Catholic Church, says that “ignorance of scriptures is ignorance of Christ.”
7.) Let us avail ourselves of the sacraments of the Catholic Church, especially the sacraments of reconciliation or confession and the Eucharist. CCC 1422 states, “Those who approach the sacrament of penance obtain pardon from God’s mercy for the offense committed against Him, and are, at the same time, reconciled with the Church which they have wounded by their sins and which by charity, by example, and by prayer labors for their conversion.” It further maintains, “Jesus calls to conversion. This call is an essential part of the proclamation of the kingdom: ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.’” In the Church’s preaching this call is addressed first to those who do not yet know Christ and His gospel. Also, baptism is the principal place for the first and fundamental conversion. It is by faith in the gospel and by baptism that one renounces evil and gains salvation, that is, the forgiveness of all sins and the gift of new life (CCC 1427). In order for God’s power or anointing to remain in us, we should also avail ourselves with the Sacrament of the Eucharist daily, if possible. The Holy Eucharist, The Documents of Vatican Council II tells us, is “the source and summit of the Christian life” (Lumen gentium, number 11; cf. CCC 1324). “At the Last Supper, on the night He was betrayed, our Savior instituted the Eucharistic sacrifice of His Body and Blood. This He did in order to perpetuate the sacrifice of the cross throughout the ages until He should come again, and so to entrust to His beloved spouse, the Church, a memorial of His death and resurrection: a sacrament of love, a sign of unity, a bond of charity, a Paschal banquet ‘in which Christ is consumed, the mind is filled with grace and a pledge of future glory is given to us’” (CCC 1323). We encounter Jesus in a very special way through the sacraments of the Church. Needless to say, the sacraments are also great sources of power in a person’s life.
8.) Have an expectant faith, a kind of faith that can move mountains. What is the Biblical definition of faith? Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen (Hebrew 11:1). Jesus said in Luke 17:6, “If you had faith like a mustard seed, you would say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and be planted in the sea’; and it would obey you.” “And without faith, it is impossible to please God.”(Hebrew 11:6). Faith is one of the gifts of the Holy Spirit. It is God’s will for us to have a supernatural kind of faith, a faith that can move mountains. We are all unworthy to be used by the Lord. Early in my ministry of preaching, teaching and healing, I reminded the Lord that I am unworthy and I feel unworthy to be a vessel of His power. He spoke into my heart. He said, “My son, I shed my precious blood for you on the Cross in Calvary. By doing so, I made you worthy of my love for you.” I, then, asked Him to grant me the faith that can move mountains. Faith can move the heart of God.
How to Use God’s Power?
1.) Use it in the Name of Jesus and by the power of His Holy Spirit. In Ephesians 2:9-11, Saint Paul says, “For God has highly exulted Him and bestowed on Him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee shall bend of those of heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord for the glory of God the Father.” In November 2007, a lady called from Michigan asking me to pray with her for the dead fetus in her womb. She said, “I’m four months pregnant, but tomorrow, the doctors will have to remove the dead fetus from my womb. I am very scared of the doctor’s procedures and very distraught over what happened to my baby.” She said all the tests had confirmed the demise of the baby in her womb. As we started to pray, I sensed that the Lord wanted me to speak life into the dead fetus. I followed the promptings of the Holy Spirit. I spoke life into the baby at least three times in the mighty name of Jesus. But I did not hear from the lady again until February 2008, which was five months later. She told me that she just delivered a healthy, eight-pound baby girl. When I asked her what happened, she said that on the day when the “dead” fetus was to be removed, the doctors were startled to detect heartbeats in the ultrasound. Truly, there is power in the Name of Jesus if we invoke it with love and reverence and with expectant faith.
2.) Use it for God’s glory. In 1 Corinthians10:31, Saint Paul says, “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do everything for the glory of God.” All honor and glory rightfully belong to God alone, for, without Him, we are nothing and we cannot do anything.”(cf. John 15:5). When I pray for the sick, for instance, I always ask the Lord for His name to be glorified through the healing of the person.
3.) Use it with humility. There is nothing except pride that can block, warp or dilute the power of God. Psalms 18:27 says, “For you save a humble people, but the haughty eyes you bring down.” Therefore, the more humble we become, the more power and anointing from God that will reside upon us. 1 Peter 5:5 reads,” Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble. Jesus Himself is the model of humility par excellence. According to Saint Paul in Phillipians 2:5-8, “Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, He humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”
4.) Use it with boldness. We should always remember that “the Kingdom of God is not only a matter of words but of power” (cf. 1 Corinthians 4:20). The power of God should be used with boldness in the Holy Spirit. When the power of God is unleashed in our midst to further the Kingdom of God, it will always accomplish its intended purposes. In 2 Timothy 1:7, Saint Paul wrote, “For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love and self discipline.” In Acts 4:31, the word of God says, “And when they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak the word of God with boldness.” My brothers and sisters, because of their boldness in the Holy Spirit, the apostles and the disciples had turned this world “upside down” and “inside out” and this world has never been the same. The good news is that we are also called by the Lord to do the same by virtue of our baptism.
