• Latest articles
Sep 20, 2022
Evangelize Sep 20, 2022

Nilakandan Pillai was born into a Hindu family in South India in 1712. His parents were devout upper caste Hindus. Nilakandan’s family was closely associated with the Royal Palace, and he served the King of Travancore as a palace official in charge of accounts.

In the Battle of Colachel, fought in 1741 between Travancore and the Dutch East India Company, the Dutch naval commander Captain Eustachius De Lannoy was defeated and captured by the King. De Lannoy and his men were later pardoned and served the Travancore army. Official work brought Nilakandan and De Lannoy together and a close friendship formed between the two.

During this period, Nilakandan faced many misfortunes, and was beset with doubts and fear. De Lannoy consoled his friend by sharing his Christian faith. The story of Job from the Bible greatly comforted Nilakandan, and their conversations drew him to Christ. Nilakandan decided to receive baptism, though he knew this decision would mean sacrificing his social status and the service of the King. On 14th May 1745, at the age of 32, Nilakandan was baptized into the Catholic Church, taking the name Devasahayam, the Tamil rendering of the biblical name Lazarus.

Devasahayam experienced immense joy in living his faith and strived to be a true disciple of Jesus. He thanked God every day for the grace of conversion and eagerly shared his Catholic faith with others. He soon persuaded his wife and several of his military colleagues to confess their faith in Christ. Devasahayam had no regard for the caste system and treated the so-called “low caste” people as equals.

Soon the palace officials who opposed his newfound faith turned against him. They conspired to have him arrested. The King asked Devasahayam to renounce his Christian faith, and promised him a prominent position in his court. But despite the allurements and threats, Devasahayam stood firm in his faith, which further enraged the King. Regarded as a criminal, Devasahayam endured inhuman tortures for the next three years. He was whipped daily, and endured having chili powder rubbed onto his wounds and into his nostrils. Given only stagnant water to drink, he was paraded around the Kingdom on a buffalo with his hands tied behind him — an infamous punishment reserved for traitors and meant to discourage future conversions. Devasahayam endured the humiliation and torture with great patience and trust in God. His gentle and kind demeanor surprised the soldiers. Every morning and night he spent time in prayer, and continued preaching the Gospel to all who came to listen.

The ministers who had conspired against Devasahayam obtained permission from the King to execute him in secret. On 14 January 1752, he was then taken to a deserted mountain to stand before a firing squad. Devasahayam’s only request was for time to pray, which the soldiers granted. As he prayed, shots rang out and he died with the names of Jesus and Mary on his lips.

Devasahayam was declared a Martyr and Blessed on December 2, 2012. In February 2020, Pope Francis recognized a miracle attributed to the intercession of Devasahayam, and on May 15th, 2022, he was canonized, becoming India’s first layperson to be declared a saint.


Shalom World has made a program based on the life of this great saint, whose courageous witness and martyrdom continues to inspire the faithful of today.
To learn more about St. Devasahayam, watch the episode of ‘Glorious Lives’: https://www.shalomworld.org/episode/devasahayam-the-faithful-layman-from-india

'

By: Shalom Tidings

More
Aug 02, 2022
Evangelize Aug 02, 2022

Saying ‘No’ would mean plunging her family into a dark hole of financial stress, yet she took that firm step…

 I am a 31-year-old Ex-Assistant Professor from India. ‘Ex’ because it has been months since I gave up that title. After graduating from college in 2011, I spent the next four years preparing for the Chartered Accountancy course, the equivalent of CPA preparation. I soon realized that pursuing CA was not my calling and dropped out.

A Dream Come True

Giving up what many would consider a lucrative career might seem foolish, but my decision led me to recognize and acknowledge my real passion, which is teaching, something I had dreamed about since childhood. After I shifted my focus to a teaching career, God blessed me with a teaching job in the Primary Section of a well-acclaimed school.

Though I taught in that school for four years, I wasn’t content because my childhood dream was to be a college Professor. By the grace of God, after nearly four years of teaching, I received the certification I needed to apply for an open position as Assistant Professor at a local college. When I was offered the job, I joyfully lived my dream and served the needs of my students for two years as an Assistant Professor.

Difficult Choice

In the middle of my third year, our college began the accreditation process that confers a ‘Quality Status’ to institutions of higher education. Though it was a lengthy, painstaking process with too heavy a workload, things went ahead smoothly in the beginning. But eventually, we were pressured to take part in unethical behavior that bothered me greatly. The administration required us to create fake records and to document academic activities that never took place.

My reaction was disgust—so strong that I wanted to leave my job. However, things were not fine at home. We are a family of four. My parents were not working, and my brother had lost his job. Being the sole earner in the family, it would be difficult to give up the job. Due to the pandemic, it would also be difficult to find another job. Despite all this, I somehow mustered the courage and submitted my resignation. But my supervisors refused to accept it, promising that I would no longer need to create false documents and that I could even work from home. Reluctantly, I accepted the terms. Within months, however, I was again asked to document an academic seminar which never took place. Each time I indulged in such malpractice, I felt like I was betraying the Lord. I shared this dilemma with my spiritual mentors who encouraged me to give up this job that did not glorify God.

