While Nancy waited in the doctor’s office for her appointment time, she noticed an elderly woman across from her. Mid-seventies, Nancy guessed. Maybe five feet tall. She looked well-put together in her nicely tailored pink pant suit—until she stood up and shuffled behind her walker to the receptionist. It was then Nancy noticed the woman’s pant legs were so long that she had rolled up about a foot of material to keep it from dragging on the ground. Nancy wondered if she had no one to hem them for her, or to take her to a seamstress.
As she told me this story, lyrics of an old Beatle’s song passed through my thoughts:
Eleanor Rigby picks up the rice in the church
where a wedding has been
Lives in a dream
Waits at the window, wearing the face
that she keeps in a jar by the door
Who is it for?
All the lonely people
Where do they all come from?
All the lonely people
Where do they all belong?
Father McKenzie writing the words of a sermon
that no one will hear
No one comes near
Look at him working, darning his socks in the night
when there’s nobody there
What does he care?
All the lonely people
Where do they all come from?
All the lonely people
Where do they all belong?
When Nancy finished talking I sat in silence for a few moments, pondering the well-put together woman with the rolled up cuffs. What can the Gospel—the Good News of Jesus—what can it mean for all the lonely people? What can it speak to those who do not speak because they have learned no one cares to hear what they have to say? What message can the Good News have for those who will not look others in the eyes because they know by experience their place is always beneath and behind and in a corner?
Does God really have Good News for the Father Mckenzies and the Eleanor Rigbys and for those who do not have someone who cares enough to hem their pants?
Yes! Of course He does. That is why Jesus said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit.”
He was talking to the discouraged ones, the desolate, the rejected, the lonely, and the forgotten. He was talking to the invisible ones in every employee break room, in every church, in every classroom, in every doctor’s office, and in every family.
Their God—called “Immanuel, God with us”— aches for their sadness. He listens intently to every word whispered by their heart. He catches their every tear in His bottle. He cups their chin in His hands and invites them to look into His eyes.
The Good News of the Gospel is this: Though no one else knows them, God-With-Us knows them. His gaze follows those who are poor in spirit, each Eleanor Rigby, Father McKenzie, and each old woman with rolled-up cuffs. Each is immeasurably important to Him, so important that He says it again and again, “Come to Me, all who labor and are heavy burdened.”
Theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
© RICHARD MAFFEO was born into a Jewish home. Twenty-two years later, he discovered Jesus to be his Messiah. During the next thirty-three years, he and his wife, Nancy, worshipped in evangelical Protestant churches where he learned what it means to lean on Jesus and to listen for His voice. Maffeo earned his baccalaureate and seminary degrees from Assemblies of God schools. Then, in 2005, after discerning Catholic teaching in the light of the Scriptures, the Holy Spirit led him into the Catholic Church. He continues to mature in his passion for Christ, the Sacraments, prayer, and Scripture. Maffeo is a Fourth Degree Knight, has written three books, authors a blog (www.TheContemplativeCatholicConvert.blogspot.com), and serves Christ in his parish, St. Benedict’s Catholic Church in Duluth, Georgia.
