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Raymund Kolbe was born into a poor, Polish farming family in 1894. As a child he had such a mischievous nature that no one would have guessed he would be called Saint of Auschwitz, Founder of the Militia Immaculata, Apostle of Mary and Patron Saint of the 20th century! One day his mother was so frustrated with his behavior that she yelled at him in exasperation: “Raymund, what will become of you?!”
This shook him to the core. Filled with grief, he went to a church and raised this question in prayer, “What will become of me?” Then he had a vision of the Virgin Mary appearing to him holding in her hands two crowns, one white and one red. She looked at him with love and asked him if he would like to have either. Raymund answered “Yes”, he wanted both of them.
The white crown of Purity came first, when he took the name Maximilian Kolbe and professed religious vows, one of which was Chastity. Back in the minor seminary, he often said to his classmates that he desired to consecrate his entire life to a great idea. Eventually he found the “Militia Immaculata” in 1917 with a goal to bring the whole world to God through Christ under the generalship of Mary Immaculate. In order to fulfill this mission, he sacrificed everything, and that brought him to the red crown of Martyrdom.
In 1941 Kolbe was arrested by the Gestapo and sent to the Auschwitz concentration camp. A fellow prisoner wept for his wife and children after being arbitrarily chosen to be locked in the starvation bunker when a prisoner escaped. Hearing this, Father Kolbe volunteered to take his place. During those terrible days in the bunker, he led the men in prayer, and encouraged them. During every inspection, while the others lay on the floor, Father Maximilian knelt or stood in the middle, looking cheerfully at the officers. After two weeks nearly all the prisoners except Father had died due to dehydration and starvation. On the eve of the feast of Mary’s Assumption into Heaven, the impatient Nazis injected carbolic acid into Father Kolbe who raised his left arm to calmly take the deadly injection. In 1982 Pope John Paul II canonized Maximilian Kolbe as a Martyr of Charity and “patron saint of our difficult century.”'
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Premier Christian Radio in the UK just sponsored a survey that investigated how the COVID crisis has affected religious beliefs and attitudes. There were three major findings—namely, that 67% of those who characterize themselves as “religious” found their belief in God challenged, that almost a quarter of all those questioned said that the pandemic made them more fearful of death, and that around a third of those surveyed said that their prayer life had been affected by the crisis. Justin Brierley, who hosts the popular program Unbelievable? commented that he was especially impressed by the substantial number of those who, due to COVID, have experienced difficulty believing in a loving God. I should like to focus on this finding as well.
Of course, in one sense, I understand the problem. An altogether standard objection to belief in God is human suffering, especially when it is visited upon the innocent. The apologist for atheism or naturalism quite readily asks the believer, “How could you possibly assert the existence of a loving God given the Holocaust, school shootings, tsunamis that kill hundreds of thousands of people, pandemics, etc.?” But I must confess that, in another sense, I find this argument from evil utterly unconvincing, and I say this precisely as a Catholic bishop—that is, as someone who holds and teaches the doctrine of God that comes from the Bible. For I don’t think that anyone who reads the Scriptures carefully could ever conclude that belief in a loving God is somehow incompatible with suffering.
There is no question that God loves Noah, and yet he puts Noah through the unspeakably trying ordeal of a flood that wipes out almost all of life on the earth. It is without doubt that God loves Abraham, and yet he asks that patriarch to sacrifice, with his own hand, his beloved son Isaac. More than almost anyone else in the biblical tradition, God loves Moses, and yet he prevents the great liberator from entering into the Promised Land. David is a man after the Lord’s own heart, the sweet singer of the house of Israel, and yet God punishes David for his adultery and his conspiracy to murder. Jeremiah is specially chosen by God to speak the divine word, and yet the prophet ends up rejected and sent into exile. The people Israel is God’s uniquely chosen race, his royal priesthood, and yet God permits Israel to be enslaved, exiled, and brutalized by her enemies. And bringing this dynamic to full expression, God delivers his only-begotten Son to be tortured to death on a cross.
Once again, the point, anomalous indeed to both believers and nonbelievers today, is that the biblical authors saw no contradiction whatsoever between affirming the existence of a loving God and the fact of human suffering, even unmerited human suffering. Rather, they appreciated it as, mysteriously enough, an ingredient in the plan of God, and they proposed various schemata for understanding this. For instance, sometimes, they speculated, suffering is visited upon us as punishment for sin. Other times, it might be a means by which God effects a spiritual purification in his people. Still other times, it might be the only way that, given the conditions of a finite universe, God could bring about certain goods. But they also acknowledged that, more often than not, we just don’t know how suffering fits into God’s designs, and this is precisely because our finite and historically conditioned minds could not, even in principle, comprehend the intentions and purposes of an infinite mind, which is concerned with the whole of space and time. Practically the entire burden of the book of Job is to show this. When Job protests against what he takes to be the massive injustice of his sufferings, God responds with a lengthy speech, in fact his longest oration in the Bible, reminding Job of how much of God’s purposes his humble human servant does not know: “Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth . . .”