Tryst with Destiny

Finally, I mustered the courage and I said ‘no’ to my supervisors. And it was a BIG no. Instead of submitting the assigned task, I submitted my resignation. I left the job immediately and refused my salary for the previous month since I was leaving without giving notice.

Financially, I had jumped into utter darkness. My family relied on my income. My mother’s recent surgery had drained the family’s savings. I barely had enough to cover the next month’s expenses. I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t tell my father and brother about quitting my job because they would never have approved.

I did the only thing I could do—I held firm to the Lord and relied on His strength. I sought the intercession of Mamma Mary by praying the Holy Rosary constantly. Days and weeks passed, and I received no calls for interviews. Fear started gripping my soul. By the end of September, I still had no interviews scheduled by any of the recruiters whom I had approached. I was desperate.

An Incredible Surprise

On September 30, I finally received a phone call from an International School located near my home inviting me to interview for a position to teach the same genre of subjects I had taught at the college. This was an incredible surprise. This School, based on Cambridge University IGCSE curriculum, requires a level of subject knowledge equivalent to that expected of undergraduate faculty at an Indian University. I was offered the position and finalized my employment in early October 2021. And God also blessed me with a higher salary than I earned at the college. Praise be to God!

Today, when people ask why I left college to teach in a high school, I share how awesome my God has been to me. Even if my new position had been a humbler job with less salary, I would still have accepted it joyfully for the sake of my Lord Jesus. As I look back, I realize that worldly titles don’t matter. What does matter is that we win the eternal crown. As the Letter to the Hebrews says, “Let us…persevere in running the race that lies before us while keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus, the leader and perfector of our faith” (12:1b-2).

I share my story with joy, not to malign my previous employer nor to brag that God blessed me because of how prayerful I have been. My purpose is to share my conviction that when
we take one step for the Lord, He will take hundred steps for us. If you ever find yourself being asked to compromise on God’s commandments but fear that saying no will bring
negative financial consequences upon you and your family, I will dare to recommend, my dear brother or sister, that you risk jumping into financial darkness for the sake of the
Lord…and trust in His mercy.

The experience of the Saints, and my own humble experience, assures me that our God never abandons us.

'

By: Suja Vithayathil

More
Jul 01, 2022
Evangelize Jul 01, 2022

Have you heard of Onesimus about whom Saint Paul wrote the shortest “book” in the Bible?

A Phrygian by birth, Onesimus was a slave to Philemon, an influential member of the Christian community. Philemon had been instructed in the faith and baptized by Saint Paul, who has become his friend and mentor. We lack definite details, but we know that the slave Onesimus had run away from his master—perhaps taking with him some wealth that wasn’t his. At some point after his escape, Onesimus meets Saint Paul in the city where Paul is imprisoned—possibly Rome or Ephesus. Because of Paul’s preaching, young Onesimus embraces Christ and becomes a beloved and indispensable member of Paul’s entourage.

Nonetheless, despite wanting to keep him as his companion in ministry, Paul sends Onesimus back to his master Philemon. But Onesimus does not go unarmed: he carries a brief, but powerful letter Paul has penned. Still a cherished part of the New Testament, The Letter of Saint Paul to Philemon presents Paul’s entreaty that Philemon forgive Onesimus and accept him as “no longer a slave, but more than a slave, a brother and beloved…”

The Letter does not tell us how Philemon responded, but tradition suggests that he did pardon Onesimus, who then returned to his faithful service of Saint Paul in Rome. We know from Paul that later Onesimus carried Paul’s Letter to the Colossians to that community. Tradition also says that, as a zealous preacher of the Gospel, Onesimus eventually succeeded Saint Timothy as Bishop of Ephesus. But his frequent and ardent preaching inflamed with the love of God attracted the attention and the anger of the authorities.

After the martyrdom of Paul, the governor of Rome seized Onesimus and exiled him to one of the islands. There too he went about preaching and baptizing, further infuriating the governor. Onesimus was then arrested and taken in chains to Rome and subjected to cruel tortures for eighteen days. His legs and thighs were broken with bludgeons and finally he was beheaded for refusing to deny his faith in Christ. It is believed that his martyrdom occurred under Emperor Domitian in the year 90.

'

By: Shalom Tidings

More
Jun 14, 2022
Evangelize Jun 14, 2022

Experience the love you always dreamed of…

There are many and varied images of Jesus Christ. One that causes me sadness yet gives me great hope is the Sacred Heart. In this familiar image, Jesus is pulling back his cloak to reveal His heart which is flaming, pierced, and surrounded by a crown of thorns. If we did not know better, we could think it was a sign of defeat. Perhaps one might even think Jesus is glorifying pain and suffering.