5.) Use it in love. Love is the key that opens the Kingdom and the heart of God. In 1 Corinthians 13:13, the word of God says, “So faith, hope and love remain, these three; but the greatest of these is love.” For sure, if we use God’s power with love, everything will be possible for us. In John 4:16, we read, “We have come to know and have believed the love which God has for us. God is love, and the one who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.”
God bless you all!
© Robert “Bob” Canton is a council member of ICCRS representing the English-speaking North and Central America as well as the Caribbean countries. He is one of the fourteen Council members who represent ICCRS to all the continents in the world. Canton also founded the Robert Canton Ministries, a non-profit organization aiming to evangelize the entire world through teaching, preaching and healing in the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ. He and his family have been residents of Stockton, California, since 1973.'
Rest in peace my grades. Rest in peace all of my friends and any amount of “coolness” that I had. It was nice knowing you.
I did a class presentation against abortion during my sophomore year of high school. On that day I was pretty sure I was committing academic and social suicide.
But, hey, I am alive to tell the story. I am here to say that I won over the entire class. The teacher was crying. We even prayed a rosary together.
Just kidding. That presentation I did was pretty bad. But I have learned a lot from it. Since then I have done a handful of presentations, in-class discussions and papers on topics from the existence of God to other Catholic social teachings like pornograhy and genetic engineering.
I have learned a lot from failing and learning how to succeed. I learned that it does not actually have to be academic or social suicide. Frankly, your classmates have probably only heard what popular media has told them about these positions. They have probably never heard it said intelligently, charitably or from someone your age.
You have a beautiful opportunity to show them differently and here are some tips on how to do that:
Use Good Sources
We live in a culture where everything posted online is taken as “truth.” But you are smarter than that and so are your teacher and classmates. While they may be good places to start, avoid citing Catholic or any sketchy looking websites. There are plenty of good philosophical and secular (not religious) scientific sources to back you up. A good example of this is pornkillslove.com. At the bottom of every article there are dozens of academic journals listed, which makes them trustworthy.
Meet Your Audience Where They Are
What kind of people are in your class? What are the common misconceptions when it comes to this topic? Answering these questions are key to addressing your audience.
Here are some examples:
◗ Saying “Birth control is not just a religious issue” will open up the conversation and debunk misconceptions.
◗ Saying, “Pornography is especially damaging to women because … ” will address the people who care about women’s issues.
◗ If you are a guy and talking about abortion, saying, “I know I am a male and cannot experience what being pregnant feels like but …” acknowledges what people are already thinking.
Do Not Be Overly Emotional
Tread lightly. Remember, you are in an academic setting. Sometimes coming off too emotionally invested can make you lose academic credibility. Alarming statistics and real personal narratives should be able to speak for themselves. Preaching in this setting can come off as cheesy. Plastering photos of babies on powerpoint and using common sayings like, “Your mom was pro life” and “What if your best friend was aborted?” honestly are not very helpful and do not offer a lot of academic insight.
Seriously. It is better to not speak at all than to speak without love. A good starting point is to practice charity and love with your classmates and teacher long before and after your presentation or debate. You should be doing this anyway, but especially when you talk about a tough topic. They will better understand your heart.
A second tip is to watch your tone. If people feel like you are condescending or belittling them, they will immediately close off and become defensive. One way you can do this is to acknowledge other sides and demonstrate that you get where they are coming from. Be compassionate to that.
Offer It All Up for the Glory of God
It is tempting to make this all about us and try to show off that we are the smartest person in the room. We are not. We have been graced to know truth and given even more grace to share it. Depend on that grace. It is not about what we do, but what God does with our openness. Before even writing out a single word tell Jesus that this assignment is His and you want to do what He wants with it.
If you do this, you do not have to be a slave to fear because it is not your work but His. You can be confident in that. Somewhere in between the statistics and the compassion in your voice, we can pray that others will be able to experience the heart of Jesus.
© Julie Lai is a college student from California. Falling in love with Jesus has been her wildest adventure and she wants everyone to join! You can find more of her writings on Twitter @julsthecatholic. This article was originally published in Lifeteen.com. Reprinted with permission.'