Once again, whether they half-understood the purpose of human suffering or understood it not at all, no biblical author was tempted to say that said evil is incompatible with the existence of a loving God. To be sure, they lamented and complained, but the recipient of the lamentation and complaint was none other than the God who, they firmly believed, loved them. I don’t for a moment doubt that many feel today that suffering poses an insurmountable obstacle to belief in God, but I remain convinced that this feeling is a function of the fact that religious leaders have been rather inept at teaching the biblical doctrine of God. For if human suffering undermines your belief in God, then, quite simply, you were not believing in the God presented by the Bible.
I want to be clear that none of the above is meant to make light of the awful experience of suffering or cavalierly to dismiss the intellectual tensions that it produces. But it is indeed my intention to invite people into a deeper encounter with the mystery of God. Like Jacob who wrestled all night with the angel, we must not give up on God but rather struggle with him. Our suffering shouldn’t lead us to dismiss the divine love, but rather to appreciate it as stranger than we ever imagined. It is perfectly understandable that, like Job, we might shout our protest against God, but then, like that great spiritual hero, we must be willing to hear the Voice that answers us from the whirlwind.'
The ROSARY is an intimate spiritual conversation you are having with the Blessed Virgin Mary and GOD to present your fears, your needs and desires. The Rosary gives YOU Spiritual Power to accomplish anything you want in life and overcome the impossible.
This meditative spiritual conversation can be done at anytime and anywhere you go. You can do it in a group setting or by yourself. You can pray the Rosary with your kids, with your spouse or the person you are dating, and with your friends. You can make it a family affair. You can also recite the Rosary while cooking, driving, taking public transport, waiting in line, or taking a shower. There are no limits to where you can pray the Rosary.
Every time you pray the Rosary, you become more spiritually empowered, you gain more healing, more confidence, more inspiration, more miraculous changes in your life, more spiritual awareness and more divine graces in your life. YES…the Rosary carries MIRACULOUS POWER!
Reciting the Rosary, gives you peace for yourself and for the world, and higher purpose, strength, victory, healing, miracles, serenity, clarity, determination, vision, unity and harmony for yourself and for your family. More blessings can enter your life when you recite the Rosary!
Every time you pray the Rosary, your Soul is refilled with renewed hope, inspiration, energy and healing. I am a testament to that. Each Hail Mary is a moment of Grace, a moment of Mercy, a moment of Healing, a moment of Hope, a moment of Gratitude, a moment of Humility and a moment of Surrender.
Whenever you have doubts, or you encounter an obstacle in reaching your goals; any time you feel lonely, depressed or anxious; every time you are feeling bullied, rejected or as if the whole world is against you, pray the Rosary fervently with belief and love in your heart to fortify your mind, body and soul. This spiritually empowering tool will encourage you not to give up on yourself.
Use the Rosary to make personal requests and to pray for the needs of others and the world, especially for healing. In that space of contemplation and prayer, as you offer your gratitude to God and the Blessed Virgin Mary for the events of the Gospel, you can receive the spiritual guidance you need.
If you don’t know about the Rosary, this is your chance to discover its power and give it a try!
The Rosary is one of the greatest legacies you can leave your children and a fantastic gift to share with your family and friends.'
It goes in through the ear and straight to the heart!
An amazing way to refresh your soul today
My visits as a pastoral care worker, offering prayers through liturgy and music to nursing homes, especially in their high care area, are always fraught with mixed emotions. I am cautioned that these residents could go for hours, or even days without responding.
When I see the participants, frail and beaten by the battles of life, just waiting to go, their eyes, fixed on “nothingness”, there is a part of me that doubts that whatever I have prepared for them will bear much fruit.
Yet I have been proven wrong many times. As soon as Amazing Grace, How Great Thou Art, One Day at a Time and other much-loved hymns are heard, heads lift, eyes widen or blink, and tears flow down some cheeks.
Once, a frail gentleman, paralysed in a shell chair, grabbed my hand and held it tightly. I shed some of my own tears that day. Another, who had been reticent and hostile, cheerfully belted the song, over and over, in his splendid baritone until he was hushed by some residents who felt annoyed by his “noise” then gave me a blessed wink and thumbs up!