Having been someone who has been on the other side of healthy, I identify and find solace in that agonizing image. Many times, when there was nothing in the material world that could soothe, including well intentioned humans, in the depths of my loneliness and suffering, I could always find courage at the foot of the Cross and in that wounded Heart. He knew. He was there to meet me in that place.

Jesus appeared to Saint Margaret Alacoque and said to her, “My Heart, loving passionately mankind, can no longer contain the flames of its charity; it is necessary for it to manifest it to them, in order to enrich them with the treasures it contains.”

Still Doubtful?

Christ’s heart of love is burning so profusely and generously it cannot contain itself. He desires to pour out His uncontainable, unfathomable love on humankind sharing the treasures of His Sacred Heart.

So, what are we afraid of; pure, unselfish, immeasurable love? What holds us back from this most lavish offer?

What keeps humanity at a distance? Why are we reluctant and afraid to let that love consume us? At times, I feel unworthy of that level of generous, magnanimous love. Is it free, even for the likes of me?

Love is what directs God’s Heart. God IS love! Perhaps our warped understanding and experience of love is what scares us the most? Maybe we have been used instead of loved properly. Maybe the love we have been shown in the past from someone we were close to was measured, earned, or conditional? When they had their fill or became bored, they discarded us and moved on to something or someone more interesting?

What about our family of origin? Was it broken or dysfunctional? Our first home should have been a “school of love” where we were taught many valuable life lessons on love, free to make mistakes and learn from them. Sadly though, they might have been places of betrayal, pain and abuse. You need not remain in that place of loneliness and hurt, run to the Sacred Heart.

Father Berlioux, a nineteenth-century French priest and spiritual author writes this of Christ, “It was love that caused Him to be born, to act, to suffer, and to weep; it was love, finally which made Him die. And in the Eucharist, it is love that induces Him to give Himself to us; to be our guest, our companion, and our Savior, our food and our nourishment.”

Abyss of Love

EVERYTHING Christ does and says is out of LOVE! We need not be afraid of anything He asks of us which is ultimately for our own benefit. In each of my own heavy crosses, I initially thought they were well beyond my ability to handle. On my own that is true. It is in our weakness Saint Paul says, “…for the sake of Christ, that we are strong.” (2 Corinthians 12:10) When we are under the delusion of believing we have it all together, it is there that there is no room for Christ to carry and sustain us.

If your past has shown you only twisted versions of faux love. If your current situation is not the best demonstration of a “selfless donation for the good of another,” then may I strongly recommend you to turn to the genuine Heart of Love to seek what you are lacking. It is from this Heart—the Most Sacred Heart, that you will learn how to give and receive REAL Love.

Finally, Saint Gertrude who also had the pleasure of intimate union with Jesus shares these words, “If people but knew how You love them: if You would but discover to them the infinite riches of Your heart, they would all fall at Your feet, and would love only You, O mystery of infinite charity and abyss of love…”

So the question to each human heart is this; will you continue to spend your limited days on earth accepting a counterfeit of love, wallowing in the hurts of the past, and exposing your heart anew to more abuse? Or, will you run to the “Mystery of infinite charity and the abyss of love?”

As always, our Loving God leaves that up to us and will NOT force this amazing gift of His Love on us without our permission. So what’s it going to be?

'

By: Barbara Lishko

More
Apr 09, 2022
Evangelize Apr 09, 2022

Back in the 1950s, Dorothy Day, the co-founder of the Catholic Worker Movement, began to articulate a vision that was largely ratified at the Second Vatican Council. She said that the prevailing notion of a “commandments spirituality” for the laity and a “counsels spirituality” for the clergy was dysfunctional. She was referencing the standard view of the period that the laity were called to a kind of least common denominator life of obeying the ten commandments—that is to say, avoiding the most fundamental violations of love and justice—whereas priests and religious were called to a heroic life of following the evangelical counsels of poverty, chastity, and obedience. Lay people were ordinary players, and the clergy were spiritual athletes. To all of this, Dorothy Day said a rather emphatic no. Every baptized person, she insisted, was summoned to heroic sanctity—which is to say, the practice of both the commandments and the counsels.

As I say, Vatican II, in its doctrine on the universal call to holiness, endorsed this notion. Though the Council Fathers taught that there is a substantial difference between the manner in which clergy and laity incorporate poverty, chastity, and obedience, they clearly instructed all followers of Christ to seek real sanctity by incorporating those ideals. So, what would this look like? Let us take poverty first. Though the laity are not, at least typically, summoned to the sort of radical poverty adopted by, say, a Trappist monk, they are indeed supposed to practice a real detachment from the goods of the world, precisely for the sake of their mission on behalf of the world. Unless a lay person has interior freedom from an addiction to wealth, power, pleasure, rank, honor, etc., she cannot follow the will of God as she ought. Only when the woman at the well put down her water jug, only when she stopped seeking to quench her thirst from the water of the world’s pleasures, was she able to evangelize (John 4). Similarly, only when a baptized person today liberates himself from an addiction to money, authority, or good feelings is he ready to become the saint God wants him to be. So, poverty, in the sense of detachment, is essential to the holiness of the laity.

