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Nov 01, 2018
Evangelize Nov 01, 2018

“Behold, I make all things new” (Revelations 21:5). As I sat and watched the giant, flickering flame slowly and methodically burning away the wax until there was nothing other than some ash and a glass jar left, I was reminded of how the Holy Spirit consumes each one of us. With a gentle invitation, we are inundated with the Spirit of God, led and guided to each new step. Yet, often, we forget that imminent presence and lead ourselves down a rabbit hole. More often than not, we find ourselves bare and empty, asking ourselves the whys, hows and whats of where we have ended.

The necessity of the Holy Spirit to allow us to burn ever so slightly, until we are nothing but ash and the glass jar of a body, is a reminder that we cannot make this journey alone. Each one of us must be burned to the core, at some point, to lay empty and open to the guidance of our Master.

By looking at Christ’s life, we must know that we cannot escape our own crucifixion. Yet, unlike Him, we put ourselves on that cross because of our choices, thoughts and words. By looking at His lifeless body, and hearing His words, “Father, into Your hands, I commend My spirit,” we too must know the words to echo.

The beauty of the crucifixion is the reality of the resurrection. Just like the changing seasons, we are sculpted from old into new, from pain to freedom, from sorrow to joy. We are burned by the light of the Spirit from the inside out, where we let go of our own human ways and give of ourselves to the One who created us.

How do we learn to free ourselves from the entrapment of human frailties? We learn to abandon our own two feet. We jump off the cliffs of life (metaphorically, of course) and allow God the opportunity to catch us. We are hindered only by ourselves, by the casings we have formed around our lives. All too often, we go at this alone, thinking we know the answers. Yet, in doing so, we find that we are getting further and further away from the goal.

As humans, we are confined to the fears that ensnare us. The worries, anxieties and uncertainties we avoid facing keep us in the messy lives we have created for ourselves. To change this, we must dare to light the end of the wick with the match of the Spirit. We must invite Him to consume us, once again, to give way to a new freedom which pours out once we are burned to the core. Only then can we truly be free and know the newness of who we are supposed to be as children of God.

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By: Betsey Sawyer

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Oct 31, 2018
Evangelize Oct 31, 2018

What are you looking for? What do you desire? Are you happy? No matter who you are, these are questions every person ponders. No matter what your race, gender, socio-economic status, or belief about life, death, or what happens thereafter; if you are human, we share these questions in common. None of us can escape the expectation that our lives are supposed to make sense and satisfy us deeply.

Even the most jaded reader has felt the pain of disappointment when life did not feel like a story that was leading to something meaningful. You cannot always articulate it, but you have surely had the feeling. Think for a minute about the last time that you invested in watching a movie or reading a book that let you down. It is even worse when you get to like the characters, or the settings, or even elements of the plot. You are left frustrated by how the author or director wasted the potential that was already there. It could have been better, you think. It should have been better. A good ending can save a story. A bad ending, no matter how good any single part of the story is, will ruin the whole experience.

What is true in big screen stories is also true about our life story. Deep down, we have this sense that our lives are meant to have a happy ending. Our relationships with friends, family, work, food, money, etc.—all of it is meant to be a part of a bigger story. No matter what happens on any given page of the story, if we know that there is a happy ending waiting, if we can trust that the author of our story knows what He is doing, then we can see our way from one chapter into the next with hope.

Some of us live life trying to avoid those questions at the beginning because we are afraid that there are no real answers. It can feel like a world of endless opinions and marketing tricks. A world full of salesmen and nothing that is worth buying. So we can live day-to- day, engaging in the hard work of distracting ourselves with pleasure to avoid pain, with soundbites to avoid searching, with stuff to avoid substance. Yet, no matter who we are, the questions remain: What are you looking for? What do you desire? Are you happy?

If our lives are like a story, there is nothing worse than to live life without knowing confidently how our stories will end. What happens at the end of a story not only makes a good story great, but it also makes painful and broken stories, beautiful, meaningful and powerful. At a particular place and at a particular time, a man named Jesus stated not only why we are unhappy but also what will make us happy, forever. It is a bold claim, but it gets crazier.

Jesus claimed that He Himself is the source of all happiness and that He wants to satisfy our deepest desires. He did not just claim this, He acted on it. He went out transforming lives of very broken people. Jesus spoke into each person with passionate interest, investment, and no agenda other than their own good, especially to those on the fringes of society—the diseased, abused, criminals, prostitutes, tax collectors, and more.

Jesus’ whole life was driven by a desire to restore people to their deepest identity. He called out the very actions, thoughts, and lifestyles that kept them—and keep us—locked in a state of misery. He was not afraid to speak the truth that we so often do not want to hear. But the truth is that we do not want to hear it because, usually, the people who speak that way to us, do not really love us. They point out a problem, but leave us in guilt, shame, and in the end, they leave us alone when we do not become good.

But that is how Jesus was different. He spoke in ways that no one ever had. He acted in ways that people never saw. His words were charged with power, love, and with authority. That is what everyone noticed when He was around. Authority: the word means “author’s rights.” Authority implies authorship.

This is why when Jesus spoke, it was as if He was personally aware and intimately connected to each person’s story. He did not sit back and watch events unfold. Rather, He entered into them as if it was His duty. So, not only did He speak, but He healed the sick, raised the dead, and set people free from fear, grief, and pain in ways that were miraculous. That defied what our experience tells us is possible. He inspired everyone around Him to dream again about the impossible!

So here it is—Jesus claimed to be God and then He set about doing the very things that a good God would do. This is why so many people followed Him. He changed everything. He healed their broken history and showed them the truth of their destiny. He still does this today. This is why so many people keep following Him still.

He did this in my life. He invited me to look at what I was really searching for, for what I really desired. He invited me to be honest and authentic with my heart. He asked me to take a risk on Him. He wanted to convince me of who He is and who I am. He said that I am not just haunted by the desire to be happy, but I am actually made for it. He says the same about your life.

This is not a sales pitch. This is an invitation to test your desire for real unending and unlimited happiness with an invitation to encounter Jesus Christ. He makes big promises, but those of us who have encountered Him and follow Him witness with our lives that He is good on His word. He is still at work, active, and still speaking into lives. He is still performing signs and wonders. He is still doing exactly the things that you would expect God to do.

Sure, it is hard to trust and to follow Him. But take a look at the stories of people, real people, who have spent their whole lives loving Him, being loved by Him, and loving others the way He loves. I bet that you will see that nothing that they surrendered compares to what they have gained in following Him. I bet that you will see in their lives stories like yours. I bet that you will see that Jesus is the type of author who does not wait until the end for the story to get good. He can start on any page, including the one you are living right now.

If you are interested in learning more about this, visit your local Catholic Church. There are a lot of people who are ready to share more with you. If you are open to this, right now, pray the following prayer daily and the eyes and ears of your heart can be open to seeing and hearing His authority in your life:

Jesus Christ, You said, “I came that they might have life and have it more abundantly.” I want to know if You are who You say that You are. I want to know if You can take my story and show me how You want to be a part of it, challenge it, transform it, and complete it. I ask You to forgive me and free me from anything that keeps me from living the life You desire for me. So for any and all sins, all those things that do not lead me to You, I am sorry. I give You permission to be the author of my life. I want to know more about You. Bring me to people and bring people into my life who can help me learn about You. Amen.