Studies on dementia reveal that music helps people in all stages connect with fond memories, and is proving to be good medicine. Melodies can be remembered long after names, faces and words are forgotten.
We sometimes forget the power of music in awakening that part of the brain— evoking responses, reconnecting with loved ones and improving focus. It increases happiness and decreases fatigue while lifting that haze—the veil that perhaps separates us from what we want to forget and what we want to remember.
The Clay Centre for Young Healthy Minds writes that music is the best studied of art therapy, and helps to lower anxiety, depression, trauma, psychosis and stress. Music helps heal.
Sing for Him
Bishop Brewer’s sermon on Sunday, October 4, 2015 shares some distinct purposes of music in our lives. He says that music teaches us the Gospel; connects us to God in unique ways; allows us to express our love to God with our whole being; and, if used for worship, fulfills God’s command. He further states that music that honours God will cause our hearts to sing. And when our hearts sing, worship happens. We are transformed on the inside.
I have found this to be true. I belong to a prayer group where praise and worship frames our services when we gather every Friday. For 23 years now, we have shared music together, drawing us into deeper fellowship with God.
Much of my own personal transformation has been facilitated by praise and worship. When I sing to the Lord, the Holy Spirit reveals truths about myself and my need for inner change. I become more aware of my need for God’s grace and shed tears of sorrow for my sins and joy for His victory over sin and death. When I am down and out, music brings me comfort; when I battle with afflictions, it gives me the strength and the faith to carry on; when I am joyful, music inspires me to dance and share my hope with others; when the devil tempts me, praise and worship stop him in his tracks.
The Base of Harmony
If you want to go deeper, read the article written by John Michael Talbot in the Music of God. He says, “God is perfect spiritual music. Many of the world’s major religions say that God created the universe through music. But the music they speak of is no mere earthly song. It is profoundly spiritual and mystical. The mystics say that in the supernatural state you can see sound, and hear color. This was our original mode, and will be again in Eternity. This harmonious music is part of God’s very being.
God is a perfect harmony of transcendent self-sufficiency and self-diffusive goodness and selfless love. This awesome balance and peaceful harmony is perfectly manifested in the Trinity of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. It is perfect logic, but beyond the grasp of logic alone.” Another music writer indicates that harmony is ordained by God—the base of harmony is a triad, a threesome of notes that are in perfect unity with one another.
We might not have had much music in 2020, because of COVID 19—many of us have lost our rhythm in life, overcome by uncertainties, our lives torn by discordant notes of loss and doubts. But we are all encouraged that in year 2021 we should be reclaiming what we have lost and re-discover the hope, trust and faith that God ordained us to be—creation of harmony, peace and joy.
We might have been side-tracked by the corona virus pandemic, but let us be reminded once again of Revelation 5:8-9: “Now when He (Jesus) had taken the scroll, the four living creatures (angelic beings) and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb (Jesus), each having a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. And they sang a new song.”
Let us sing our old songs again, or create new ones as we continue to make music for the Lord, so we can join in the heavenly chorus. If we let go of our discordant false self, driven by noise and fear, and seek God instead, we will hear Him speak to us again in a peaceful melody of trust, glad tidings and gratitude.'
Coping with times of desolation in a new and powerful way!
For many of us even the smallest instances of physical contact and affection go a long way. The chance to speak to someone face to face and look into their eyes offers the soul the gift of connection and affirmation. So, to be stripped of these sustaining blessings has been a massive hardship. To know that we were not free to visit (and embrace) our loved ones was a heavy cross to bear.
This pandemic has created an atmosphere ripe with feelings of isolation, loneliness, helplessness, and frustration at the limitation of freedom.
I remember when I had three children in three years. Never had I felt the loss of personal freedom so distinctly. My time and energy were no longer my own. I felt homebound because even the shortest trip to a store was usually more work than it was worth. The effort of loading everyone into car seats, packing a diaper bag (which could rival a suitcase), and figuring out the logistics of containing three small people convinced me that even a trip out for essentials was too much mental, physical and psychological exertion. If there was an event I wanted to attend, I would have to decline if I couldn’t find babysitters. Because I needed to forego most events, I felt like my freedom had been severely limited.
But this is love.
“Love consists of a commitment which limits one’s freedom – it is a giving of the self, and to give oneself means just that: to limit one’s freedom on behalf of another.”
― Saint John Paul II, Love and Responsibility
Many people are experiencing this right now. They are limited, restricted and feeling completely alone. Many are trying to limit their social and familial encounters in an effort to protect their loved ones. It is a great sacrifice.
But this time of isolation can be highly fruitful and powerful.