Chastity, the second of the evangelical counsels, is also crucial to lay spirituality. To be sure, though the way that the clergy and religious practice chastity—namely, as celibates—is unique to them, the virtue itself is just as applicable to the laity. For chastity simply means sexual uprightness or a rightly ordered sexuality. And this implies bringing one’s sexual life under the aegis of love. As Thomas Aquinas taught, love is not a feeling, but rather an act of the will, more precisely, willing the good of the other. It is the ecstatic act by which we break free from the ego, whose gravitational pull wants to draw everything to itself. Like the drive to eat and to drink, sex is a passion related to life itself, which is why it is so powerful and thus so spiritually dangerous, so liable to draw everything and everybody under its control. Notice how the Church’s teaching that sex belongs within the context of marriage is meant to hold off this negative tendency. In saying that our sexuality should be subordinated to unity (the radical devotion to one’s spouse) and procreation (the equally radical devotion to one’s children), the Church is endeavoring to bring our sex lives completely under the umbrella of love. A disordered sexuality is a deeply destabilizing force within a person, which, in time, brings him off-kilter to love.

Finally, the laity are meant to practice obedience, again not in the manner of religious, but in a manner distinctive to the lay state. This is a willingness to follow, not the voice of one’s own ego, but the higher voice of God, to listen (obedire in Latin) to the promptings of the Holy Spirit. I have spoken often before of Hans Urs von Balthasar’s distinction between the ego-drama (written, produced, directed by, and starring oneself) and the theo-drama (written, produced, and directed by God). We might say that the entire point of the spiritual life is to break free of the former so as to embrace the latter. Most of us sinners, most of the time, are preoccupied with our own wealth, success, career plans, and personal pleasure. To obey God is to break out of those soul-killing preoccupations and hear the voice of the Shepherd.

Imagine what would happen if, overnight, every Catholic commenced to live in radical detachment from the goods of the world. How dramatically politics, economics, and the culture would change for the better. Imagine what it would be like if, today, every Catholic resolved to live chastely. We would make an enormous dent in the pornography business; human trafficking would be dramatically reduced; families would be significantly strengthened; abortions would appreciably decrease. And picture what it would be like if, right now, every Catholic decided to live in obedience to the voice of God. How much of the suffering caused by self-preoccupation would be diminished!

What I am describing in this article is, once again, part of the great Vatican II teaching on the universal call to holiness. Priests and bishops are meant, the Council Fathers taught, to teach and to sanctify the laity who, in turn, are to sanctify the secular order, bringing Christ into politics, finance, entertainment, business, teaching, journalism, etc. And they do so precisely by embracing the evangelical counsels of poverty, chastity, and obedience.

'

By: Bishop Robert Barron

More
Mar 22, 2022
Evangelize Mar 22, 2022

Learning to Work and Learning to Pray

When I signed up for AP Biology last year in my 10th grade, I never imagined Biology would be difficult for me. On the first day, I felt confident and self-assured. But as the days passed, I began to fall behind. While my peers answered questions and confidently recited the concepts, I felt confused and bewildered. Day after day, I smiled, nodded my head, and pretended I knew what was going on.

The night before the first Biology test I had barely studied. I looked over a few vocabulary words and attempted to memorize a few definitions. When I looked at the first test question my head began to spin. The questions were paragraphs long and despite reading them over and over again I couldn’t comprehend them!

The next day, I got my graded test back and wasn’t surprised to see 53%. But I felt dispirited because many of my classmates had received better scores. When I checked my grades online, I noticed that my overall grade was lowered to a “C.” I didn’t know what to do.

As months and tests went by, my grade kept fluctuating. My mom gave me the best advice: pray more and seek God’s help. From then on, prior to taking every test, I began to invoke the Holy Spirit and I truly felt that God was helping me. I knew I wasn’t alone. My test scores began to rise rapidly. I spent more time in prayer. Everyone noticed a radical change in me as I grew deeper in loving and trusting God.

Prior to taking the AP exam, I spent months studying, praying, and preparing for the exam. Knowing that this year’s exam would be online due to COVID-19, I was nervous. The test day arrived and the single aspiration on my lips was. “I am the God who gives you success.”

As I began the exam and looked at the data, graphs, and wordy questions, I felt discouraged and overly conscious of the time I had. However, I pushed through. I felt that I did okay. Months went by. On the day the results were posted online, my brother woke up first, signed into my account, and checked my score. He then told my mom and dad about it. I had told my family not to tell me my score until I asked them.

Hours later, unable to contain himself, I let my brother tell me my score. It was unbelievable! I couldn’t believe my ears when he said I had scored a “4” on the AP Biology exam. My classmate, who had the best grade in the class and was expected to get the highest score, got a lower score than me. How did it happen?