If you said this prayer, I invite you to search for a copy of the Bible (in your local Catholic bookstore, online, on the Truth & Life app) and start reading the Gospel of Luke to learn more about Jesus. As you read it, ask questions, jot down notes, and record what happens. If we are open and make room in our hearts, God has a surprising way of speaking to us through the Bible. Also, to help guide you, find a copy of the “Catechism of the Catholic Church.” There is so much in there that will guide you forward. Starting in the Prologue itself, you will encounter a God who is very much a seeker—kind of like you and me. If you have started this journey and want a little encouragement along the way, you can reach out to me. There is nothing like getting to know God’s story for your life by hearing His story in the lives of others!

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By: Joe Philip

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Oct 24, 2018
Evangelize Oct 24, 2018

Despite being a cradle Catholic, I never considered becoming a sister—that is, until the rat race got to me. Frankly, God was not my biggest priority while I climbed the corporate ladder. After graduating with a Bachelor’s degree in history and journalism, I was blinded by the allure of a glamorous, fast-paced life in network television in New York City, and I chased after a career in broadcast media. For three years I worked in areas ranging from production to research to multimedia news. I moved from job to job, working overnight and weekend shifts, holidays, doing whatever I needed to do to get ahead. As a result, my health and relationships suffered.

Yet, God was still good to me. He gave me the grace to persevere through the difficult times and, eventually, my work conditions got better. I was able to spend more time with my family and friends and serve at my parish as a catechist. And that is when I identified a yearning in my heart for something more, something better. I was still a long way from sisterhood, however.

ENCOUNTER WITH A SAINT

Growing up, I had little contact with sisters. My family belonged to a Korean Catholic parish in northern New Jersey, where I attended public schools. Two Korean sisters served in our parish, and they spoke little to no English. Although I saw them around church, I could not relate to them and did not get to know them well. Nevertheless, the sisters from my childhood must have left an impression on me because when I started getting involved with campus ministry in college, I noted the absence of sisters at our Catholic center and on retreats; I wished there were some there.

It was not a religious sister but my biological sister, Rosa, who inadvertently piqued my interest in religious life. While I was still working as a journalist, Rosainvited me to venerate the relic of Saint John Bosco when it was at Saint Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City as part of a U.S. tour. This was my first encounter with the saint who was a friend of the young and the poor and who had founded the men’s religious congregation the Salesians of Don Bosco, as well as cofounded the women’s religious congregation the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians, also known as the Salesian Sisters of Saint John Bosco. After patiently waiting my turn in line among thousands of pilgrims, I had my first encounter with Saint Don Bosco through his relic. As I touched the glass box that encased a life-size wax replica of his body, I prayed for guidance. Little did I know that a few years from then I would be entering religious life in the congregation he founded.

THE SEED OF VOCATION OF GROWS

My vocation discernment did not happen in a nice, orderly, logical fashion. I do not know if anyone discerns that way. God worked in mysterious ways over the course of three years, speaking to me through various people, events, places, and dreams. I was terrified at first that God might be calling me to be a sister! I had no idea what the vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience were all about. I did not want to give up the life I was living, despite the misgivings I was starting to have about it. Like most people, I had always dreamed of someday getting married and starting my own family, but the Lord gave me the grace to have courage and remain open. I thought it was my career that was causing this growing unrest within me. I prayerfully considered a career change and decided to leave journalism for a field where I saw greater potential to effect positive social change. With a desire to help communities through the built environment, I got a Master’s degree in urban planning. It still had not dawned on me that the hole in my heart could be filled by a religious vocation.

Halfway through graduate school, I attended a “Life in the Spirit Seminar” hosted by a charismatic young adults group. During the “Baptism in the Holy Spirit” program of the retreat, I was touched by the Holy Spirit in a very powerful way. I felt the fire of God’s love burning in my heart and on my tongue. I felt my heart filling with great joy and peace. That seminar cultivated the seed of my vocation. I began to hear God’s call to live exclusively for Him.

INSPIRED BY RELIGIOUS IN HAITI

The call grew louder while I was on a church service trip to Haiti, one of the poorest countries in the world, which had suffered a devastating earthquake in 2010. For one week, we stayed and served at a nursing home facility for the homeless elderly of Croix-des-Bouquets, about a thirty-minute drive from the nation’s capital, Port-au-Prince. The facility was staffed and operated by consecrated religious men and women of the Korean congregation known as the Kkottongnae Brothers and Sisters of Jesus. These missionary brothers and sisters, most of whom were in their thirties and forties, were trained medical professionals who lived at the facility and took great care of the residents. I was fascinated by their life. They were some of the happiest, most authentic people I had ever met. Their life of love and sacrifice for others inspired me and challenged the way I saw the world around me.

One night during a charismatic prayer meeting with the sisters and brothers of Kkottongnae, God said to me through one of the brothers there, “Go where my Light is.” When I heard these words spoken aloud, I began to sob uncontrollably because deep down in my heart I knew what that meant. God was calling me—now more clearly than ever—to follow Him in a radical way. I welcomed His invitation into my heart that night and I finally felt free.

FINDING THE RIGHT FIT

Upon my return from Haiti, with the help of a spiritual director I began to visit communities closer to home. I looked at the spirituality of each congregation more than its core work, and I asked myself if I could honestly see myself living the community’s charism and lifestyle.

As I continued to pray and discern, God led me to the Salesian Sisters a month before my graduation. These sisters were gentle, joyful, and a whole lot of fun. They offered me friendship and cordiality, without pressuring me to visit them or enter the community, allowing me to decide for myself if and when I wanted to enter.

During this time, my parents were very apprehensive about my desire to pursue religious life, with my father concerned that I was trying to escape the world and avoid responsibility for my expensive decision to go to graduate school. Many arguments ensued. He started to warm up to my decision after graduation when he saw how hard I was working—at multiple part-time jobs—to pay off my student loans. Additionally, God sent people to my dad to advocate for my vocation. Once he approved, it did not take long to win over my mom.

God continued to send me little signs to reassure me that I was on the right path even during my application process to be accepted into the Salesian Sisters. When I retrieved my baptismal record from the church where I was baptized as a baby in Seoul, Korea, I learned that the date of my Baptism was January 31, the feast day of Saint John Bosco, one of our founders. I also learned that Saint Francis De Sales, the saint I had chosen for my Confirmation, was the patron saint of the Salesians and the source of its name.

HOPEFUL FOR THE FUTURE

Now I am in my third year of formation with the Salesian Sisters—that is, preparation for full membership. I feel more fully alive now than ever before. Living the virtues of poverty, obedience and chastity enables me to be totally free to love and serve others. Though my vocation journey is not without fear, doubt, or difficulty, I have faith that God’s plan for me is, in the words of the prophet Jeremiah, “a future full of hope.”

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By: Sister Boram Lee

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Oct 09, 2018
Evangelize Oct 09, 2018

What are you looking for? What do you desire? Are you happy? No matter who you are, these are questions every person ponders.