“Limitation of one’s freedom might seem to be something negative and unpleasant, but love makes it a positive, joyful and creative thing. Freedom exists for the sake of love.”
― Saint John Paul II, Love and Responsibility
When my freedom was limited for the sake of my small children, I had more time for spiritual reading and engaging in deeper prayer: a consequence of being forced to limit social engagements, events and excursions. I had time for a Rosary that included all the mysteries. Often I would be praying while changing diapers, nursing, and simply being present while my children played. It was a huge change from the life I knew before, but proved to be one of the most spiritually fruitful times in my life.
I am convinced that many of the greatest spiritual battles are being fought and won through the earnest outpouring of the prayer of those who have had their freedom limited: the homebound, those confined to nursing homes and those restricted to hospital beds. In the quiet corners, outside of society’s periphery, Rosaries, offerings and persistent pleas are sent up daily to the Lord. Those isolated in their homes and those with physical challenges reside in their own personal monastic environment. Their cloistered reality offers the potential for turning their world into a powerhouse of prayer – and that is exactly what the world needs most right now.'
Did you wake up today to lead a mediocre life?
You are called to a greater, better and higher plan.
Signs and Wonders
“Truly, I say to you, he who believes in Me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I go to the Father. Whatever you ask in My name, I will do it, that the Father may be glorified in the Son; if you ask anything in My name, I will do it.” (John 14:12-14).
Yes, you have read that correctly, Jesus Christ told us we would do greater things than Him! Greater things than God Who took on human flesh and dwelt amongst us! Can we really take that in? Did Jesus mean this literally? How can we interpret that?
Greater than curing lepers, blind people, or deaf people? Even greater than raising the dead? Could it be that Jesus was telling us that we would literally do the works He did, but greater in number since He was ready to ascend to His Father? Do we really believe that when Jesus told us that ‘signs’ would ‘accompany those who believe’, He was talking to us. That He literally meant it when He said ‘in my name they will cast out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up serpents, and if they drink any deadly thing, it will not hurt them; they will lay their hands on the sick and they will recover’ (Mark 16:17-18).
For the past few years I have volunteered with a local charity in my home city of Manchester, England, where different local Christian churches, of different denominations, take it in turns to host homeless asylum seekers every night of the week—giving them a bed for the night, food in the evening and breakfast in the morning before they leave. On Saturday night it was the turn of my Citycentre Catholic church. I was often blessed to be part of the sleepover team, staying over and sharing meals. Simply spending time with these beautiful men was a blessing beyond words. Many of them were Muslim.
There were many miracles over the years. One in particular stands out, in a supernatural way. The night started, as usual, when I set off with another volunteer, a good friend of mine, to collect the men. As we rang the bell and entered the building, I was met by a lady who gave me a piece of paper with a name on it. She told me it was the name of a man who had been brought in earlier by the police from the streets in a stupor from taking drugs. Although she assured me that he was okay now after sleeping it off, I wasn’t happy with that and asked to see the man myself. When we met, I looked into his eyes and saw such darkness. I felt instantly repelled, so I told him that, unfortunately, he would be unable to stay with us that night. This was difficult because I knew it meant a night on the streets for him, but it was clearly not the right thing for him to come and stay. I explained that we had been informed he had taken drugs, that there were women at the shelter, and we had the other men to think about too.
We could not babysit one man and neglect the rest. Although he insisted that he would be okay, I told him sadly that it would not be possible for him to stay with us that night because the charity had a zero tolerance policy on drugs. He started shouting and swearing that he would go anyway, but I told him that he would not be let in without us. As he stormed off into the night, a fight broke out in another part of the room with two other men. It was chaos from the word go! Consequently, I had to inform a second man that he couldn’t join us. This also didn’t go down well. I assured him of our prayers, but this was little consolation to a man who was already irate, troubled, and probably intoxicated.
As we walked off together, the other men came to shake my hand, thanking me for not allowing the two men to join us since they had both caused many problems for them each night. They were relieved and so grateful for a night’s peace. As we walked along, we encountered a police van with flashing lights in the middle of the road. A police officer shouted orders for everybody to get back, stretching out his arms to keep people away from a man who lay on the ground unconscious. Another policeman knelt beside him checking his neck for a pulse because he had stopped breathing. I quickly realized that it was the first Muslim man who had stormed off minutes earlier. Immediately, I swooped under the policeman’s arms and knelt down placing my hands on him.