I know that was not through my own merit and I will always be grateful to God for this blessing in my life. Of course, I have learnt the importance of working hard and doing all the necessary study. But I’ve also learned the importance of placing my trust in God. I trust that God will always be there for me in my life to do the unbelievable, despite any obstacles I may face.

'

By: Rosemaria Thomas

More
Feb 13, 2022
Evangelize Feb 13, 2022

Get a whole new perspective through the eyes of the ultimate observer

Who is the observer? When I consider this question in prayer, I realise that I observe God’s love and mercy from a very interior and personal point of view when He allows me to witness His good works by acting through me. God’s witness is never clearer than in my role as a nurse. I see people every day when they are at their lowest and most vulnerable. In those moments, God whispers, can I come forward? When I surrender and give Him my yes, His Spirit moves through me to touch the people I care for: I feel my gaze soften to rest on the face of my patient, and I know that He is looking through my eyes. Suddenly, the right words are on my lips and I know that they come from Him. 

The response from my patients is unmistakable. Their faces change and there is a peace and light about them. In those moments, I believe that I become the ultimate observer of God’s supernatural love and mercy in my patients encounter with Him. These interactions with my patients have nothing to do with me, and everything to do with God carrying out His Will through me. This can only happen when I step back from myself and allow my personal relationship with God to deepen. But it doesn’t end there. He then calls me to share that relationship with others.

Where It All Began… 

When I was baptised at Pentecost last year my personal relationship as an adopted member of God’s family began. My response to God’s call was immediate and absolute. From that day forward, I became irrevocably devoted to Him. This devotion led me to understand that I can do nothing without the presence of Christ and my need for Him in my life surpassed any other need that I had. He met me where I was, totally exhausted and needing His help, and in all my imperfection and nothingness, I surrendered everything to Him. I purposefully gave Him absolute control over my life, including my marriage, friends, family, pets, career, finances…You name it, He now owns it! 

My personal prayer to Him throughout the day became not my will, but Yours Lord as I began to shed layers of my old self. As a result, God transformed me inside and out. I experienced healing from my longstanding C-PTSD and various pain related ailments. People started responding to me in positive ways. Teachers crossed my path when I needed them, my already happy marriage improved beyond imagination, negative influences gently fell away without conflict, and I felt at peace. More importantly, I felt God’s presence by my side, and I began listening for His voice. 

It has always been more natural for me to listen than speak to Our Lord and each day I sacrifice my time to contemplate the Face of Jesus and simply let His words flow over and within me. I believe that God Our Father desperately wants to have a personal relationship with each of us and He wants to share His burdens with us. He reveals this when we devote our time to Jesus. 

Part of devoting time to Jesus is surrendering our will to Him and letting Him work through us to deliver people from their afflictions. It has been said to me that associating with sinners is against their religious values, however I wonder how we expect Jesus to continue healing the afflicted if we do not make ourselves available for Him to work through us? 

Changed Forever 

We don’t need to be nurses to let God touch others around us. We all have friends, family, co-workers, and acquaintances that need God’s healing love. Each time we surrender to God, we are saying not my will but Yours, Lord and our spirit connects with His. This is how God meets us. We were created to live in intimacy with God, to pray without ceasing, to live in a place of worship. As we move into this way of living, we become introspective. We receive the deep unconditional love of God, and we are forever changed. We can’t go back because we are transformed as His love for us shifts from superficial head knowledge to a deep heart revelation that becomes the very core of our identity. 

At the heart of relentless love, is a lifestyle of prayer, worship, justice, and discipleship. All of this starts with surrender and dying to self: in other words, we are being crucified with Christ. Becoming the observer of God’s awesome power is firmly grounded in love. It takes place when we surrender and release the love of God, bringing restoration to people and circumstances. We love, because He loved us first, and as we release the love of God, justice flows. 

We release God’s love and become His witnesses when we feed people who are hungry, when we share our faith with people, when we prophesy, when we release the supernatural power of God to bring healing, when we live with mercy, humility, and obedience. Becoming God’s observer expresses His love to the world by allowing Him to work through us, and then people encounter Him.

'

By: Fiona Rochford

More
Jan 21, 2022
Evangelize Jan 21, 2022

 It is the little things that matter…

Our long-anticipated visit to Denali National Park in Alaska was almost upon us. We purchased tickets for the following day’s eight hour bus ride where we hoped to see the splendor of creation and an abundance of wildlife. Checking the weather forecast for our adventure, we were more than dismayed to learn precipitation was predicted to be 100% for the entire day! As disappointed as we might be, my husband and I decided it would be wise to change our plans completely, knowing there would be little chance of encountering anything but the inside of a bus on such a rainy day. Thus, it might be said that the next morning we ended up on a lark at Creamer’s Field Migratory Waterfowl Refuge in Fairbanks. 