No matter what your race, gender, socio-economic status, or belief about life, death, or what happens thereafter; if you are human, we share these questions in common. None of us can escape the expectation that our lives are supposed to make sense and satisfy us deeply.

Even the most jaded reader has felt the pain of disappointment when life did not feel like a story that was leading to something meaningful. You cannot always articulate it, but you have surely had the feeling. Think for a minute about the last time that you invested in watching a movie or reading a book that let you down. It is even worse when you get to like the characters, or the settings, or even elements of the plot. You are left frustrated by how the author or director wasted the potential that was already there. It could have been better, you think. It should have been better. A good ending can save a story. A bad ending, no matter how good any single part of the story is, will ruin the whole experience.

What is true in big screen stories is also true about our life story. Deep down, we have this sense that our lives are meant to have a happy ending. Our relationships with friends, family, work, food, money, etc.—all of it is meant to be a part of a bigger story. No matter what happens on any given page of the story, if we know that there is a happy ending waiting, if we can trust that the author of our story knows what He is doing, then we can see our way from one chapter into the next with hope.

Some of us live life trying to avoid those questions at the beginning because we are afraid that there are no real answers. It can feel like a world of endless opinions and marketing tricks. A world full of salesmen and nothing that is worth buying. So we can live day-to- day, engaging in the hard work of distracting ourselves with pleasure to avoid pain, with soundbites to avoid searching, with stuff to avoid substance. Yet, no matter who we are, the questions remain: What are you looking for? What do you desire? Are you happy?

If our lives are like a story, there is nothing worse than to live life without knowing confidently how our stories will end. What happens at the end of a story not only makes a good story great, but it also makes painful and broken stories, beautiful, meaningful and powerful. At a particular place and at a particular time, a man named Jesus stated not only why we are unhappy but also what will make us happy, forever. It is a bold claim, but it gets crazier.

Jesus claimed that He Himself is the source of all happiness and that He wants to satisfy our deepest desires. He did not just claim this, He acted on it. He went out transforming lives of very broken people.

Jesus spoke into each person with passionate interest, investment, and no agenda other than their own good, especially to those on the fringes of society—the diseased, abused, criminals, prostitutes, tax collectors, and more.

Jesus’ whole life was driven by a desire to restore people to their deepest identity. He called out the very actions, thoughts, and lifestyles that kept them—and keep us—locked in a state of misery. He was not afraid to speak the truth that we so often do not want to hear. But the truth is that we do not want to hear it because, usually, the people who speak that way to us, do not really love us. They point out a problem, but leave us in guilt, shame, and in the end, they leave us alone when we do not become good.

But that is how Jesus was different. He spoke in ways that no one ever had. He acted in ways that people never saw. His words were charged with power, love, and with authority. That is what everyone noticed when He was around. Authority: the word means “author’s rights.” Authority implies authorship.

This is why when Jesus spoke, it was as if He was personally aware and intimately connected to each person’s story. He did not sit back and watch events unfold. Rather, He entered into them as if it was His duty. So, not only did He speak, but He healed the sick, raised the dead, and set people free from fear, grief, and pain in ways that were miraculous. That defied what our experience tells us is possible. He inspired everyone around Him to dream again about the impossible!

So here it is—Jesus claimed to be God and then He set about doing the very things that a good God would do. This is why so many people followed Him. He changed everything. He healed their broken history and showed them the truth of their destiny. He still does this today. This is why so many people keep following Him still.

He did this in my life. He invited me to look at what I was really searching for, for what I really desired. He invited me to be honest and authentic with my heart. He asked me to take a risk on Him. He wanted to convince me of who He is and who I am. He said that I am not just haunted by the desire to be happy, but I am actually made for it. He says the same about your life.

This is not a sales pitch. This is an invitation to test your desire for real unending and unlimited happiness with an invitation to encounter Jesus Christ. He makes big promises, but those of us who have encountered Him and follow Him witness with our lives that He is good on His word. He is still at work, active, and still speaking into lives. He is still performing signs and wonders. He is still doing exactly the things that you would expect God to do.

Sure, it is hard to trust and to follow Him. But take a look at the stories of people, real people, who have spent their whole lives loving Him, being loved by Him, and loving others the way He loves. I bet that you will see that nothing that they surrendered compares to what they have gained in following Him. I bet that you will see in their lives stories like yours. I bet that you will see that Jesus is the type of author who does not wait until the end for the story to get good. He can start on any page, including the one you are living right now.

If you are interested in learning more about this, visit your local Catholic Church. There are a lot of people who are ready to share more with you. If you are open to this, right now, pray the following prayer daily and the eyes and ears of your heart can be open to seeing and hearing His authority in your life:

Jesus Christ, You said, “I came that they might have life and have it more abundantly.” I want to know if You are who You say that You are. I want to know if You can take my story and show me how You want to be a part of it, challenge it, transform it, and complete it. I ask You to forgive me and free me from anything that keeps me from living the life You desire for me. So for any and all sins, all those things that do not lead me to You, I am sorry. I give You permission to be the author of my life. I want to know more about You. Bring me to people and bring people into my life who can help me learn about You. Amen.

If you said this prayer, I invite you to search for a copy of the Bible (in your local Catholic bookstore, online, on the Truth & Life app) and start reading the Gospel of Luke to learn more about Jesus. As you read it, ask questions, jot down notes, and record what happens. If we are open and make room in our hearts, God has a surprising way of speaking to us through the Bible. Also, to help guide you, find a copy of the “Catechism of the Catholic Church.” There is so much in there that will guide you forward. Starting in the Prologue itself, you will encounter a God who is very much a seeker—kind of like you and me. If you have started this journey and want a little encouragement along the way, you can reach out to me. There is nothing like getting to know God’s story for your life by hearing His story in the lives of others!

'

By: Joe Philip

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Oct 05, 2018
Evangelize Oct 05, 2018

Today I met a man. He has got to be a foot taller than me. He has quite a few pounds on me as well and I am no longer the perfect size six I so want to be! I met this man at a grocery store about twenty minutes from where I live. Actually, to be more precise, I met him in the parking lot outside my grocery store or, to be even more accurate, I met him as I was leaving the parking lot.

You see this man was actually sitting in the median between the entrance and exit of this particular shopping center. He sat on a scooter-/walker-type thing holding up a sign that read, “Disabled veteran. Need help with gas, food, kids.”

I pulled up in the lane next to his chair. I did not make eye contact. Seeing “those people” often makes me want to cry. The problem of poverty is so overwhelming! How could we ever hope to combat it? Even Jesus said the poor will always be with us. I am a struggling single mom of five boys. What difference can I make?

I slowed as I pulled up to the red light. I was the only car waiting, and I was glad to pass this nameless man sitting in the median without having to stop by his side, without having to look at him. I reverted to childishly hoping that if I did not see him maybe he would not see me.

Childish. Foolish. Selfish. Me.

I waited for the light to turn green. I thought of the turkey I had just asked the cashier to put back. I could pay for it another day. We are still on a tight budget and I buy only what I can pay cash for.