“What do you think you’re doing?” yelled the policeman, but I insisted that I needed to pray for him. Immediately, I called upon the Lord. ‘You breathed life into this world at the beginning of time, breathe life into this man. Jesus, You called Your friend Lazarus from the tomb, please raise this man now’. I hesitated as I thought to myself, “Who do I think I am to advise God with earthly words? This is God I am addressing.” How inadequate my human words were. It was coming from my heart, of course. Then I began to pray using the supernatural gift of The Holy Spirit which I have been blessed with—the gift of praying in tongues (1 Corinthians 12:1-11 & 1 Corinthians 14:1-5).
When My Heart Sunk
Saint Paul tells us that ‘The Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with sighs too deep for words. And He who searches the hearts of men knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God’ (Romans 8:26-27). I have no idea how long I knelt there praying, but suddenly the policeman checking the pulse exclaimed, “I can feel a pulse!!!”. My heart sang. I felt elated and could not stop thanking Jesus. Moments later, an ambulance arrived. It was such a blessing to see the heart monitor picking up a heartbeat on the screen. Again, I thanked and praised Jesus with total awe and wonder.
I had been totally oblivious to my surroundings since I had acted purely on instinct. I believe that it was God who urged me instantly to this man’s side. As I stood up, I realized that a bigger crowd had gathered. Again I was greeted with handshakes from the asylum seekers, thanking me for being open enough to pray for him.
A few weeks later, I was volunteering again at the night shelter when another Muslim man came up to me with a massive smile on his face, eager to tell me about this man that I had prayed with. He told me that the man had been addicted to drink and drugs ever since he arrived in England three years ago. When he had bumped into him just a few days earlier, he was no longer addicted to drink and drugs so he was no longer sleeping on the streets because he had moved into his own home. I was amazed all over again and praised God. However, The Lord was not finished there. In the midst of this beautiful moment, I was able to perceive a deep pain in this man sitting before me. I was able to share the Gospel with him and we prayed together. We have a God who never stops pouring out blessings.
God, indeed, is great!
We must have faith. Jesus tells us the smallest seeds of faith are enough to move mountains (Mark 11:22-25) and ‘with God all things are possible’ (Matthew 19:26). Our Triune God, The Creator, The Redeemer, and The Sanctifier; Father, Son and Holy Spirit lives inside each baptized Christian believer. We must really believe that and live it. ‘Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and for ever’ (Hebrews 13:8) and His words are ‘Spirit and life’ (John 6:63).'
How to begin a conversation with someone you care for? Here’s a simple tip you shouldn’t miss.
Joy of Chewing
I have taken seriously the apostle Paul’s advice to “speak the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15). Often, with good intentions, I have run with that advice and tried to share the truth with others. But more times than not the result has been disappointment, disagreement, and misunderstanding. Have you ever experienced this? As I pondered why I have encountered this negative outcome I asked myself what words of wisdom my Blessed Mother might have for me, Immediately, loud and clear, I heard her words to the servants at Cana: “Do whatever he tells you” (John 2:5). But that was not all.
As I journeyed through the Gospels with my hand in hers, I remembered what is said about her in Luke’s Gospel at the end of the infancy narrative: “His mother kept all these things in her heart” (Luke 2:51). That helped me begin to understand why my impulsive efforts did not bear good fruit: I need first to observe / study / ponder through the eyes of Mary and I need to understand how Jesus spoke the truth in love before I try to imitate His action. I need to discover, and sometimes rediscover, the joy of chewing the Word of God rather than simply swallowing it. So how did Jesus speak the truth in love?
Tinge of Frustration
An early example of Jesus speaking the truth in love is found in Jesus’ encounter with the rich young man. In response to the young man’s question about what he must do to inherit eternal life. Jesus points to those commandments that call us to love our neighbors as ourselves. Of these commandments, the young man says, “Teacher, all of these I have observed from my youth” (Mark 10:20).
Jesus’ starting point in this discussion is what the young man does well–those actions, ideas and thought patterns which in the young man are commendable and praiseworthy. But the most telling observation is what follows. Marks account goes on to tell us that “Jesus, looking at him, loved him,” (Mark 10:21). Here is revealed Jesus’ starting point: love. Jesus begins with love for the one to whom He will speak a hard truth.
When discussing matters of faith with another person, if my effort in sharing the Good news of the Gospel seems fruitless, I must admit I feel frustration. Yet in this story, Jesus, who knows exactly how the young man is going to respond to His invitation, looks at him and loves him rather than experiencing the slightest irritation. Jesus knows, at that moment, that the young man is going to feel sadness and walk away. But perhaps the Lord is filled with hope that later the young man may yield to the grace offered in his encounter with Jesus.
Do we do what Jesus did? Do we begin with love when we have truth to share?