Perfection in My Hand 

The knowledgeable volunteer docent leading our small group tour began by telling us facts about the sand hill crane, one of the species of birds which depend on the Refuge to feed and rest each fall en route to their wintering grounds to the south. We were astonished to learn that the trachea of these cranes was seven feet in length, wrapped in a convoluted fashion, much like the coils of a French horn. This design resulted in a distinct call, unique to the mother bird’s offspring, which allowed both to remain connected amid the vast throngs of cranes flying in formation each season. Just then a rush of these sleek gray birds rose up in the distance as we watched quietly. 

Tramping over the dew-laden ground, we then headed toward a tent where both volunteers and an ornithologist were busily weighing, measuring and tagging various species of birds in order to track populations over a period of years. After each bird was identified and their information recorded, it was time to release them back into the wild. As a worker handed a songbird to a member of our group, a palm-to-palm transfer was made, at which time the captured bird quickly took flight. When it was my turn, reaching out my palm, a yellow warbler was laid onto its back as my fingers cradled its small body. Unlike the two birds before, this one seemed to settle in, allowing me to stroke it’s feathers as our eyes locked.

Suddenly there was a palpable Presence, as the tenderness of the Creator in this less than three inches of perfection in my hand was evident. The tears began to flow as the refrain of a song began to play in my mind as if synchronized, “All are welcome in this place, here in God’s amazing grace, all are welcome, all are welcome.” Time stood still, yet it could not have been more than a few seconds before I was urged to help the bird roll onto its side. That was all the encouragement needed, as the bird made its way into the sky. Trudging back to the car, silence was my companion. A sacred hush seemed the only appropriate response to this moment of grace. 

Open Arms 

The second stop on our agenda-less day was to an assortment of buildings that had been moved to Fairbanks to recreate a pioneer village. Wandering among the cabins and shops, I came upon a simple church. Opening the door, I walked past the rough-hewn plank pews toward the carved depiction of Jesus hanging from the ceiling. Hands outstretched, as if inviting those who entered to come in, the song’s lyrics lilted once again in my head. “All are welcome in this place.” Again and again this day I had unexpectedly encountered evidence of the lavish love of the Author of life. The care with which a sandhill crane’s call was designed, linking mother and baby; the yellow warbler, able to fly and sing yet weighing less than an ounce; the open palms of caring folks that both receive to give care, then release in trust. Finally, the reminder as I looked up, of the invitation being extended through the hands offered to all who choose to enter into God’s amazing grace. 

Always, all are welcome…

'

By: Karen Eberts

More
Dec 31, 2021
Evangelize Dec 31, 2021

A special interview with Dr. Thomas D. Jones who went on four separate shuttle missions with NASA. On one of those missions, he was actually able to take the Eucharist with him!

Tell us about what it was like to be out in space looking out at the stars and back at the Earth. How did that impact your faith in Jesus?

To realize my professional dream of flying in space, which every astronaut hopes for, I had to wait for almost 30 years. So my first flight was the realization of a childhood dream. Gazing out at this immense view of the cosmos surrounding our home planet, gave me a chance to think about why I was there. It was such an emotional experience to truly see the incredible beauty of the universe, and our home planet in all its lovely variety— really breathtaking. I just felt so thankful to God for the chance to be there physically—overwhelmed by His grace and Presence.

You are known as one of the astronauts who was able to bring the Eucharist into space. For all of us who are believers, that is just so inspiring. Could you share that whole experience?

It was certainly amazing to all of us who participated. One can’t go anywhere as remote as space and forget about your spiritual life. It is faith that helped me succeed on Earth and this is the same faith that I was counting on to help me succeed in space. On my first flight in 1994, aboard the shuttle, Endeavour, there were two other Catholic astronauts. When we got together to prepare for the 11 day mission, we talked about how wonderful it would be to take the Eucharist with us into space. So, because Kevin Chilton, our pilot on the flight, was an extraordinary minister of Holy Communion, we were able to receive permission from our pastor to bring the Blessed Sacrament with us.

Every moment of the eleven-day-flight was tightly scheduled, but our Catholic commander, Sid Gutierrez, was able to find a spot about seven days in, when we were comfortable with how the mission was going, for a ten-minute Communion service. So, on that Sunday—our second Sunday in space— we took a pause from all the business of the mission to spend ten minutes alone in the cockpit with the God who had made this all possible, and share Holy Communion with Him. Indeed, it was a recognition that we could never have reached that point without His presence among us. It was really satisfying to bring our faith-life into space and to know that He was there, physically, with us.

Have you ever found it difficult to bring Science and Faith together? Could you elaborate on the relationship between science and faith?

Throughout my professional career, I have known many scientists who are spiritual, and they have their own faith practices. Right here in northern Virginia, I have met several Catholic scientists and engineers in my own church who share a strong faith. They believe in God’s Creation, and in the biblical inspiration of how we understand the universe.