I thought of the donations I had just made leaving the grocery store to the Stuff the Bus campaign which would donate food to Catholic Charities. The bag I handed over was not much, but I had literally just donated a canister of oatmeal, a box of pasta, and a bag of brown sugar. The brown sugar was not on the requested food list, but I felt like a bit of a rebel buying it and smiled, hoping it might help some family make Christmas cookies together this season. I had done enough, more than many would.

If the veteran in the median needed help, he could go to the front of the store where they were stuffing that bus. I was on my way to Adoration. My rosary beads were in my pocket. I would say a prayer for this disabled Vet, this nameless man, but what more could I do? I had done enough.

I watched the light turn green. But while I was playing the Pharisee, patting myself on the back for all the good I do, another voice was speaking gently to me, calling me, telling me to go to the man whose eyes I would not meet. I pulled into the intersection and turned my vehicle around, heading down the entrance ramp. The man should have stayed on my left, but he had picked up his chair/walker and began shuffling his way toward the parking lot.

I drove toward where he met another man standing by a little, beat-up vehicle. The new man popped the trunk as I pulled into a space a few yards away still unsure of what I was to do. I sat awkwardly in the car, fidgeting, stalling and feeling a bit like a stalker as the two men talked and occasionally sent curious glances my way.

I was uncomfortable. They would think I was stupid. I was sure of it. What kind of high and mighty person did I think I was approaching them? And for what? I had already spent all my cash. I reached into my car’s ashtray. There was $3 I had saved for emergency milk money. I had one more in my pocket: $4.

That is all I had today. I wondered about the two suspicious men. What if they were scammers? What if they used the money for alcohol or drugs or something worse? What if they did not really need it? What if …?

The what ifs threatened to take over but there was a quiet, gentle, “What if…?” I heard as well. What if the man did really need it? What if he did really need money for food, gas, kids? What if he is not a scammer?

I thought of the rosary beads in my pocket, the ones I was about to use at Adoration. They were a cheap plastic set I had found the day before in an old pocketbook. I had other rosary beads. Did I need them? What good were they doing in my pocket?

I opened my car door, fought down the uncomfortableness in my belly that told me I was foolish, and listened instead to the gentle, quiet voice. “Go.” I approached the man from the median without knowing what to say. He was still seated and I put my hand out and touched his shoulder, “Thank you for your service,” I said as I would to any of our nation’s veterans.

His eyes softened and a spark lit inside. He put his hand out. I took it and we shook introducing ourselves. He was not unnamed at all. He was Anthony Monroe. Big Anthony’s hand was dark, smooth, cool and massive. It enveloped mine quickly and held mine with a tenderness that belied the giant man’s great size, stumbling shuffle and stuttered speech.

We spoke for a few minutes. I told him I was a single mom of five boys on my way to prayer and that I would pray for him. I wished I had more to give him as I pressed the $4 and my plastic rosary beads into his hand. All doubt about Anthony washed away. I shook the other man, Peter’s hand. I could not read him when I looked into his eyes but hoped he was good to Big Anthony. I stepped back to talk with Anthony again. He told me he had four children. I did not stay long enough to learn more. I did not stay long. I left these two men who were so different from me in the parking lot, placing the chair and the sign in their trunk, Big Anthony leaning heavily on the car as he walked to his door.

I drove off and entered the little chapel up the road. I knelt before our Lord and began the Sorrowful Mysteries of the most holy Rosary minus the beads I had planned to use. I wiped away tears as they fell.

I am guessing there are some who would say I was stupid for approaching two men I do not know. I value myself enough as a creation of God to know I am expected to be careful, to treat myself well, avoiding unnecessary risks and respecting the dignity the Creator gives each of us. But it was daylight and the parking lot was populated.

I am guessing there are some who would say I was naive and probably just got scammed and I know it is possible. The $4 I contributed is not going to make or break any addiction while I can hope that some part of the love I tried to show might if it comes to that.

I am guessing there are some who would think I must have felt good about myself for leaving my comfort zone and making a little donation, but I felt no pride for having reached out. Instead, I found sadness, overwhelmed with disappointment.

I knelt before the Cross praying the mysteries, reflecting on the first decade and Jesus’ time in the Garden. I did not think of how beautiful a garden should be but how it was such a place of pain for our Savior. At the fourth decade, I reflected on Jesus’ carrying of the cross and of how earth should be such a place of beauty yet is often such a place of suffering. I thought of how heavy are the crosses so many bear.

I thought of Big Anthony and how, in my nervousness, I talked when I should have listened. I had pressed the $4 and my newly found rosary beads into his cool hand, but I should have stayed longer. I should have listened to his stories, taken some of his burden and invited him to join me in prayer, if nothing else.

I thought of our veterans and how so many are hurting and alone. I thought of how much a single mom has to be thankful for that would not be possible without the sacrifice of those willing to give me opportunity and freedom. I thought of the trouble in our nation and how divided we are. I thought of how much good we could do if we looked into each other’s eyes, shook hands and realized each of us is named and called by God.

I thought of how we look at one another with such suspicion, presuming others guilty without first seeking to know them. I thought of a Facebook friend who suggested we exchange news feeds so I could see her liberal view and she could see my conservative view. I had not written her back yet because I knew exchanging news feeds would not be enough. I was thinking of asking her to spend time with me and allow me the gift of spending time with her instead.

Today, I realized that spending time with others needs to go far deeper than what I had thought of proposing. We are called to be the hands and feet of Jesus. We are called to live the Gospel and make a difference in this world. That is impossible when we see first with suspicion: when we see the veteran in the median as a scammer, a drug addict, a threat, when we choose the worst attributes and cast nets over the masses.

I do not know if I made any difference in the lives of Big Anthony or Peter, but they made a difference in me. I am grateful for the few minutes in that parking lot and for how my views have deepened my certainty that we are called to reach out to one another. I am most grateful for the gentle whisper that told me to “Turn around. Go.” What a gift it was for me to get to meet these men, two children of God. How I wish I had been a better representative of His love for them.

The next time I pull over to speak to a homeless veteran or another of God’s children, I will be more prepared. I may not have any money or may decide not to offer it even if I do, but I must offer to listen more, speak less and thank God for all His children. Listen for Him telling you to “Turn around. Go.” Seek out those who are different than you, those who are struggling and those who need to be shown true love. Offer God’s love both in prayer and in concrete ways.

Big Anthony and Peter, wherever you are tonight, I am praying for you now and hope to listen to your stories when we meet again in Heaven one day. Thank you for a few moments of your time today.

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By: Kerri Lynn Bishop

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Sep 15, 2018
Evangelize Sep 15, 2018

A young man stood in line with his father at the Department of Motor Vehicles. About seventeen years old, he had just bought his first car and was obviously excited. His turn came and the woman behind the counter calculated his fees, around $300. The father’s temper immediately exploded. He complained about how they had already spent $2,000 on the car, then stormed out of the office. His son looked shocked and desperately tried to get his father’s attention. The boy, who had come in so excited, seemed on the verge of tears within seconds. The boy’s father had crushed his spirit and publicly humiliated him. The son followed his dad out the door, pleading, “Dad, dad, dad …”

At a park across town, another man played with his six-year-old son. The father told the boy it was time to leave, but the boy kept running. Looking unsure of himself, the father asked, “Just a few more minutes, ok?” Moments later, he tried again: “Time to go, buddy.” The son kept playing and again the father responded with a question: “Just 5 more minutes, ok?” Perhaps the man is there to this day, waiting for his son to stop playing!