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 journey in faith began to come alive in about mid 2005. I would have considered myself “agnostic” at the time, but my search for truth led me to the Catholic Church. I was confirmed in 2007 and married my beautiful wife, Maria, in October of the same year. We have eight amazing children and my vocation as a husband and father teaches me something new every day. The most valuable lesson that I continue to learn is about love. Lesson: Love is an Action Verb The Sapir-Wharf Hypothesis states, among other things, that language affects a culture’s worldview and societal mores. That struck me as a profound statement. It is sad, then, that the English language uses the same word to describe both my affinity for college football and my attitude toward my wife—love. If our language truly shapes the way we view things—and if we rely solely on what we perceive from our culture—we will be incomplete husbands/fathers at best. When I Google the definition of love, I get the following: love (lv) – noun: an intense feeling of deep affection. verb: to feel a deep romantic or sexual attachment to (someone). Sadly, these definitions only refer to feelings. I do not want to diminish the importance of these feelings in the least. They are a gift from God and should be cherished. Instead, I want to focus on how Scripture talks about love. The first passage that comes to mind is 1 Corinthians 13. Here, Saint Paul gives us a set of behaviors to help us understand what love should be like. Another example comes from John 3:16. “For God so loved the world that he gave His only Son …” Again, love is an action in John 14 when we are told that “Whoever loves Me will keep My commandments.” These are not small actions, either. These are life-changing and life-giving actions. God calls Christians to a higher standard. Instead of only resting in the truth of our feelings about our family, we are meant to show love to our families through our action. This business of putting our feelings into action can be challenging for us men. The good news should be that, as Christian men, we welcome a challenge! Thanks be to God that we were not left to figure this out on our own. We can stand on the shoulders of the giants who have come before us. In my experience, the formula is actually quite simple. The execution, however, is anything but easy! Before an army goes into war, there has to be a strategy. Make no mistake--we are at war! What is at stake is of immeasurable value. We are at war for the souls of our families. We have to know the objective and know what we are up against. We are battling forces that seek to pull our families apart. Love will win this war! So let us talk about a battle plan. The Good Actions That You Can Take: Daily Prayer and Meditation—We have to put first things first. “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment.” To know God is to know love itself. Devoting time for daily prayer is a foundational way to put love of God into action. In order to discern the will of God amidst all the noise and distraction, we need to schedule our lives around daily prayer. For me, this means starting my day with prayer. With eight children, it is almost impossible to find quiet time for myself. I have only been able to find it early in the morning. When I went on my first silent retreat, I learned about Ignatian spirituality, which has changed my life. One of the exercises is a form of meditation that incorporates Scripture. It did not come easy to me at first but, with practice, it has become transformational. I like this routine because it also incorporates another essential element: Scripture. Sacramental Life—Instituted by Christ, the Sacraments invite us into the divine nature. Visit the Sacraments as often as possible because this is the source of love. Once our cup is full, it naturally overflows. For many of us, daily Mass is difficult. Fair enough. I promise that when you are able to make a daily Mass, there is something special that happens. It reminds me that the bare minimum is not good enough. The same concept applies to confession. I go A LOT! If I only went to confession when I had to (being conscious of mortal sin), I would find myself believing that those other sins do not matter as much. Well they do! If you do not know what to confess, might I suggest to start with lack of humility and then ask the priest for guidance. If you really want to show courage, incorporate another Sacrament and ask your wife! Now we are getting somewhere. Network – Associate with other men. There are giants among us! Find them and talk to them. Most are eager to share their experience, strength and hope. Join a men’s group. If your parish does not have a men’s group, start one. My life has been enriched more than I can express by the men in my parish. We do a Bible study on Tuesday mornings. There is also a men’s retreat every Spring that is a highlight of my year. These men demonstrate love, courage, strength, humility and service. They hold me accountable, they give me something to strive for and they make me a better man. Die a Little – Here is the hard part: every day is a little Lent. In Romans 8 and Galatians 5, Saint Paul talks about living according to flesh versus spirit. I have to work daily to die to myself for the sake of self discipline. This takes form when I deny myself something that I want. Maybe it is nothing more than an extra helping at supper or dessert, but when I die to self, I can better love my wife. Another way is to do something for my wife without her knowing. There is always something that needs cleaning or fixing around the house. Pay attention to your wife’s favorite lotion or shampoo. When it gets low, replace it without telling her. Do it before she asks. I do things for my kids as well. They all have chores and I will occasionally do a chore for them without them knowing. Usually when I do something for someone, I want them to know. There is that part of my ego that wants the appropriate praise and acknowledgement for my kindness. I need to go kill that part of my ego a little bit every day. Now you might be asking, “What do these things have to do with love?” By my estimation, love was perfectly demonstrated by Christ crucified. These kinds of actions help me make my life an act of love and unite my life with the life of Christ. Any time I start to get delusional about what love looks like, I should take a hard look at a crucifix. That did not feel good. It hurt and it was not easy. I may not be called to that kind of demonstration, but I am called to profound and radical love. I am called to take up my cross and I cannot think of a sweeter cross than the one I carry as a husband and father. God knows I do not do it perfectly and you probably will not either. But there is good news. I finished the Book, and the war has already been won. We just need to show up and love. © ZAC MCCAY is a devoted husband and father of eight. As a convert to Catholicism, he joined the Catholic Church in 2007. He is active in several ministries including Fraternus, ACTS and Men of Saint Joseph. Working from a home-based business, McCay also spends time helping individuals trying to recover from addiction and speaking to men’s groups, youth and recovery communities. Originally published at www.catholicfamilymen.com. Reprinted with permission.
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