I think most people have some spiritual elements in their lives. I have known astronauts who are not formally religious, but they were all moved by the spiritual experience of space travel. So I have found that most people are open to what the universe and the natural world around us reveal in terms of how we understand Creation. Scientists are so curious, like all humans, about the nature of the universe and what we can learn about it.

To me, this is a sign that science and spirituality go hand in hand. Our curiosity and interest in nature and how it functions, how the universe is put together and how it was created—that curiosity was given to us because we’re made in the likeness of God. That’s part of His personality imparted to us. So I think that this search for the truth about the natural world is a part of our innate nature as human beings.

I believe that the quest for knowledge is something that gives God a lot of pleasure—to see the creatures that He has made seeking out the secrets of how He has put the universe together. Mind you, He’s not trying to keep it a secret. He just wants it to be unveiled through our own efforts, ingenuity and curiosity. So, to me, there’s not a lot of conflict between Science and Nature and Spirituality. I think that people trying to separate them are attempting to split human nature into a rational half and a spiritual half. Of course, that can’t be done. A person is one human being whose nature can’t be separated.

On your space missions you were accomplishing, in many ways, the epitome of human achievement. Doing something really great, and yet encountering something so much greater in magnitude—the glory and the majesty of God’s creation… What was it like to have accomplished so much, while still recognizing your own smallness compared to God?

To me it all crystallized on my last mission. I was helping build the space station, doing three space walks to install a science lab called Destiny. Near the end of my last spacewalk, I was out on the very front end of the space station. Since I was ahead of our work schedule, NASA’s Mission Control let me hang out for about five minutes out there. By holding on to the front of the space station with my fingertips, I was able to rotate around so I could see the immensity of space surrounding me.

I looked down at the Earth, 220 miles straight down past my boots to the deep blue of the Pacific Ocean. I was floating there looking out to the horizon—a thousand miles away–and then the endless, black sky up above my head.

About 100 feet above me, the space station glowed like gold with sunlight reflected from its solar panels, as we silently fell around the world together. This amazing view was so incredibly beautiful that it brought tears to my eyes. I was overwhelmed by this feeling, ‘Here I am, a highly trained astronaut on this space station, cruising around the Earth, yet I’m just a puny human being compared to this vast cosmos out there.’

God pulled the curtain back a little bit for me, letting me see that magnificent vastness in a personal way. I felt, “Yes, you’re very special because you’re getting to see this view”, but was reminded of how insignificant we all are in the vast universe which God has created. Feeling important and being humbled at the same time was a gift from God. It literally brought tears to my eyes as I thanked the Lord, thrilled to be sharing this view with Him. Very few humans ever have the experience and privilege of seeing Earth from that perspective, and it was all thanks to Him.

There’s a lot of confusion in the world right now…a lot of darkness and suffering; but when you look at the world either from that very unique vantage point that you had in Space, or now in your current state of life, what’s giving you hope?

I think what inspires me is that we’ve been given very curious minds by God. We’ve got this innate curiosity and that’s made us problem solvers and explorers. So, even with all the challenges we are beset by today, whether it’s a pandemic, or the threat of war, or feeding seven billion people around the world, we’ve got the skills that we’ve been given and we’re called to put them to good use in order to solve these problems. There is a vast universe out there, full of resources. It challenges us, but if we look beyond our home world into the solar system and the universe, there are a lot of things that we can make use of.

Vast material resources on the Moon and nearby asteroids can supplement those we find on Earth. There’s a colossal supply of solar energy which could be harvested from space and beamed down to the world to help supply everybody with the power and electricity that they need to succeed. We’ve got the ability to ward off rogue asteroids that have often struck Earth, and because we’ve got space skills and the minds to develop a way to defend our planet, we can prevent these most terrible of natural disasters. So, we don’t have to go the way of the dinosaurs if we use the skills that we’ve acquired and put ourselves to the task.

We live in a world that encourages us to use our curiosity and intelligence to solve these problems. So I’m very optimistic that by applying our skills and the technology we develop, we can stay ahead of all these challenges. Look at the vaccine that we developed just this year to fight the virus. That’s a mark of what we can do when we put our minds to something, whether it’s putting a man on the Moon or sending the first woman to Mars. I think we’re in good shape for the future as well.

—-

ARTICLE is based on the special interview given by Dr. Thomas D.Jones for the Shalom World program “Glory to God.” To watch the episode visit: shalomworld.org/episode/an-astronauts-faith-drthomas-d-jones

'

By: Dr. Thomas D Jones

More
Dec 21, 2021
Evangelize Dec 21, 2021

Lucy was born into a rich and noble Roman family in Syracuse, Sicily. When her mother arranged for her to marry a pagan man, Lucy protested that she belonged only to Christ. To help win her mother to her side, Lucy prayed at the tomb of St. Agatha (another Christian virgin) that her mother be cured of an illness she had endured for many years. Her mother was miraculously healed and agreed not to force Lucy to marry. But the pagan suitor rejected by Lucy was infuriated by the whispers that “Lucy had found a better Bridegroom than him” (her Lord, Jesus!). In his anger, he denounced Lucy to Pascasio, the governor, as a Christian.

