At age eight, little Bogdan Mandić knelt miserably in the center of his Catholic parish. After committing what he considered a slight fault, he had been scolded by his sister. To make matters worse, she hauled him over to the pastor, who suggested a humble posture as penance. It was then that the boy decided that when he grew up, he would become a friar—a confessor, specifically—but one who would treat sinners with goodness and mercy.
Bogdan did go on to become a Capuchin friar, taking the name Leopold. And he spent a majority of his life inside a tiny room in Padua, Italy, hearing confessions twelve hours a day. It is this dedication to the ministry of Reconciliation that caused Pope Francis to choose the relatively obscure Saint Leopold Mandić, along with household names like Saint John Paul II and Saint Teresa of Calcutta, as representatives of the Year of Mercy. Along with that honor, Pope Francis requested that Leopold’s body—still intact seventy-four years after his death—be displayed in Rome this past February.
When I visited Leopold’s cell in Padua, almost by chance, it still had the sparse feel of a confessional. But what dropped my jaw was the room next to it filled with gifts and offerings. They are all tokens of thanksgiving brought by people who have turned to Leopold for help and believe they have been healed through his prayers. It got me wondering, “Who is this man?”
A LARGELY UNEVENTFUL LIFE
As I looked into Mandić’s life, I realized that there really is not much to say. He did not travel much. He did not found a new religious order or perform dramatic miracles. He never wrote a book. But what did strike me was his profound understanding of the Sacrament of Reconciliation and his creative, but deeply faithful, grasp of God’s mercy. No wonder he got my attention! No wonder too that two of our greatest modern-day popes have felt drawn to him.
Leopold Mandić was born in 1866 on the Adriatic coast of what is now Montenegro. He was the youngest of twelve children in a Catholic family of Croatian origin. His parents, Petar and Dragica Mandić, made a living with their fishing fleet.
He was baptized Bogdan, a name that means “given by God.” From an early age, Leopold dealt with poor health. It stunted his development so that when he was fully grown, he stood four foot six. A form of arthritis gave him a slow lurching stride, and stuttering made it difficult for him to read aloud. But what he lacked in health, he made up for in studiousness and prayer. By age sixteen, he was ready to enter the seminary, and by twenty-four, he was ordained a priest.
Mandić’s superiors quickly assigned to him the task that would define his life: hearing confessions. Pope John Paul II noted the importance of this vocation at Saint Leopold’s canonization in 1983, saying, “His was a largely uneventful life. . . . Then came his assignment to the friary in Padua.” This was where he would spend almost fifty years listening to sinners cast off their burdens.
A CALMING CONFESSOR
On a regular day, the hall outside Father Leopold’s room was besieged. People of all kinds, from all over Italy, lined up to confess their sins. Every penitent was different to Leopold, and each needed his attention and tact. But Leopold’s main principle as a confessor was his confidence in God’s mercy. There was no sin too big for God to forgive. And it was his job to share that message with sinners.
Even after long hours in the confessional, he continued to make himself available. One doctor who often visited Leopold after grueling hours on the late shift recalled, “Not once did he tell me to come the next day; not once did he show signs of tiredness.” Just the opposite, Leopold welcomed anyone coming for confession with smiling kindness. He regularly sought the friendship of his penitents, knowing that one can accept everything from a friend, even an occasional admonishing.
Leopold’s welcoming nature disarmed one nervous man who had come far to see him. Heart racing, the man stood a ways off, afraid to enter the confessional. Leopold opened his door and, seeing him, called out, “That man over there! Come on in! Come on in!” The man followed him and introduced himself with these words: “Father, I’m a wicked man.” Leopold replied, “Here you are not anymore. You and I are brothers, and we will become very good friends. Let’s start off with a sign of the cross.” He listened to the long confession, offering a kind word here and there. By the end, tears of joy glistened in place of the man’s tears of shame.
“PUT EVERYTHING ON MY SHOULDERS”
Leopold’s fellow friars sometimes thought he was too lenient. He replied that if that was the case, the first to give a light pardon was Jesus Himself, dying on the cross to erase sins. He asked them what the point was of further humbling the souls who came for confession. “Aren’t they humiliated enough?” he asked. “Did Jesus humiliate the tax collector, the adulterous woman, and Mary Magdalene?”