Both scenarios illustrate common complaints about men. A “toxic masculinity” is aggressiveness without restraint. Some men recognize their strength and act rashly, with no sense of compassion. Others lack a sense of commitment and responsibility, never acting with God-given authority.

To strike a proper balance, men can focus on this oft-overlooked quality: meekness. When people hear “meekness” they often think “weakness” but the opposite is true. A meek person is someone who has power but knows how to control it; someone with authority who acts but is also compassionate and kind.

In Scripture, Saint Joseph is an example of meekness. When Mary is with child, he seeks to divorce her quietly until he is told the child is of the Holy Spirit. Later, in dreams, an angel comes to Saint Joseph and tells him to act. Saint Joseph does, with authority. There are no recorded words of Saint Joseph. Saint Joseph is silent, yet in the litany of Saint Joseph we call him the “Terror of Demons.” Saint Joseph is the right combination of power and restraint. Saint Joseph is meek. When people ask Saint Joseph to pray for them, they will grow in meekness as well.

POINTERS ON GROWING IN MEEKNESS:

◗ When things do not go the way we envision, do we strike out against the world? We are not the center of the universe and there is no guarantee things will go according to our plan. Memorize Psalm 37:8: “Refrain from anger and forsake wrath! Do not fret; it tends only to evil.”

◗ Are we embarrassed to act on promptings of Holy Spirit? Vanity can prevent God from working through us to reach others. Choose to be patient and meek in the face of humiliation. The embarrassment is temporary and there is grace through obedience. Memorize Sirach 2:5: “For gold and silver are tested in the fire, and acceptable men in the furnace of humiliation.”

◗ Forget anger and also shyness. Seek to do the will of the Lord. Memorize Psalm 119:9: “How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to Your word.”

◗ Study the story of the woman caught in adultery in John 8:1-11. Notice how Jesus does not say that sin is ok but commands her not to sin again. He also said that one without sin could cast the first stone. Who was without any sin in the scene? Jesus. But He shows mercy in a perfect act of meekness.

◗ Pray the litany of Saint Joseph. He is a great model of meekness, especially for men.

PRAYER TO SAINT JOSEPH

Oh Saint Joseph, whose protection is so great, so strong, so prompt before the throne of God, I place in you all my interests and desires. Oh Saint Joseph, do assist me by your powerful intercession and obtain for me from your divine Son all spiritual blessings through Jesus Christ, our Lord; so that having engaged here below your heavenly power, I may offer my thanksgiving and homage to the most loving Father. Oh Saint Joseph, I never weary contemplating you and Jesus asleep in your arms. I dare not approach while He reposes near your heart. Press Him in my name and kiss His fine head for me, and ask Him to return the kiss when I draw my dying breath. Saint Joseph, patron of departing souls, pray for us. Amen.

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By: Vince Salomon

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Aug 10, 2018
Evangelize Aug 10, 2018

Suppose you had a choice: your dream car with all the options and a summer home on the shore, or a life of daily toil spent with persons you truly love and who truly love you.

Which would you choose? Think twice. The answer lies in what really makes you happy. If there is more to happiness and fulfillment than material comfort, where can we turn to find the truth about these things?

While there is always a limit to the number of things you can accumulate, or cars you can fit on your driveway, there is no limit to the amount of happiness a human heart can receive—or give. The same is true for love.

Ultimately, the human heart reaches out to the infinite and eternal love of God.

The Second Vatican Council tells us that we should look to Jesus Christ to find the meaning of human fulfillment. “Christ…in the very revelation of the mystery of the Father and of his love, fully reveals man to himself and brings to light his very high calling” (Gaudium et Spes, 22).

The Christian father must look to the God-man, Jesus Christ, for the meaning of human life and happiness. Turning to Christ we see a very different conception of happiness than that offered by our consumer culture.

MISSION: REDEMPTION

Christ’s role on earth can be depicted in terms of a mission. God the Father sends His only-begotten Son into the world to reconcile it to Himself. In other words, the mission of Jesus is nothing less than to save the souls of all people from all time.

Christ achieves this mission through His roles as priest, prophet, and king. As the perfect priest, Christ offers Himself as the perfect sacrifice for the salvation of all humanity. As a prophet, He bears God’s message of reconciliation to the world, teaching about God’s love and mercy. As king, He rules the universe, exercising His authority through service and humility.

The mission of the modern-day father, like that of Christ, is the salvation of souls. The difference between them is the fact that Christ’s mission is universal, concerned with the salvation of all mankind. The father’s mission is concerned primarily with the salvation of his own family. Despite the difference in scope, the father has the same methods at his disposal to achieve this mission of salvation.

Through his share in Christ’s grace in the sacraments of Baptism and Matrimony, a father shares the grace of Christ’s death and resurrection with his children. He is also a priest in the sense that he brings his children to the sacraments, giving them a direct share in the grace of Christ.

The father is a prophet—the bearer of God’s message—to his children by fulfilling his obligation to teach them the Catholic faith.

Lastly, he performs Christ’s kingly function as the spiritual head of his family. This headship is always exercised in a Christian manner, rather than a worldly manner. A father’s obligation to lead his family in holiness is not a call to domination, but to service.

A FATHER’S FULFILMENT

Each week at Mass when reciting the Gloria we learn that Christ alone is the holy one. In living out the vocation of fatherhood, a man is called to imitate the holiness that led Christ to give His entire self for the love of His brothers and sisters. At its root, then, fatherhood is a call to holiness. The example of Christ shows that holiness consists in the radical gift of oneself for the sake of others.

Fatherhood is the mission that allows a man to give of himself unreservedly. Thus, it is through fatherhood that most men will find their greatest happiness. To avoid fatherhood for the sake of that dream car, or that special summer home, is to cheat yourself out of one of life’s most rewarding experiences. By calling men to make a gift of themselves to others, God calls fathers to a life of remarkable holiness, indescribable happiness, and true fulfillment.

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By: Joseph McInerney

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Jul 20, 2018
Evangelize Jul 20, 2018

An Interview with Dr. Paul Thigpen I recently had the delight of hearing from world-renowned Catholic theologian Dr. Paul Thigpen. In what follows, you will be inspired by his life journey which includes forays from the desolation of atheism into his home in Catholicism.

1) What role does faith play in your life?

I was raised Presbyterian, and in my grade-school years, my faith was so important to me that I wanted to become an ordained minister. But when I was twelve, through a series of intellectual influences, I became an atheist. I remained without faith for six years, but after my reconversion to Jesus Christ, my faith became all-important to me again. I earned a B.A., M.A., and Ph.D. in religion, and I was ordained as an associate pastor in a nondenominational congregation. All forty-nine of the books I have published have been focused on matters of faith. After I became Catholic nearly twenty-five years ago, even though I can no longer serve as a pastor, I have been deeply engaged in ministry of various sorts in Catholic parishes, colleges, and other settings. In short, the Lord is my life. I remember what it was like to be without faith, and I cannot imagine ever going back to a life without Christian faith, hope, and love.