So Much Noise!
Have you ever noticed how we run from silence and how enthusiastic we are for noise? Noise in our cars—music, radio or audio books; noise at work—music or radio again; noise in our homes—music, radio or television. “… All that noise down in Whoville …”
It seems that we are obsessed with running from the silence. How many people have said, “Well even though I’m not watching it, I like to have the TV running in the background for company. I like it for the noise.”
Why are we so uneasy about silence? I think it is because the void it leaves makes us feel idle, dull, barren and perhaps it even seems a bit scary. So, we fill our lives with noise. This noise can at times bring with it chaos and clutter.
Back in 2008 I went on a weeklong silent retreat at a Catholic retreat house in Connecticut. By saying I went there, I mean I was coerced. I had no interest in going, but a good friend who had gone kept telling me how great it was.
I remember the drive up there. To say I was freaked out is an understatement. It is not like I am a raging extrovert (quite the opposite, actually), but the thought of no sounds for an entire week I found terrifying. The first day there, I handed in my cell phone. No laptop. I did not even have any books except the one that we were given to read—“The Imitation of Christ.”
During the retreat we prayed in silence, ate in silence, were instructed as we sat in silence and only communicated through hand gestures and written notes. The first day I wanted to poke out my eyes. The second day I found myself mentally slowing down, yet still fighting the distractions in my mind. The third day I felt like the clutter in my mind was truly starting to dissolve. The fourth day I never wanted to talk again. Ok, that is dramatic and not true. But, by the end of that week, I had developed a deep respect and gratitude for silence, and the grace that can come from it.
The Peace and Beauty of Silence
I learned during that week that silence can be beautiful, powerful and healing.
I also learned that when you can only talk by writing a note, you only say what is important. I realize now that before the retreat I talked often, but said little.
Silence forces us out of our comfort zones. When everything around us is quiet, we can either grasp for noise to fill that void, or we can go inside ourselves. What do we find there? Often it is things we do not want to find, yet that is where it starts. It is only when we discover things about ourselves that need improvement or changing that we can we begin to let God do His work in us. So often noise is a means for us to run from ourselves.
Since the retreat, I have learned about several benefits of silence:
Silence can enable us to go within ourselves and find a remedy for stress and anxiety. We can more easily relax if things are quiet. We can remove ourselves from the confusion and chaos of the world and discover many things in our lives for which we can be grateful.
Silence also helps us to focus on what is important. It is only when we can find silence that we can be more attuned to the voice of God that is speaking within us, guiding us with how to respond to the situations that come up in our lives.
Silence also teaches us that simplicity and joy are close companions. The more silence a person has in his life the more that he can notice and savor the simple joys of life, without all of the world’s many distractions. Also, silence helps us to realize that a few simple words well spoken have far more power than hours of chatter.
A Closer Relationship with God
It is important to note that as you create silence by subtracting, you do not fill the empty space with a different type of noise, distraction or clutter. Let your world go silent if just for a moment. Then try again, but for longer. Then try again.
Instead of letting your mind fill the silence with clutter, try to focus on God within the quiet space that results. Speak to Him, listen to Him. He will meet you there.
Let God speak back to you. It probably will not be in actual words, but you will know when He has spoken to you—through thoughts, inspirations, impressions, etc. You will be surprised by how much is actually there IN the silence itself if you will just take that first step. It is there where you will find the joy of silence.
© Alan Scott is a writer and blogger and his work has been published on the Catholic Exchange, One Peter Five, The Stream and Catholic Today. His blog “Grow in Virtue” (www.growinvirtue.com) is about the journey toward a life filled with more virtue, faith, simplicity, generosity and far less complexity. He is listed on Top Catholic Blogs and is writing his first book, which he hopes to publish this year.'
No, I do not have statistics from a focus group to support this claim! However, I do remember what it is like being a kid on summer break with not much to do at home to make the hours, days and weeks go by. There comes a point during the summer (usually not long after the 4th of July) when kids simply start getting bored.
After summer camp and family vacations ended, I can remember my brother and me trying to find ways to entertain ourselves until the dreaded return of school. We usually played countless hours of Battleship, Guess Who and War and made a big mess trying to build card castles. We even made up lots of games, like scavenger hunts and new house rules for Monopoly.
I am not suggesting that boredom is a bad thing; I think boredom can be quite a good thing because it makes you DO SOMETHING about it. I do not advocate for year-round school for kids because I am a firm believer in kids having to FIND fun and constructive things to do to occupy their time (without killing themselves, hurting each other or setting the house on fire). Kids need this leisure time to practice entertaining themselves, using their God-given imagination and tapping into their creativity. This often takes lots of back-to-back weeks of boredom to trigger! Building forts, collecting bugs, bike races, sleepovers, playing Marco Polo at the pool and everything else childhood summer nostalgia conjures up would not be possible without these long summer breaks.