And he meant it, so Father Leopold would never give harsh penances. If more reparation for sin was necessary, he offered to take on a share of the penance himself. When people were distressed by the weight of their sins, he reassured them. “Don’t worry; put everything on my shoulders. I will take care of it.” Taking care of it meant extra time in prayer at night.
Despite his defense of sinners, Leopold took pains to make sure penitents were not abusing the Sacrament. On rare occasions when people refused to reject sinful ways, they left his confessional without absolution. This was mercy too, he believed.
HIS OWN PATH TO SAINTHOOD
Although Leopold’s gifts as a confessor were renowned across Italy, serving in this capacity could be a struggle as well. He was reclusive by nature, but his work meant hours of conversation every day. He was known to be touchy and irritable around the friary. In the confessional, those who tried to justify their sins risked provoking his short temper.
Because of his physical ailments, Leopold was sensitive to embarrassment. If he thought someone was eyeing him with too much pity, he would defend himself proudly. But there were some humiliations he could not protest. Because of his speech impediment, for example, he was passed over in the friary for the reading of the daily liturgy and preaching.
Leopold’s solution was to nourish his relationship with God—whom he said was both doctor and medication. Through their close friendship, he learned to accept his lot and forgive trespasses against himself generously.
A DREAM REDEFINED
Part of accepting his duties involved rethinking a dear wish: to be sent as a missionary to Eastern Europe. The desire had originated from his earliest days growing up in an area of cultural and religious crossroads. The thought of uniting Catholic and Orthodox factions there remained with Leopold long after it became clear that his superiors would keep him in Padua. But rather than giving up the dream, Leopold decided to shorten the distance and adjust his method.
Creatively, he offered up his ministry as a confessor in Padua for the reconciliation of the Eastern Church with Rome. Leopold wrote repeatedly in his personal diary, “Every person who will ask for my ministry will be my East.” Although he did not accomplish reconciliation on such a large scale, he devoted his life to individuals’ reconciliation with God, for the sake of unity. Because of this, Leopold is seen as a forerunner of ecumenism and an intercessor for all who work to bring Christians together.
You may find you relate to Saint Leopold in unexpected ways. He was a man who slept only five hours a day and spent an enormous amount of time in one room. He had unrealized dreams of traveling the world and preaching. He found his vocation in listening to other people’s miseries and speaking God’s forgiveness. Some might call this drudgery, but Leopold looked upon it as a high privilege.
Leopold Mandić was a tremendous gift to the Church. His ability to practice the mercy of God serves as an inspiration to many confessors today. His determination to be an instrument for God despite his limitations is a lesson in humility. And he is one of us, reminding all Christians that God’s will is in the smallest of jobs. To me he is a personal friend, whom I can turn to for any kind of need. Go talk to him, and find out yourself; his door is always open.
© FEDERICA PAPARELLI THISTLE writes for “La Croce” magazine and lives in Maryland with her husband.