Pascasio seized this opportunity to humiliate Lucy in public and thereby discredit the power of Christ and His Church. Aware of Lucy’s vow of chastity, he was attempted not only to kill Lucy’s body, but to destroy the beauty of her soul as well.

The governor’s guards attempted to bring Lucy to a house of prostitution, but God made Lucy’s body so heavy that the guards were unable to move her. Next, she was sentenced to be burned, but even with oil poured upon her, Lucy’s body would not burn. Furious, the governor shouted to Lucy, “How are you doing this?” Lucy simply responded that it was not by her power but by that of Jesus Christ. Pascasio then ordered Lucy’s beautiful eyes to be gouged out. Even after this torture, she stood before him refusing to deny Christ.

Lucy sensed that her time of witness and martyrdom was near. Moved by the Holy Spirit, Lucy prophesied to the crowd telling them the persecution would not last much longer and the emperor would lose his throne. In a panic to silence Lucy, Pascasio ordered a soldier to thrust a sword through her neck. She won her crown of virginity and martyrdom on December 13, 304.

When Lucy’s body was carried to the cemetery they discovered that her eyes had been miraculously restored. To mark this miracle, Lucy is often depicted holding a dish that bears her eyes. Within decades, Lucy’s name was added next to Agatha’s name in the Roman Canon. Saint Lucy’s body rests in the Basilica of St. Lucy in Syracuse, Sicily.

'

By: Shalom Tidings

More
Nov 13, 2021
Evangelize Nov 13, 2021

The irresistible goodness of Christmas lasts more than just a day, if you put your mind to it…

The magic of Christmas has never failed to enrapture me no matter the circumstances in the lead up to the season. Some years, the awe and wonder kick in later rather than sooner, but once the Christmas spirit conquers me, there is no turning back.

The joy we experience from receiving God’s gift of His only Son sets the tone of this wonderful season. Being good almost becomes second nature for this brief but lovely time. While Santa’s list might be an obvious reason for the little ones, I’ve wondered what it is that makes us grown-ups feel this way and how might we bring to the rest of the year this inclination to goodness that we experience during the magical Christmas season.

A Stark Reminder

Last year my husband and I undertook a trip to regional Victoria. We visited a berry farm and while picking organic produce to take home, I had a chat with the owner. It was a pleasant cool day for summer, and we discussed how it had been the opposite a year before, with raging bushfires and drought conditions severely affecting crops and lives. As a volunteer firefighter, she had suffered the loss of a couple of her close friends while fighting those fires.

Saddened to hear this, I was moved even more when the farmer said she was “prepared to fight when called” should the bushfires strike again. As we left the farm, she picked up her little one and they waved us goodbye. The farm was undoubtedly the most memorable part of the trip and the resolute determination we witnessed was a stark reminder of how we all need to be willing to do good when it is required of us—no matter what the time of year.

Stepping Stones

Once we are past the Christmas joy of December and well into the new year, it might take a bit more effort for us to act on inclinations to do good. I usually find that busyness can abruptly take the steering wheel with no comfortable stop in sight. As various professional and personal priorities take over, I wonder if I can be as attentive to the Lord’s prompts as I had been while wrapping gifts and singing carols.

Our Lord, however, never slows down His pace—drawing our attention to a struggling local business, reminding us to call someone who is lonely, encouraging us to forgive, and inspiring us to give. My husband calls these God’s ways of helping us draw nearer to Him. I think of them as little stepping stones to God that we are blessed to receive.

Even if we manage to look past the busyness, there are often other deterrents that discourage us from responding to God’s prompts. For instance, when we see a call for aid, we might rationalize that our contribution wouldn’t make much of a difference or might not be well-received by the person in need. Or an inclination to make amends with someone who offended us might be deterred by a new trivial offense.

Fight the Good Fight

Despite the possible deterrents, those little tugs at our heartstrings never stop. Why? Because Jesus has overcome the darkness within and around us. His love and light are blazing bright, forever creating sparks of goodness. Acting on these prompts is up to us if we want to draw closer to His goodness. As our Lady of Fatima reminded us, our future is in God and we are active and responsible partners in creating that future.

If we remember that all the good that has ever happened to us, including our talents and blessings, are from the Lord, then we can respond willingly to even the slightest inclination to goodness that comes to mind. It is even more imperative today that we fight through the darkness, praying to our Lady for help to stay focused and strong to fight the good fight when called. It doesn’t take much to light up someone’s life, to bring Christmas hope and joy to them when they need it most, no matter whether it’s Christmastime… or any other time of year.

“Glory to God who shows His power in us and can do much more than we could ask or imagine; glory to Him in the Church and in Christ Jesus through all generations forever and ever. Amen.” Ephesians 3:20

'

By: Michelle Harold

More