Playing games is also a big part of childhood summertime nostalgia. Every household needs lots of games (my family had a game closet) to keep handy for times such as these when kids are cooped up in the house for hours on end. Games are also great for rainy days, a bit of family bonding time after supper and something for kids to do when their friends come over to play. Especially with today’s technology, good old-fashioned games are a great way to get families interacting with one another instead of with their iPhone, computers and video games.
Board games, like sports, are also hugely beneficial for children’s cognitive and social development. My brother and I always loved it when we got a new board game because we almost immediately set in to see how many times one of us could beat the other. The loser would always defer to tactics such as best out of five (or 10 or 20, depending on how badly we were losing!) or winner-takes-all to give one of us the upper hand. This makes the art of persuasion and salesmanship two handy life skills that board games can teach! Board games are also a fantastic way to help kids learn strategy skills, how to think on their feet, a healthy competitiveness, how to win and lose gracefully and how to practice getting better at things over time.
The really good news about board games is that there are a lot of great Catholic games available that do all of these things while providing catechesis at the same time. Many Catholic games are genuinely fun and not just an educational activity cleverly disguised as a game to make it appear more interesting and motivating. There are now Christian versions of many popular games such as Scattergories, Outburst, Taboo and Guesstures. A great new Catholic catechesis game is The Divinity Game–The New Catholic Catechism Learning System, which has received positive reviews. There are also beautiful 3-D puzzles of the architectural wonders of Saint Patrick’s Cathedral and Saint Peter’s Basilica which can be a lot of fun to put together over two or three days. Whatever kinds of games your kids enjoy, you should be able to find one that teaches elements of the faith as well.
What kinds of games did you enjoy playing the most during your childhood summer breaks?
© Gretchen Filz is a convert who is completely in love with the Catholic faith. She is very active in RCIA, pro-life ministry and other faith-based projects, in addition to being a Lay Dominican. She holds a master of arts in Christian Apologetics and has a heart for helping people learn more about the Catholic Church. She works on copywriting, content marketing and social media for The Catholic Company. Reprinted with permission from The Catholic Company. (www.thecatholicompany.com).'
It is something I learned from my grandfather’s preaching while I was growing up: sin cycles. “You shall not worship them or serve them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, on the third and the fourth generations of those who hate Me, but showing loving kindness to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments …” (Exodus 20:5-6).
Recently, All For God Youth Ministry shared a powerful clip from Jackie Francois-Angel on its Facebook page, which witnessed to this reality. “If you were abused,” she says, “you’re more likely to abuse …” Divorce, pornography, anger, etc.—all of these sins have a tendency to be passed down through generations, and from perpetrator to victim, creating a kind of cycle of sin.
To be honest, I was always a bit freaked out by hearing this. On the one hand, it is scary. Look around at all the junk in the world and you can see the grim reality of the cycle of sin. Does it not seem hopeless at times? Better not accumulate any baggage I used to think when the topic of generational sin would come up. Better find someone to marry who does not have any, either, or else our kids will pay the price. Of course that is not really the point. In reality we are all born into the cycle of sin. We all bear the original sin of our first parents, and each of us is affected in some way by the choices–good or bad–of the families to which we belong.
Yes, every sin hurts us, and if we do nothing, the cycle of sin can destroy us and even threatens to rip apart our families. But it is not hopeless. Thanks to Jesus, we get a choice. “When does it stop?” My grandpa would say when he would preach on this, “It stops when someone stands up and claims the Holy Spirit as Lord of the family.” It stops when we, as Jackie says in the clip, “plant the Cross of Christ in our hearts,” and decide we do not want it anymore. It stops when we realize that we cannot break free from the cycle on our own, but that Jesus wants to—and actually can—free us.
So we ask the Holy Spirit to be real in our lives. We begin to follow Jesus with the conviction that He is alive and actually working in our lives in every moment. We choose to say “No” to sin and “Yes” to Jesus—every single day! That is how you break the cycle of sin. Stand up and be free; it is what you were created for. But now that you have been freed from sin and have become slaves of God, the benefit that you have leads to sanctification, and its end is eternal life. “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:22-23).
© Mary Pearson (@marypearsonblog) is a stay at home wife and mother with a passion for sharing the faith through writing. She has published two books (“Letters From a Young Catholic” and “A Young Catholic’s Guide To The Family,”) and blogs regularly at marypearsonblog.com.'