Every driver knows that one of the worst places you can find yourself in—is the "blind spot" of another driver. That is the little space in the line of sight between the coverage of the rear view or side mirror and the actual car next to us. I think we have all had the experience of checking our mirrors and then changing lanes, only to hear the mad blast of a horn as a car that was previously unseen to us speeds past. While our heart races over the near collision, we practically break our necks double checking the next twelve lane changes. And then sometimes the collision does happen. We could have sworn there was no car next to us but the accident happens and the problems and trauma ensue. One of my friends noted that this is true in our personal lives as well. How many times have we "run into or over" others simply because we did not "see them." It is the boss who regularly becomes angry and screams at his employees because "that's just how he is." It is the meddling mother-in-law who cannot get through a conversation without saying something cutting or judgmental, when "trying to be helpful." It is the spouse who is more concerned about him or herself than the marriage or family. Often no one wants to confront these issues and so the problem continues. Self-awareness is minimal and the pain it inflicts on others pours forth. Most of the time, our ‘blind spots’ come not from an area of malice, but simply from a lack of self-awareness. We do not know ourselves or our story well enough to understand what it might be like to interact with ourselves on a daily basis. I am often personally convicted when I complain about others because people have to live with me as well! They have to work, interact and relate to me—broken, fragile person just the same. But there is also another aspect to ‘blind spots’—we often do not see ourselves as we truly are in our deep lovingness to God. As Saint Paul writes in the context of speaking about authentic love, “For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known” (1 Corinthians 13:12). We all long to see face-to-face. Our deepest desires involve loving and being loved, knowing and being known. This is an ache for eternity. When we see God face to face, we will finally see, know and love in fullness. Until then, we undergo this process of revelation, of knowing only parts and pieces as we move towards the whole. It is beautiful and sorrowful, wounding and life-giving. It is the path of true love—to behold ourselves and others as unique, precious and unrepeatable creations of God Himself. We could ask the Holy Spirit to reveal our ‘blind spots’—that He reveals the areas where we “run over” and miss people because we just do not see them. Let us ask the Holy Spirit to speak to our true identity, our true lovingness, and live in that reality rather than relating to ourselves and others from our masks, our wounded and skewed vision. We often do not know what we do not know. Let us ask to see clearly, all the way around. © Sister Miriam James HEIDLAND, S.O.L.T. was raised in Woodland, Washington. She is a graduate of the University of Nevada-Reno where she played volleyball on a scholarship and majored in communications. Upon graduation, she joined the Society of Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity (SOLT), a missionary community that serves global areas of deepest apostolic need. Sister Heidland has served at various SOLT missions including Rome, Seattle and Texas. In addition to speaking, her apostolate includes working with elementary school students, parish ministry, coaching high school volleyball and co-hosting a Catholic radio program. Her story has been featured in the “Seattle Times,” The National Catholic Register and heard on Relevant Radio, Sirius XM, Catholic Answers Live and EWTN’s Life on the Rock, as well as at Steubenville conferences, the Share Jesus campaign and international conferences and retreats. Sister Heidland holds a master’s degree in theology from the Augustine Institute and often attends courses at the Theology of the Body Institute. Her book, “Loved As I Am,” was released by Ave Maria Press.
What could a shepherd possibly provide me that would leave me lacking of nothing? Though familiar with this famous Psalm, it was not until recently that I started to recognize it as a lesson in trust, which is something I seriously struggle to possess within my faith. Psalm 23 builds an understanding of the trustworthiness of Christ, especially when you consider the role of a shepherd in relation to his sheep. Curious to know how this relationship looked, I searched in Google the “role and responsibilities of a shepherd” with regard to the care of his sheep. This gave me a great insight into that special bond between the two and enlightened me as to why Jesus uses this image in His teaching to help us see His role in our own lives. In calling Himself the “Good Shepherd,” the people first witnessing Him preach would understand the shepherd as protector, comforter and provider. THE LOWLY SHEPHERD Jesus, however, was not the first to use the bond between shepherd and sheep to teach; this image can be seen throughout the Old Testament as well. Though clearly this reference is a foretelling of the Messiah, who is Christ the Lord, the Old Testament provides many examples of those who made a living (at least at some point during their lives) in shepherding, such as Moses, Jacob, Abraham, King David and the prophet Amos. Isaiah uses the shepherd imagery in his poetry as well: Like a shepherd he feeds his flock; in his arms he gathers the lambs, carrying them in his bosom, leading the ewes with care (Isaiah 40:11). The shepherd was not typically seen as the most illustrious career path. This was a lowly position but incredibly crucial to the livelihood and lives of the people in the Old Testament as well as in the time of Jesus. As I read Isaiah’s description of the shepherd, my heart is moved by the tender, loving care evident toward the sheep. I am sure they were gruff shepherds working the pastures, but more often these men were clearly of great compassion. They certainly possessed a strong sense of protection for their charges. The more you know about being a good shepherd the more your heart will be filled with gratitude for Jesus the Good Shepherd. WHAT A SHEPHERD DOES Here are a few of the responsibilities of a shepherd and how they juxtaposition