2) How did you come to the Catholic faith

My first conversion (at the age of eighteen) was from atheism back to the Christian faith, and a number of factors played a role: intellectual growth that allowed me to understand more fully the relationship of human reason and divine revelation; close friends who modeled for me lives of deep devotion, charity, and joy; experiments in prayer through which God showed Himself to be real; and encounters with demonic powers that shattered my tidy materialistic worldview, which had excluded even the possibility of such realities.

My second conversion, to the Catholic faith, was largely spurred by three intellectually challenging academic degrees that plunged me deeply into Church history. As with so many other converts I know, our lives demonstrated Cardinal John Henry Newman’s dictum: “To be deep in history is to cease to be Protestant.” At the same time, I found an intellectual depth and richness in Catholic thought and experience for which I had hungered, and I became acquainted with Catholics whose faith and example transformed my notions of what it means to be Christian. In the end, I came to realize that as I had been seeking the Truth, Truth Himself had been seeking me, and He invited me to embrace His Church. Anyone interested in in more details of my conversion testimony can find it in “His Open Arms Welcomed Me,” the first chapter of “Surprised by Truth: 11 Converts Give the Biblical and Historical Reasons for Becoming Catholic,” edited by Patrick Madrid.

3) What have been your most fulfilling ministries over the years?

As much as I enjoy writing, teaching, and public speaking about all things Catholic, I find most satisfying the one-on-one ministry that allows me to fight in the spiritual trenches: to go deep with people who are seeking, struggling, or hurting. I am not a counselor; I have never been trained for that role. And I am certainly not a spiritual director. But people come to me almost daily in my work on the staff of a large and lively parish to talk about their lives, their struggles, their pain, their questions, and sometimes their joys and triumphs as well. They allow me the high privilege of listening to them, sharing their burdens, and praying with them. And if it seems right for their situation, I point them toward a priest or counselor for the kind of help that only priests and trained counselors can give. What could be more deeply satisfying than that?

4) Why is the Spiritual Warfare Bible, for which you provided extensive commentary, particularly needed in an era such as this?

As I wrote in the opening words of my “Manual for Spiritual Warfare” (TAN Books, 2014): “Like it or not, you are at war. … It’s a spiritual war with crucial consequences in your everyday life. And the outcome of that war will determine your eternal destiny.” This battle has been raging since the beginning of human history. But we need only read the daily news headlines, or see up close the spiritual, psychological, moral, and social wreckage of our day, to realize that books such as the “Spiritual Warfare Bible” are desperately needed in our time.

5) What is your favorite scriptural passage, and why?

So many favorites, but here is one of them: “Beloved, we are God’s children now; it does not yet appear what we shall be, but we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure” (1 John 3:2-3). Despite my failures, which are many, I cling to that promise.

6) In the midst of challenging times faced by humanity around the globe, how can disciples of Jesus Christ find joy in following him?

My first book for adults was actually about this subject, called “A Reason for Joy” (NavPress, 1988). So much could be said. But the main point of that book is this: If we pursue joy, we will never find it. Joy is the consequence of living close to the One who loves us beyond all telling. So if we want to find joy, we must go looking for the Lord, in whose “presence is fullness of joy” (Psalm 16:11). 7) Do you have any parting words for readers? Those who read and think deeply about spiritual warfare are often tempted to anxiety and fear. I would simply remind them that we must place all our trust in God. As Saint John told us so long ago: “Greater is he who is in you than he who is in the world” (1 John 4:4).

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By: Justin McClain

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Jul 16, 2018
Evangelize Jul 16, 2018

How strong is our relationship with our Father in Heaven? God considers every trouble that we face as His own troubles—do we consider our relationship with God in the same manner? Every first Friday of the month, Saint Francis of Assisi used to spend time alone in the woods, praying from six o’clock in the evening to six o’clock in the morning. Observing this routine, one of his fellow brothers asked him, “How is it that you keep yourself awake and pray through the night?” Saint Francis replied “Why don’t you go to the woods with an empty bag and another bag filled with stones. There, repeat the “Our Father” prayer, and as you repeat the prayer each time, transfer a stone into the empty bag. Do this throughout the night and as dawn approaches, all the stones would have been transferred over to the empty bag. You will not feel sleepy!”

His fellow brother was very happy to hear this, and followed what Saint Francis of Assisi said. As dawn approached he had transferred about three hundred stones into the empty bag. Morning came and he was extremely excited that he did not feel sleepy or weary during his prayers through the night. He went over to Saint Francis to share his experience, to excitedly share the number of times he was able to repeat the Lord’s Prayer. However, when he saw Saint Francis, what he observed touched his heart: there kneeling, was a teary-eyed Saint Francis, gazing towards heaven, praying, with the first stone in his hand and still on the first part of the “Our Father” prayer! At once, the brother realized that the relationship that Saint Francis had with God was a very deep one, nothing like what he had. It was not because Saint Francis was not transferring the stones that he was not tired, instead, it was the deep love that he shared with God that caused him to stay awake!

As the bell for Holy Mass goes off, Saint Francis sets off for Mass without even completing the “Our Father.” This brought his fellow brother to tears. Saint Francis hugged his fellow brother and said, “What we need in our prayer and in our Christian lives are not rituals, but an ardent love for our Heavenly Father. If you have a loving relationship with your father, everything else will fall in place.”

After many years, Saint Francis invited all the Franciscan priests and brothers for a gathering in Assisi. Franciscans all over the world travelled long distances to get to Assisi. He addressed them saying, “Dear fellow brothers, our Father in Heaven is perfectly taking care of every living winged bird and every living sea creature.” Filled with love of the Lord, he kept crying and laughing during his talk. After about three hours of listening to this, one of the brothers shouted, “Stop your speech right now! Don’t you have any concerns for the many Franciscans who have travelled long distances to get here? Have you even thought about whether there is any food for them?” Saint Francis replied, “Sorry! I forgot about planning for food for them.” The fellow brother asked him a second time, “Will their hunger be quenched by just listening to your speech?” Saint Francis lifted up both his hands towards Heaven and cried out, “Lord, I have not planned anything for my fellow brethren. But your Word says, “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given you besides” (Matthew 6:33).” Impatient and angry, the fellow brother lashed out, “What do you think, are we going to be delivered a parcel from Heaven or what?” But Saint Francis continued with his prayer.

As soon as his prayer was over, there was a huge rumbling sound everywhere. From all sides came many horses and donkeys carrying tons of food! What a surprise! When the people there had heard about this Franciscan gathering, it was a decision that they had secretly taken, to provide food for all the attendees! Food was abundant. Everyone ate until their stomachs were full and there were leftovers. The fellow brother was in complete awe seeing this. He excitedly hugged Saint Francis and said, “This for sure is the sign of your deep relationship with God. The same miracle as the miracle of the multiplication of loaves!”