You Are the Man
Another helpful lesson about how to speak the truth in love comes from the Old Testament in the passage where Nathan, the prophet, confronts King David about his serious sins of adultery and murder (2 Samuel 12). The key question in this encounter is why Nathan begins by telling David a parable about a rich man who acts unjustly toward a poor man? Why not come straight to the point and tell David he has committed a grave injustice against another human being?
As David listens to Nathan’s fictional story, we learn that he grows terribly angry with a man who he believed had behaved so unjustly toward his neighbor (2 Samuel 12:5), Nathan does not begin by confronting David with his mess, but by evoking the sense of justice that lay deep within his heart. If David were not a just man, he would not have expressed intense anger toward the rich man of the parable, demanding to know his name. When Nathan spoke those famous words “You are the man,” David responded with deep repentance, which later the Psalmist expressed so beautifully in Psalm 51. So, if any of us are ever called upon to discuss with someone their moral choices we would do well to follow Nathan’s example and begin by evoking the good in the individual, and resist the temptation to be in a hurry to expose their mess?
The End Zone
A second Gospel example that shows how Jesus spoke the truth in love is found in the encounter between Jesus and Peter following the Resurrection (John 21:15-18). On the lakeshore, after He has fed the disciples breakfast, Jesus asks Peter three times, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” As we know, Peter is wrestling with the tremendous guilt and shame of having denied his Lord three times. Where does Jesus begin this dialogue? He begins with the fact that Peter does genuinely love Him.
Father Daniel Poovannathil an acclaimed preacher from Kerala, southern India, shares these insights. When Jesus was arrested in the Garden of Gethsemane, Peter knew this was not going to end well for Jesus. But he did follow, although at a distance, showing that he was, in a way, risking his life. His main struggle was between faithfulness and fear. Finally, when he was confronted, he succumbed to fear and denied Jesus. But Luke adds this additional detail stating, “the Lord turned and looked at Peter.”
Father Daniel explains that unlike Judas, Peter did not despair to the point that he fell out of Jesus’ line of sight. His love for Jesus as his Lord landed Peter in the ‘end zone’, despite his shameful act in a moment of weakness. So, when Jesus turned and looked, it was as if His vision cast a net that drew Peter in and held him until Jesus could tangibly minister to his soul.
When we confront people who know they have messed up, where do begin the conversation?
In conclusion, let us ask ourselves, “Do I see myself in any of the scenarios described above?” Do I begin difficult encounters in the same way as Nathan and Jesus did?
The inspiring Catholic speaker, Dr. Mark Nimo, often says, “Our story did not begin with sin, it began with love.” If Jesus is willing to approach sinners first with what is good in them, should I not do likewise?
Dear Jesus help me to speak the truth in love just as You did. Let my words build up those around me. Even if disappointment seeps in, let me see through Your eyes and trust that Your lifegiving message will enter every heart. I pray especially for those who have lost their way. May Your Spirit guide my every word and make me a source of love and healing. Amen.'
Here are 3 ways to help you fight the good fight
Why do we so often avoid the things we want to do and indulge in those we don’t? Saint Paul couldn’t figure it out either (see Romans 7:15). And why does it take a pandemic to remove unwanted distractions from our lives? It seems to be an unfortunate part of our human nature. But perhaps the current pandemic that has brought serious illness and death around the world can help us overcome some aspects of our stubborn human natures.
Social distancing has been challenging in many ways for many people, but ironically for some it has also proven useful and beneficial. The greater time alone many experienced is providing unexpected opportunities to focus on what’s really important and to draw closer to God. When these restrictions ease, it will be all too easy to fall back into our old habits. So, to maintain whatever progress we’ve made, let’s do what good Catholics do—get our hands dirty, dust off the Rosary beads, light candles on the family altar and lift our minds heavenward as we examine three simple steps that can keep us from losing ground.
Pray without ceasing
While it is wonderful that your prayer life may have become more fervent during this time of crisis, remember that it is generally easier to pray when we have a determined and pressing intention on our mind. So, when things ease up, be mindful not to lose this zeal by becoming lax.
Don’t change your prayer time to fit your routine as you reestablish your new ‘normal’, change your routine to fit your prayer time. If you have managed to allocate more time to prayer, meditation, and contemplation during the pandemic, strive to maintain your routine when schools and workplaces resume operations.
Find solutions that fit your circumstances: podcasts or CDs you can play in the car on your commute, family Rosary around the dinner table while the littlest kids are still strapped into their highchairs, family Lectio Divina or Bible reading in the evening.