Jesus’ loving and tender care for us: First, the shepherd is responsible for the flock’s welfare and safety. According to my research, sheep are not as dumb as they are often portrayed. They can, however, still get themselves into a lot of trouble. Do you see the comparison to people already emerging? Well-meaning sheep, who just want to graze upon the green pasture, have been known to myopically follow the grass, away from the flock and into harm’s way. Sheep can become lost, putting them in grave danger from predators or even stumble off a cliff while fixated on eating the grass before them. How often have I become short-sighted in my own life? Losing my way or unaware of the danger and continuing on the path only to get hurt. My free will can be a real hindrance to my well-being some days. There are paths that look fulfilling but if I head down them apart from Jesus I am apt to find more harm than good. When I look back at Psalm 23, I see the benefit of staying near and following Christ: He guides me along the right path for the sake of his name (Psalm 23:3). In order for me to submit to the leadings of the shepherd, I have got to feel he has my best interests in mind. I have to trust him. This quote from the commentary on Psalm 23 from “The Didache Bible” encouraged this surrender as it again points out the closeness of shepherd and sheep. “This Psalm portrays God as one who knew the psalmist intimately and was with him on every step of his journey, in every moment of his life” [Cole, Jeffrey, Editor. “The Didache Bible: Ignatius Bible Edition”(RSVCE). Ignatius Press, 2014. Page 628]. AVOIDING SNARES Second, the shepherd protects the sheep from predators. His ultimate concern is flock perseverance. Wolves, coyotes, foxes and mountain lions are all natural predators to sheep. The predators either seek the sheep out of hunger or stumble upon those that have lost their way. Saint Peter warns us that sheep are not the only ones with a natural predator and in need of protection: “Be sober and vigilant. Your opponent the devil is prowling around like a roaring lion looking for [someone] to devour" (1 Peter 5:8). There was a time when I was ignorant to the “snares of the devil” (2 Timothy 2:26) to the point of even denying his existence, which is his greatest snare. Unaware of this danger, I was the most vulnerable. Gratefully like the sheep, Jesus pursued me. In Luke’s Gospel Jesus gives us another reason He pursues us when we are lost: “What man among you having a hundred sheep and losing one of them would not leave the 99 in the desert and go after the lost one until he finds it? And when he does find it, he sets it on his shoulders with great joy and, upon his arrival home, he calls together his friends and neighbors and says to them, ‘Rejoice with me because I have found my lost sheep.’ I tell you, in just the same way there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over 99 righteous people who have no need of repentance” (Luke 15:4-7). Protecting us from the predator absolutely means preserving us for heaven. He values every single soul and rejoices for each one preserved for eternal glory. CONSTANT CARE AND ATTENTION Third, the shepherd is often trained to assist the sheep with health issues. Just like sheep, we are susceptible to diseases. Humans, being multifaceted beings, face more than just physical ailments. We must contend with our emotional and spiritual well-being as well. Jesus the divine physician is more than adequately equipped to tend to those needs. In addition, like the shepherd who “will make frequent checks on the ewes at all hours of the day and night, and may assist the ewe if birthing problems occur,” Jesus is ever present with us. How comforting knowing that Jesus is constantly checking in on us throughout the day and through the night. His grace is abundantly available to assist us when we birth problems in our lives. MY SHEEP KNOW MY VOICE The last characteristic of the shepherd I wish to expound upon is the unique call each shepherd has to summon his flock. Each shepherd trained his sheep to recognize only his voice, so regardless of the number of shepherds sharing the pasture, they would have known to whom they belong and whom to follow. Knowing this, Jesus words from John’s Gospel, “I am the good shepherd, and I know mine and mine know me, just as the Father knows Me and I know the Father; and I will lay down My life for the sheep” (John 10:14-15) take on an even richer meaning. To train our ears to hear only the Good Shepherd’s call we must spend time listening to him. Reading Scripture, the Word of God, is perhaps one of the most obvious places to learn His voice. In the Bible, we encounter the guidance of the Holy Spirit as Jesus’ very words and works are shared with us. In addition, we can hone our hearing through time in prayer and regular participation in the Sacraments. WHAT SHEEP TEACH US ABOUT TRUST So what does this all have to do with trust? A shepherd would lay down his life for his sheep. Jesus has done that for us as a great sign of His tender care. Unlike the shepherd laying down his life to protect his livelihood, Jesus did it out of His immense love for each and every one of us. Psalm 23 reminds us that He will not only make straight our paths but along that journey will satiate our thirst, lay a banquet before us, anoint us and bring us to the joys of life everlasting. We have nothing to fear and that is why this is a lesson in trust. “May the God of peace, who brought up from the dead the great shepherd of the sheep by the blood of the eternal covenant, Jesus our Lord, furnish You with all that is good, that You may do His will. May He carry out in You what is pleasing to Him through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever [and ever]. Amen” (Hebrews 13:20-21). © Allison Gingras is a Catholic radio host, blogger, author, retreat leader and inspirational speaker. She is the founder of ReconciledToYou. com (#RTY) and host of ‘A Seeking Heart with Gingras’ on Real Life Radio. Allison created the "Words with" daily devotional App Series: ‘Words with Jesus’ and ‘Words with Mary’. She offers presentations on forgiveness, mercy and social media Evangelization. Gingras shares these with great enthusiasm, passion and a sense of humor—with a great desire to open hearts and minds to the beauty and blessings of following Christ through the Catholic faith.