Whenever you say the Lord’s Prayer, you must ask yourself this question: “Is God my own father to me?” If the answer is “No,” then you must grow towards that relationship. You must have the freedom of addressing God as “My Papa!” With this freedom of being His child, we must seek God’s will for us in our lives. When we seek only the will of God in everything, then God will intervene in our lives. We see in the Bible that Peter is very troubled from not having money to pay his taxes. He carries this heaviness in his heart, and does not even share it with Jesus. The One who knows everything then checks with Peter: “Do you have enough money for taxes with you?” Peter replies “No.” Then Jesus says, “Go and fish. Take the coin from the mouth of the first fish you catch, and pay taxes for you and for me.” When Jesus says, “for you and for me,” He means, “Peter, your pain is also my pain, your needs and pains are also my needs and pains.”

When we are engaged in God’s works, God promises to be with us in all our earthly needs. But we always think about the things we want. In Psalm 23, we read, “The LORD is my shepherd; there is nothing I lack. Indeed, goodness and mercy will pursue me all the days of my life; I will dwell in the house of the LORD for endless days.” We are not to pursue goodness and mercy, instead, when we follow the Good Shepherd, goodness and mercy will pursue us. When I live for God, He will be very attentive to my needs. “I will honor those who honor me” (1 Samuel 2:30).

Damian Stayne is a reputed Evangelist from England. When he prays, miracles have occurred. He was a satan worshipper when he was in college. When he repented, he made a promise with God: “All these years, I worshipped satan. From today onwards, I will live without hurting You.” He then turned into a “miracle-man” in college. While his friends spent time with girlfriends, Damian spent his time praying in front of the Blessed Sacrament. The girls could not stand this. They started knocking on his door at night. In spite of tough temptation, Damian was obedient to God and preserved his holiness. Now when he prays, we see miracles.

The miracles that were revealed by Saint Peter and Saint Paul, can also be revealed through us. If we live for God, He will stand for us. Let us pray that we may live for Christ, that we may never cause pain for Jesus, and that we may be transformed to forever respect God in our lives. Amen.

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By: Dr. John D.

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Jun 25, 2018
Evangelize Jun 25, 2018

Although we do not like to admit it, even to ourselves, we still believe that prayer happens suddenly or never happens at all. We kid ourselves that saints are born or created by an arbitrary decision of God who every now and then suddenly decides to top up humanity’s quota. This is a comforting idea that we harbor at the back of our minds because it absolves us from any serious effort to live in union with God.

The predicament of the alcoholic is but a dramatic blown-up picture of all of us. The fact that our perilous plight is not so obviously dramatic is a mixed blessing. If it were, it would at least force us without undue delay to see ourselves stripped naked of all falsity and pretension, to face stark reality. Then we might come to a moment of decision that we might otherwise cowardly evade, drifting into a life of superficiality, merely existing on the surface of human experience. Often when an alcoholic hits rock bottom he or she becomes serious about changing his or her life by surrendering and dedicating his or her life to God through hard work, by practicing new habits.

Alice made no secret of the fact that she was an alcoholic, although she had been “dry” for five months. She was only 26 when I met her but she had concertinaed the sufferings of a lifetime into a period of about five years. She had been through two marriages and was mixed up with a seedy set of degenerates who led her astray. In the end, she broke down under the strain of her lifestyle and took to the bottle. She used to drink between two and three bottles of whiskey a day. In desperation, she went to a local parish priest but he could do nothing for her. On one occasion, he took her to Alcoholics Anonymous, but she refused to go again so even they could not help. Things came to a head when she threatened to denounce the priest to the police for sexually assaulting her if he refused to buy her more drink. This seemed to be the last straw. She was brought up in a strict Irish home so the way she behaved toward the priest shook her into the realization of how low she had sunk. She smashed every bottle she could lay her hands on and rushed off screaming for help to Alcoholics Anonymous.

The leader of the center told her there was nothing they could do for her until she reached “rock bottom” and admitted to herself that she was an alcoholic and absolutely helpless. Then they could step in and begin to help her to help herself. Until she faced reality and made this admission, they could do nothing. He admitted that one of the hardest parts of his job was to wait helplessly looking on until she reached the depths.

He gave her a pamphlet containing the 12 steps of recovering alcoholics. The first was to admit they were powerless to help themselves and their lives had become unmanageable. The second was to come to believe in a power greater than their own which could restore them to sanity. The third was to turn their lives over to God as they understood Him. The other steps amplified these and emphasized the need to face up honestly to past faults and to try to make amends to those whom they had caused so much suffering.

There can be no fresh start, no renewal in the life of any individual, group or community unless we are able to see and admit our own inadequacy and past failures. Once we begin to see, to experience and to admit our weakness, then we can begin to appreciate the fundamental principle of the spiritual life, namely that we cannot go a single step forward without God, not a single step. The Gospel does not say, “Without me, you will not be able to get very far.” It says, “Without me, you can do nothing” (John 15:5). Without me, nothing!

The trouble is we just do not believe this, except as a purely academic principle of theology that we scandalously disregard in our day-to-day lives. We beat our breasts with a sponge, reach for a drink and nibbles and slump down in front of the television. If we did believe it, then we would scream out for God’s help; we would go to Him, find time to open ourselves to His healing power and urgently create space in our lives for prayer. The space and the time we find in our daily life is the practical sign of our sincere acceptance of our own weakness and of our total belief in God’s power, which alone can help us.

You might say, “I would like to be a concert pianist or speak fluent French or become a scratch golfer” but I will only believe you mean it when I see you practice it for several hours a day. I will take you seriously when I see you hard at it, day after day on the piano or studying French grammar or tramping around the golf course. You would hardly meet a Christian, let alone a religious, who would not say he or she desired to come closer to God, to become possessed by Him, to build up a deeper prayer life. How can this be believed until a person relentlessly practices prayer, day after day? The desire is not enough, any more than are good intentions. Every alcoholic who desires to be better is full of good intentions, even high ideals, but something more is required.

Learning to pray, learning to open ourselves to God, is like anything else: it needs practice and it takes time. There is no accomplishment of any worth that I know of that you can attain merely by desiring to have it. We think nothing of spending hours a day and working for years to get a degree, pass an examination or attain certain qualifications, and we quite rightly accept as a matter of course that the time we give and the energy we expend is necessary. Somehow we seem to think that prayer is an exception but believe me it is not. Those who wish to succeed in a particular accomplishment have to give hours of time, even if they have flair or genius.

I heard an interview on the radio given by Arthur Rubinstein, the concert pianist, some years ago. Here is a man who was arguably the greatest pianist of the last century and yet at the age of 84 he admitted that he needed to practice for six hours a day. In his prime, he practiced for nine! Although he had a musical genius at the age of three, it took a lifetime to master the technique necessary to facilitate and maintain the growth of that genius and to enable him to share it with others on the concert platform.

The same could be said of hundreds of great artists, performers, athletes and people from all walks of life who reach the top of their particular branch of human achievement. What right do we have to imagine that prayer is an exception to the rule because it certainly is not? We are supposed to be dedicated to the mastery of the art of arts and, at best, we drift aimlessly along like half-baked amateurs dabbling in something that demands the full potential of the professional.

If we are only prepared to give the same daily time to prayer that would be required to reach a fairly reputable standard on the piano, then, in time, our lives will be dramatically and irrevocably changed. We might start with 10 minutes a day and gradually extend that period as we master the preliminaries, but as the months go by, the period will gradually extend so that in the end the problem will be to restrain rather than prescribe a minimum time.