Make Sunday more than an obligation
Attending Mass and receiving Our Lord in the Eucharist sounds appealing to many of us right now. Lack of access to the sacraments makes us long for them. As they say, ‘you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone.’
But will we retain our longing for the Mass once we are able again to attend freely? It will take effort to approach each Mass with the same intensity we feel now. Otherwise, at some point after our churches are reopened, we may find ourselves growing complacent and treating our faith like an obligation rather than the gift and privilege it is.
Pondering this very idea, Josemaria Escriva said, “Many Christians take their time and have leisure enough in their social life (no hurry here). They are leisurely, too, in their professional activities (no hurry here either). But isn’t it strange how those same Christians find themselves in such a rush and want to hurry the priest in their anxiety to shorten the time devoted to the most holy sacrifice of the altar?”
How can we dedicate more of our time to God?
Make Sunday—the whole day—one dedicated to the Lord. Yes, attend Mass, but don’t stop there. Build community at your parish. How about morning teas after Mass, or perhaps invite another Catholic family to your house for tea or lunch? Maybe you could try to get to Mass early, make use of the Sacrament of Confession, offer a Rosary together as a family, or spend time in quiet prayer?
Pare back the extras
Lockdown and social distancing have drastically altered the number of ways we can spend our time. Perhaps the pandemic has invited us to think about the activities in our lives. Which do we miss, and which do we not miss at all? Which do we need, and which don’t we need?
Are we overscheduled? Do all our activities cause us stress and create logistical nightmares? Do our children need to attend every extracurricular activity there is? Are we failing them if we limit their extra-curriculars, or are we doing them a greater service? Perhaps it’s time to ‘Marie Kondo’ those extracurricular activities so you can find a healthy balance for your family.
Less time in structured activities means more unstructured time together as a family, and it’s the unstructured activities that make for the best quality time. Spontaneous board games, baking cookies, and unplanned bike rides make memories children will treasure.
The pandemic has given us an opportunity to assess our prayer lives and priorities. No doubt the suffering and challenges we face during this time will be accompanied by graces that will help us make changes for the better.
There is no time like the present to take stock of our lives.'
Feeling lonely can be detrimental. Here’s 5 ways to overcome loneliness.
The Covid19 Pandemic that surged throughout 2020 took everyone out of their comfort zone—rich or poor, young or old, healthy or non-healthy, well-educated or less-educated from every race, culture and religion. The pandemic made people feel isolated—from the outside world, from their loved ones, from their kids, from their spouses, from their houses of worship, from their priests, pastors and rabbis, from their counselors and therapists, from their friends and co-workers, from their parents and grandparents and from building human connections. The pandemic has increased the feeling of loneliness in many people, leading some to desperate measures.
Feeling lonely creates a void in our hearts; we long to find someone to help us, to hug us, to care for us and pay attention to us. No one wants to feel lonely! But people can feel lonely even when in a relationship or among friends. Loneliness can come at any moment in our lives and at any age.
Loneliness can be triggered by a major event like a break-up or divorce and by lesser events like feeling overwhelmed or feeling out of place. Thinking of a particular event or tragedy can also trigger feelings of loneliness. But with every struggle, God can provide hope, comfort, and strength to anyone who seeks him.
Overcoming loneliness is not easy. It is a process that requires constant practice. The best way I have found to overcome loneliness is to place my trust in God. But we know that grace builds on nature and so we must also seek out the many practical strategies that also can help.
Here are five positive steps I believe can help you cope with and overcome loneliness.
1.Ask for help when feeling lonely and feeling overwhelmed! Reach out to people who are reliable and trustworthy.
2.Identify and engage in activities that bring you joy, that make you smile and keep you positive mentally, emotionally, and physically.
3.Fill your soul with spirituality—read the Bible, enroll in a Bible study or social weekly fellowship, pray privately or in groups and with family, pray online or on the phone.
4.Practice almsgiving by giving to a cause dear to your heart. Make a positive difference in other people’s lives by volunteering your time and talents. Giving yourself to others will lessen your feelings of loneliness.
5.Distance yourself from negative social media platforms and negative followers. Create a positive public forum to promote healthy spiritual conversations. See a Pastor or Counselor if your loneliness persists despite your efforts to deal with it.
Try these steps to deal with your loneliness. Taking action will almost always result in a better mood. But remember that in challenging and uncertain times, trust in God is our best strategy.'
In connection with an academic project of mine, I’ve recently been poring over the book of Exodus and numerous commentaries on it. The second most famous book of the Old Testament is concerned primarily with the manner in which God shapes His people, so that they might become a radiant beacon, a city set on a hill. On the biblical reading, Israel is indeed chosen, but it is never chosen for its own sake, but rather for all the nations of the world.