In 1 Corinthians 12:4-11, Saint Paul writes, "There are different kinds of spiritual gifts but the same Spirit; there are different forms of service but the same Lord; there are different workings but the same God who produces all of them in everyone. To each individual the manifestation of the Spirit is given for some benefit. To one is given through the Spirit the expression of wisdom; to another the expression of knowledge according to the same Spirit; to another faith by the same Spirit; to another, gifts of healing by the one Spirit; to another mighty deeds; to another prophecy; to another discernment of spirits; to another varieties of tongues; to another interpretation of tongues. But one and the same Spirit produces all of these, distributing them individually to each person as He wishes.” Purpose of the Spiritual Gifts These gifts—described by many as "Charisms or Charismatic gifts"—are given by the Holy Spirit to individuals for service or ministry to edify or build up, to encourage and to comfort the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 14:3-5). The word "gift" in Greek is "charismata," meaning "favor freely given to whomever the Lord chooses." It is not something that the recipient has earned or deserved. In the “Catechism of the Catholic Church,” 799, the Church asserts, "Whether extraordinary or simple and humble, charisms are graces of the Holy Spirit which directly or indirectly benefit the Church, ordered as they are to her building up, to the good of men and to the needs of the world." The gifts of the Spirit manifest the presence and power of God in our midst. Jesus says in Acts 1:8, "But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, and you will be My witnesses in Jerusalem, throughout Judea and Samaria and to the ends of the earth." The Greek word for this kind of power is "dunamis," meaning "dynamite." God's power is surely more potent than all powers in this world combined because God's power is supernatural and unequalled in nature. When the Lord unleashes His power, it is always to accomplish His purpose and to establish His Kingdom. I believe that the Holy Spirit is looking for people whom He can count on to further God's kingdom and to achieve His purposes for His honor and glory. The Documents of Vatican Council II under the Decree of the Apostolate of Lay People state, "From the reception of these charisms, even the most ordinary ones, there arises of each of the faithful the right and the duty of exercising them in the Church and in the world for the good of men and the development of the Church, of exercising them in the freedom of the Holy Spirit who ‘breathes where He wills’." In his homily at the closing Mass of the World Youth Day in Sydney, Australia, in July 2008, Pope Benedict XVI stated, "But what is this power of the Holy Spirit? It is the power of God's life! It is the power of the same Spirit who hovered over the waters at the dawn of creation, and who, in the fullness of time, raised Jesus from the dead. It is a power which points us, and our world, toward the coming of the Kingdom of God." Prophetic Gift Let me focus more specifically on the gift of prophecy. Saint Paul says "Pursue love, but strive eagerly for the spiritual gifts, above all that you may prophesy." 1 Corinthians 14:1. In Acts 2:17-18, we read about Peter standing up with the 11 and reiterating what the prophet Joel had prophesied, "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," To prophesy means to speak or sing a message from God under the unction or direction of the Holy Spirit. Simply put, to prophesy is to be a spokesperson for God. However, not all who prophesy are prophets but all prophets must prophesy. Some, who are called into the prophetic office by the Lord, are continually using the gift of prophecy and other gifts of revelation such as the word of wisdom, word of knowledge and discernment of spirits in their lives and ministries. Prophecy may forth-tell or foretell the truths from God. A prophecy that forth-tells means a message that does not necessarily pertain to the things in the future. An example of this is when Jesus, from the Cross, told the “good thief.” "Amen, amen, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise," Luke 23:43. On the other hand, foretelling relates to the things or circumstances that will come to pass in the future. An illustration of this is found in Acts 11:28, "One of them named Agabus stood up and predicted by the Spirit that there would be a severe famine all over the world, and it happened under Cladius Caesar." I was once a recipient of this type of prophecy that foretells about the future. After my wife, Chita, and I experienced the baptism in the Holy Spirit back on November 11, 1984, we started to pray together. On December 8, 1984, while we were praying, my wife came up to me and started prophesying, "My son, do not be