If all goes well, the prayer that starts and develops at set times ought to spread out gradually and filter through into the rest of the day. In the end, it will become co-extensive with all and everything we do. To begin with, the prayer period will be like a desert: dry, arid and barren. It will eventually become an oasis in our lives that we cannot do without. However, that is not the end, it is only the beginning. In the end, the oasis will become a fountain that will well up and brim over to irrigate the whole of our lives, as what Saint Paul calls “the prayer without ceasing” transforms our daily spiritual lives enabling us to say with him, “It is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me.”

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By: David Torkington

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Jun 22, 2018
Evangelize Jun 22, 2018

On a recent Saturday morning, my sixteen-year-old son said, “Dad, I’m bored. What are we going to do for fun today?”

Knowing my youngest son well, I translated this to mean that he was looking for something new and exciting and I was supposed to provide it. This all-too frequent discussion with my children has been the cause of considerable reflection of late. As adults do we also seek frequent engagement and entertainment? Does this desire for fun and excitement ever spill over into how we view our Catholic faith?

I often hear complaints that the “mass is boring,” “the priest is difficult to understand” or “the priest didn’t wow us with an exciting homily.” Still more complaints (whining?) center on the lack of exciting music during mass or the “inconvenience” of having to attend mass weekly as well as all the Holy Days of obligation. I also frequently hear this comment: “I wish our parish was more like (insert name of any Protestant megachurch). They have a lot of fun in their services and the music is awesome. They even have a coffee bar!” The list of complaints is likely much longer, but I think you get the picture.

Are we suffering from Spiritual A.D.D.?

Much has been written about the explosion of Attention Deficit Disorder (A.D.D.) in the past few decades. Many studies link kids’ over-stimulation from video games as a big contributor to the problem. Adults have the same challenges as we struggle with our own addictions to smart phones and information overload from computers, TV, etc. Is this problem spilling over into our spiritual lives? Do we go from parish to parish looking for some sort of “Catholic buzz” to keep us entertained? Do we flirt with hearsay by attending non-Catholic churches? Are our brains, craving more and more stimulation, incapable of finding peace? We need to tune out the “noise” to achieve the quiet and focus required in the mass.

Spiritual Shepherd or Entertainer-in-Chief?

Do we ever take a moment to consider the challenging life of a Catholic priest? In addition to being our spiritual shepherds, parish priests are the administrators of complex organizations often beset with unique problems ranging from people issues on the staff to budget shortfalls. Their days are filled with saying mass, presiding at weddings, funerals and baptisms, hearing Confessions, visiting the sick, prayer, study, meetings with parishioners and dozens of other duties we may not fully appreciate. They are not our entertainment directors. Before we complain about something these men of God did or did not do, we should reflect a little and say a prayer of thanksgiving for their life-long commitment to help us attain Heaven. These good men need our prayers and our support every single day. They do not need nor deserve much of the criticism that is sent their way.

The Eucharist

Do you ever notice that entering the church for mass these days often resembles people finding their seats in a theater before a movie begins? There is lots of noise and chit-chat all the way up to the beginning of mass. Where is the reverence? The respect? The humility? Time spent preparing to enter into the mysteries? We are about to receive Holy Communion, the body and blood, soul and divinity of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we sometimes treat this sacred time like a secular family reunion instead of a holy celebration. Maybe one of the reasons people feel bored with the mass is they have forgotten that the center of the mass is Jesus Christ in the Eucharistic sacrifice. “The Christian faithful are to hold the Holy Eucharist in highest honor, taking an active part in the celebration of the most august sacrifice, receiving this sacrament devoutly and frequently, and worshiping it with the highest adoration; pastors, clarifying the doctrine on this sacrament, are to instruct the faithful thoroughly about this  obligation” (Code of Canon Law #898).

A little Self-Awareness and a desire to change

If anything that you have read so far sounds familiar and hits too close to home, there may be a problem and change needed. Too often we do not know how we are behaving and coming across to others unless we hear it from a friend. More importantly, if we are in the “complainer camp” can we change course? A thorough and honest examination of conscience provides an excellent way to identify our sinful behavior before having those sins forgiven by a priest in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. With more self-awareness and a contrite heart, it is only logical that we can now focus on what is really important about the mass and better understand the critical role the Church plays in our lives.

We cannot Be Bored if We Are Sincerely Seeking Him

Boredom is a side effect of our fast-paced, materialistic culture. We feel bored because we are constantly being over-stimulated and sold on the idea that we can have it all now and that something better is always around the corner. As rational human beings, we must realize that this is neither true nor sustainable. If we are sincerely seeking Christ, we will find Him through the Church He founded.

The world offers celebrities to idolize … the Church offers saints to follow.
The world offers noise … the Church offers peace.
The world offers false dreams … the Church offers the truth.
The world offers and celebrates vice … the Church offers a life of virtue.
The world offers earthly pleasures … the Church offers eternal heaven.

Fixing catholic Boredom in Six easy Steps

Every issue I posed has been an ongoing challenge for me and countless other people I know. We must realize this is not healthy behavior. How do we change? To sum up, here are the key points you have read, summarized into “Six Steps to Cure Catholic Boredom”:

1. “We have to turn off at least some of the noise.” Our spiritual A.D.D. is fed by our addiction to too much input from various sources. Do not listen to the radio in the car. Eliminate most, if not all, TV time. Read more books. Get outside more often. Find time for quiet reflection and prayer every day.

2. “Show more respect for our priests and quit looking to them for entertainment.” They are not here to make mass “exciting.” We are at mass to offer worship and receive the Eucharist, not to hear an emotional homily or loud music.

3. “Remember the mass is about the Eucharist.” Have we prayed to be worthy to receive Jesus? Have we thanked God for this gift? Have we prayed to let others see Christ in us? Reverence, gratitude, humility, worship … these are the keywords to remember about the mass.

4. “Go to Reconciliation as often as possible.” Do a thorough and honest examination of conscience. Where have we fallen short? Confess these sins to a priest and be forgiven. We will be less critical and eliminate boredom if we are acutely aware of our thinking and behaviors that lead to these avoidable sins.

5. “Get involved and make a difference.” Sitting on the outside and complaining is boring. Why not join a parish ministry and contribute our time and talent in a more productive way?

6. “Quit trying to please both the world and God.” “you cannot please both God and the world at the same time. They are utterly opposed to each other in their thoughts, their desires and their actions” (Saint John Vianney).

Feeling bored about our Catholic faith is subtle and dangerous—it sort of creeps up on you. When we are bored we tend to be critical and seek more excitement. This is the wrong path. The world offers us false gods and tries to paint a negative picture of Catholicism that is an illusion. We have to fight through these lies. Perceived boredom may lead some to leave the Church for other faiths. They are often drawn to the excitement and buzz of Protestant megachurches but will learn in time that they had everything they needed in the Church Jesus founded. Let us reflect on how we feel right now about the mass, priests, Church, etc. If we feel bored or critical, let us follow a sound road map to bring us back from this dangerous territory. We have so much to be thankful for as Catholics if we will only take the time to appreciate.

The choice is ours and I humbly pray that we will make the right one.

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By: Randy Hain

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