I would say that this formation takes place in three principal stages: first, God teaches Israel to trust in His power; secondly, He gives Israel a moral law; and thirdly, He instructs his people in holiness through right praise. The lesson in trust happens, of course, through God’s great act of liberation. Utterly powerless slaves find freedom, not by relying on their own resources, but rather upon the gracious intervention of God. The moral instruction takes place through the Ten Commandments and their attendant legislation. Finally, the formation in holiness happens through a submission to an elaborate set of liturgical and ceremonial laws. It is this last move that perhaps strikes us today as most peculiar, but that has, I will argue, particular resonance in our strange COVID period.
That education in religion involves moral instruction probably seems self-evident to most of us. And this is because we are, willy-nilly, Kantians. In the eighteenth century, the philosopher Immanuel Kant contended that all of religion is reducible to ethics. What the religious thing is finally all about, Kant argued, is making us more just, loving, kind, and compassionate. In contemporary language, Kantianism in religion sounds like this: “As long as you’re a good person, it doesn’t really matter what you believe or how you worship.”
Now, there is no question that the book of Exodus and the Bible in general agree that morality is essential to the proper formation of the people of God. Those who would seek to follow the Lord, who is justice and love, must be conformed to justice and love. And this is precisely why we find, in the great Sinai covenant, injunctions not to steal, not to commit adultery, not to covet, not to kill, etc. So far, so Kantian.
But what probably surprises most contemporary readers of the book of Exodus is that, immediately following the laying out of the moral commandments, the author spends practically the rest of the text, chapters 25 through 40, delineating the liturgical prescriptions that the people are to follow. So for example, we find a lengthy section on the construction of the ark of the covenant: “They shall make an ark of acacia wood; it shall be two and a half cubits long, a cubit and a half wide, and a cubit and a half high. You shall overlay it with pure gold, inside and outside you shall overlay it.” And as an ornament on the top of the ark, “You shall make two cherubim of gold. . . . Make one cherub at the one end, and one cherub at the other. . . . The cherubim shall spread out their wings above, overshadowing the mercy seat.” Next, we find instructions regarding the elaborate furnishings inside of the tabernacle, including a lampstand, a table for the so-called “bread of the presence,” pillars and various hangings. Finally, an enormous amount of space is given over to the description of the vestments to be worn by the priests of Israel. Here is just a sampling: “These are the vestments that they shall make: a breastpiece, an ephod, a robe, a checkered tunic, a turban, and a sash. When they make these sacred vestments. . . . They shall use gold, blue, purple, and crimson yarns, and fine linen.”
No indication whatsoever is given that the moral prescriptions are somehow more important than the liturgical prescriptions. If anything, the contrary seems to be the case, since Exodus is followed immediately by the book of Leviticus, which consists of twenty-eight chapters of dietary and liturgical law. So what are we post-Kantians to make of this? First, we should observe that the biblical authors do not think for a moment that God somehow requires liturgical rectitude, as though the correctness of our worship adds anything to his perfection or satisfies some psychological need of His. If you harbor any doubt on this score, I would recommend a careful reading of the first chapter of the prophet Isaiah and of the fiftieth psalm. God doesn’t need the Ark and the Tabernacle and priestly vestments and regular worship, but we do. Through the gestures and symbols of its liturgical praise, Israel is brought on line with God, ordered to him. The moral law directs our wills to the divine goodness, but the liturgical law directs our minds, our hearts, our emotions, and yes even our bodies to the divine splendor. Notice how thoroughly the ceremonial instructions of Exodus involve color, sound, and smell (there is an awful lot about incense), and how they conduce toward the production of beauty.
I said above that Exodus’ stress on the liturgical and ceremonial has a profound relevance to our time, and here’s why. For very good reasons, we abstained completely from public worship, and even now our ability to worship together is very limited. In most dioceses in our country, the obligation to attend Sunday Mass is, again for valid reasons, suspended. My fear is that when the propitious moment arrives, when we are again able to return to Mass, many Catholics will stay away, since they’ve grown accustomed to absenting themselves from worship. And my concern takes a more specifically Kantian form: Will many Catholics say to themselves, “You know, as long as I’m basically a good person, what’s the point of all of this formal worship of God?”
Could I recommend that you take out your Bible, open to the book of Exodus, especially chapters 25 through 40, and consider just how crucially important to God is the correct worship offered by his holy people? Liturgy has always mattered. The Mass— involving vestments, ritual gesture, smells and bells, song and silence—still matters, big time. Isn’t it enough that you’re a good person? Not to put too fine a point on it: no.'