afraid. My name is Jesus and I'm talking to you through your wife. I'm going to use you to heal millions in My name. Believe my son that this will happen and be humble always. You will preach the gospel in My name. Many will come to ask for healing. Heal them in My name because healing is good news. You will travel far and wide. You may find this hard to believe, but remember, for Me nothing is impossible." Soon after, I asked her what had prompted her to say those words to me. She said, "I only repeated what I heard the Lord was saying in my 'inner being'. To date, I have been to 39 countries, preaching and proclaiming the gospel and healing the sick in the name of Jesus, in spite of my many limitations. The Lord had opened the doors for me to start traveling and ministering internationally in the year 1991, exactly seven years after I received the prophecy about the works that the Lord wanted me to do for Him and for His Kingdom. A prophecy may also come forth through someone who speaks in "tongues." In 1 Corinthians 14:5, Saint Paul says, "Now, I should like all of you to speak in tongues, but even more to prophesy. One who prophesies is greater than one who speaks in tongues, unless he interprets, so that the church may be built up. When someone speaks in tongues in a prayer meeting, for instance, the gift of interpretation of tongues should also be operative to make the message in tongues understandable to the hearers. The person who is speaking in tongues may give the interpretation under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit or somebody else in the congregation may be prompted to do it. It should be noted that interpretation is not necessarily a translation of the message delivered through speaking in tongues. How to Hear the Voice of God The Lord wants to talk to us and He is always speaking to us! In the book of Genesis, we read these words many times, "Then God said.” In John 10:27, Jesus says, "My sheep hear My voice; I know them and they follow Me." Jesus also says, "Amen, amen, I say to you, many prophets longed to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear what you hear, but did not hear it" (Matthew 13:17). Our God wants to have fellowship with us. Jesus died on the cross for us not only to set us free from the bondage of sin and death, but also to bring us to a personal relationship and fellowship with Him. The Lord is more delighted to speak to us than we are to hear from Him. Most of the time, the Lord communicates with us through a still small voice from within our spirit. A person may perceive it as a sudden impression or a "sense" of something that God is saying or a passing thought. If we open ourselves, our hearts, our senses and our minds to God and be obedient to Him, we will surely hear His voice. The Lord can give us an impression or a vision or a thought. He can also communicate with us through dreams, through scriptures, through our circumstances, through other people and even through His audible voice, which is very rare indeed. He is sovereign and He has no limitations. Not long ago, I had the opportunity to conduct a Parish Mission in Sarasota, Florida. While giving a talk on "Repentance and Forgiveness," the Lord spoke into my heart that there was a person in the congregation who tried to commit suicide and that the Lord was setting him free from the feelings of guilt and self condemnation. When I received the words, there was a deep conviction in my heart that they came from the Lord. I announced what the Lord had said and a man named John came up to the altar, with tears in his eyes, to acknowledge everything that I said. I sensed that John tried to do it not only once but twice, and he admitted it when I asked him about it. That day, he received an emotional and spiritual healing and an assurance that the Lord, in His mercy and love, had not condemned but rather had forgiven him. Recently, John told me that his life had been changing rapidly for the better since then because he had grown closer to the Lord. Discerning of Spirits There are four sources of voices that we hear in the spiritual realm—namely, the Holy Spirit, the human spirit, the evil spirits and holy angels. In 1 John 4:1, the word of God says, "Beloved, do not trust every spirit but test the spirits to see whether they belong to God, because many false prophets have gone into the world." In 1 Thessalonians 5:19-21, Saint Paul says, "Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophetic utterances. Test everything; retain what is good." Both the "giver" of the prophecy and the "receiver" or the hearer should discern the words. A very careful and thorough discernment must be undertaken, especially in cases of directive prophecies, to make sure that they are from God and not from false prophets. To discern rightly and accurately we need the wisdom and assistance of the Holy Spirit who "guides us to all truths." Following are some of the practical guidelines in judging or discerning a prophecy: ◗ It must edify or build up and give comfort. If a prophecy is negative and condemnatory, it is a sure sign that it is not from God. ◗ It must bear good fruit. "Every tree that does not bear good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire. So by their fruits, you will know them" (Matthew 7:19-20). ◗ It must be scriptural. Jesus says, "My words, they are Spirit and they are life" (John 6:63). ◗ It must conform to the teachings of the magisterium of the Catholic Church. The magisterium is the teaching authority of the Church. ◗ It must produce peace. Saint Paul says, "God is not the author of confusion but of peace" (1 Corinthians 14:33). ◗ It must ultimately bring glory and honor to God. Saint Paul states, "So whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do everything for the glory of God" (1 Corinthians 10:31). ◗ It must strengthen the faith of both the "giver" of the prophecy and the "hearer or hearers." "Faith comes from what is heard and what is heard comes through the words of Christ" (Romans 10:17). Conclusion The gift of prophecy, if properly used, has the power to change people's lives. I believe that the Lord has chosen and appointed us, in spite of ourselves, to be His instruments. The world is waiting to experience the life-changing and life-giving power of the Holy Spirit. Are you willing to say "Yes" to the Lord and be His vessel to change the world around you? © ROBERT “BOB” CANTON is a council member of International Catholic Charismatic Renewal Services (ICCRS) representing the English-speaking North and Central America as well as the Caribbean countries. He is one of the 14 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.
My knees jabbed into my chest as my arms curled and tangled themselves around my forlorn body. My whole being was twisted and contorted. The space I was being shoved into was undoubtedly too small for me to fit inside. Still, the force would not stop shoving me, taunting me and driving me deeper into the tiny, dark box. The limited air supply was stale and suffocating. With every attempt to save myself, my body was crammed deeper into the incredibly restrictive space. As I attempted to suck in untainted oxygen, I was overwhelmed with an influx of stale air, littered with my own panicked exhales. Fear coursed through my body in a frantic pace I could not control. Everything in me was crying out for help, yet I was forcibly being muffled. I was helpless. My body's beckoning to escape manifested as exhaustion, fiery temps and intense perspiration. I gained some small semblance of strength and reached high, grasping the side of the deep, dark box my body had become wedged inside. My strength quickly dissipated as my body slunk back down like a wet noodle because of the preceding struggle that had drained me of all my vigor and fight. Someone, something of extreme power and seeming authority, stood over me, pushing me back down with every last effort I made at breaking free, ensuring I would not find success in a breakaway. I collapsed again, falling deeper into the pit, the abyss that consumed and wrecked me. With each failed attempt at freedom, I felt more defeated and crushed. Trapped and debilitated, my body conformed to the demands of this force which I could not terminate or diminish. I had been robbed of my voice as each frantic attempt to cry out for help went unheard. I found myself gasping for air, focusing only on survival now. My vision grew blurry and my thoughts were no longer coherent. What was happening? I had believed myself to be stronger than this. In fact, I had believed in my own strength so much that I could not reconcile this complete absence of power. How had I gotten here? What is this “thing” that could have this kind of control over me? Deflated, rejected, crushed, paralyzed and powerless. What now? How would I escape? This pressure, this unwelcome force had consumed me. What now? Fortunately, this description is not a direct reality for me. Although it is not a direct reality, it does, however, emulate the imagery often painted in my mind of how it must physically feel to be trapped and restricted—much like it feels to be spiritually trapped and restricted—by other people's expectations and desires for me and my life. The box has been created and unwanted expectations stuff me into it, stripping me of my own authenticity, of my own way, the story of my life. It is something I cannot understand. Why? Why would anyone choose to do this to anyone else, especially those they love? Yet, I know it is more often than not entirely unintentional. This driving and guiding of other people's lives comes from a space of fear and a need to control. It is a near-sided point of view and a death-grip on the steering wheel due to fear of what could happen if they were to let go. WHAT THEN?!?! Sure, your loved ones may stumble around in millions of directions, living a path you do not understand and may not even be able to relate to, but in the end it is still their path. My greatest desire is to live God's will for my life, to follow His path and His path alone, but these feelings I write of are the images and flashes of emotions that I would catch a glimpse of every now and then prior to where I am now. You see, I used to allow all these expectations and other people’s desires to shape me, drive me, and guide me. It never felt right; it never felt whole. Do you know why it never felt right? No one else is capable of knowing your path. That is between you and God. Your path should be discerned and prayed about with your Father, your Creator. He should be the one with the steering wheel, and it is up to you to try and figure out which direction He is driving you. Although other people's intentions are usually good, those other people are still not God. Others may offer good, necessary and needed advice at times, but still those people ultimately are not God. A good friend, a good mentor, a good ally will always strive to point you to God because it is with God where your individual answers lie. It is with God where the box is shattered. It is with God where the force of other people's expectations wither and die. When you are in deep communication with God, He will guide you, and the pressures and forces of the outside world will not be able to touch you or force you to be without Him. I am sure that in my lifetime I have inadvertently shoved people into a box as well. We all do at some point or another and some of us are worse at it than others. I encourage you to take a step back, especially with those you love. Where are you pushing them, where are you shoving them and why are you shoving them? The pivotal mediator is found in the act of trusting. Where there is force, where there is fear, there is a lack in trust. Let go and trust in God. Trust Him in every moment of every day. Trust Him with your loved ones, trust Him with your heart, trust Him with your future and trust Him right now. He is calling you to follow Him, to follow His most divine and unique plan, created only for you. It is not even possible for anyone else to know your calling and the infinite intricacies of your heart. Do you not sometimes find it difficult to know even the urging of your own heart? How then would you ever be able to know the complete picture of another heart's urgings? Do you want to be responsible for potentially leading another person astray from God's most divine plan for his or her life? The way he or she chooses to live his or her life may not be comfortable for you, but no one else's life is meant to be lived for your own satisfaction. When you get to the pearly gates how will you feel if and when you have to answer simple questions of how you influenced the life path of your loved ones? Every moment, every interaction counts. It is all an opportunity for purification and sanctification. It is all an avenue to grow in humility and character. You WILL NOT be able to live flawlessly, it is not possible, but our desire to live good, holy lives should certainly be the aim, the goal, the ultimate purpose of life here on earth. Ironically, that desire to live a good, holy life will not shove you into the box that many think it does. Instead, it breaks you out of the box, and springs you forward, farther than you could ever imagine. Striving to live a good, holy life is where your greatest happiness lies. So do yourself a favor and focus on your journey first. Choose love. Point people to God simply by the way you choose to live your own life and let God do the hard work. Let God steer the ship and control the transformations. If you trust in Him, you have nothing to worry about—for you or for your loved ones. Break out of the box and allow others to break out of theirs as well. © JACKIE STAMMEN is a Catholic blogger. She was raised in the small town of St. Henry, Ohio as the youngest of five children to loving parents who are celebrating forty-three years of marriage this year. Ten years ago, after graduating from The Ohio State University, she migrated south to Nashville, Tennessee and this ignited a transformation in her life in many respects, especially in her faith journey. Stammen believes that one of the most important things you could ever choose in your life is to live radically, authentically, and unapologetically as your truest self. Vulnerably and candidly exploring this notion through writing has become her passion. Her blog, Laughs and Love (www.laughsandlove.com) originated as a space for her to share the stirrings of her heart and embrace the journey toward living a more authentic life.
Don’t want to skip
an update or a post?
Get the latest articles from tidings!