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May 17, 2024
Evangelize May 17, 2024

A one-stop solution to all the problems in the world!

Christus surrexit! Christus vere surrexit! Christ is risen! Christ is truly risen!

Nothing expresses the ecstatic joy of Easter more charmingly than the image of Peter, falling out of the boat in his excitement to reach Jesus. On Easter Sunday, we get the triumphant, even triumphalist declaration of Jesus that we are God’s children now. There is no reaction so ecstatic that it could match the magnitude of the miracle.

Is it sufficient?

The other day, I was discussing all this with one of the wise old monks in our monastery (senpectae, we call them—the ‘old-hearts’). Something he said struck me deeply: “Yes! A story like that makes you want to tell someone about it.” I kept coming back to his phrase: “…makes you want to tell someone about it.” It does.

However, another one of my friends had a different point of view: “What makes you think you’re right about all this? Don’t you think it’s just arrogant to expect that your religion is sufficient for everybody?”

I’ve been thinking about both the comments.

I don’t want to just share this story; I want to convince other people because it’s more than a story. It’s the answer to everyone’s problems. This story is THE GOOD NEWS. “There is no salvation in anyone else,” says Saint Peter, “there is no other name under heaven given among mortals by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12) So, I guess I have to admit that I’m right on this one, this news needs to be shared!

Should that strike you as arrogant?

Fact is, if the story of Christ’s Resurrection isn’t true, then my life has no meaning—and more than that, life itself has no meaning because I, as a Christian, am in a uniquely difficult position. My faith hinges on the truth of one historical event. “If Christ is not risen, then your faith is in vain,” says Saint Paul (1 Corinthians 15:14-20).

What You Need to Know

Some people call this ‘The Scandal of Particularity.’ It’s not a matter of whether or not this is ‘true for me’ or ‘true for you.’ It’s a question of whether it’s true at all. If Jesus Christ rose from the dead, then no other religion, no other philosophy, no other creed or conviction is sufficient. They might have some of the answers, but when it comes to the single, most important event in the history of the world, they all fall short. If, on the other hand, Jesus didn’t rise from the dead—if His Resurrection is not a historical fact—then we all need to stop this foolishness right now. But I know He did, and if I’m right, then people need to know.

This brings us to the darker side of this message: as much as we want to share the Good News, and despite the guarantee that it will triumph in the end, we will find, to our immense disappointment, that, more often than not, the message will be rejected. Not just rejected. Ridiculed. Slandered. Martyred. “The world does not know us,” cries Saint John, “just as the world did not know Him.” (1 John 3:1)

Yet what joy it is to know! What joy there is in faith! What joy there is in the hope of our own resurrection! What joy to come to the realization that when God became man, suffered on the cross for our salvation and triumphed over death, He offered us a share in the Divine life! He pours out sanctifying grace upon us in the Sacraments, starting with Baptism. When He welcomes us into His family, we truly become brothers and sisters in Christ, sharing in His Resurrection.

How do we know it’s true? That Jesus is risen? Perhaps it’s the witness of millions of martyrs. Two thousand years of theology and philosophy explore the consequences of belief in the Resurrection. In saints like Mother Teresa or Francis of Assisi, we see a living testimony to the power of God’s love. Receiving Him in the Eucharist always confirms it for me as I receive His living presence and He transforms me from within. Maybe, in the end, it’s simply joy: that ecstatic ‘unsatisfied desire that is itself more desirable than any other satisfaction.’ But when push comes to shove, I know that I am willing to die for this belief—or better yet, to live for it: Christus surrexit. Christus vere surrexit. Christ is truly risen! Alleluia!

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By: Father Augustine Wetta O.S.B

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May 17, 2024
Evangelize May 17, 2024

Wherever you are and whatever you do, you are irrevocably called to this great mission in life.

In the mid-eighties, Australian director Peter Weir made his first American film, a successful thriller, Witness, which starred Harrison Ford. The movie is about a young boy who sees the murder of an undercover police officer by corrupt co-workers, and he’s hidden away in an Amish community for protection. As the story unfolds, he recalls what happened by putting the pieces together and then, he tells the Ford character named John Book (note the Gospel symbolism). The movie contains the marks of a witness: one sees, recalls, and tells.

Circling Back

Jesus showed Himself to His innermost circle so that the truth of His Resurrection would reach everyone through them. He opened the minds of His disciples to the mystery of His Death and Resurrection saying: “You are witness to these things” (Luke 24:48). Having seen Him with their own eyes, the Apostles could not remain silent about this incredible experience.

What’s true for the Apostles is also true for us because we are members of the Church, the mystical Body of Christ. Jesus commissioned his disciples to “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” (Matthew 28:19) As missionary disciples, we testify that Jesus is alive. The only way we can enthusiastically and steadfastly embrace this Mission is to see through the eyes of faith that Jesus is Risen, that He is alive, and present within and among us. That’s what a witness does.

Circling back, how does one ‘see’ the Risen Christ? Jesus instructed us: “Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” (John 12:23-24) Put simply, if we really want to ‘see’ Jesus, if we want to know Him deeply and personally, and if we want to understand Him, we have to look to the grain of wheat that dies in the soil: in other words, we have to look to the Cross.

The Sign of the Cross marks a radical shift from self-reference (Ego-drama) to being Christ-centered (Theo-drama). In itself, the Cross can only express love, service, and unreserved self-giving. It is only through sacrificial giving of the self for the praise and glory of God and the good of others that we can see Christ and enter Trinitarian Love. Only in this way can we be grafted onto the ‘Tree of Life’ and truly ‘see’ Jesus.

Jesus is Life itself. And we are hard-wired to seek Life because we are made in God’s image. That’s why we’re drawn to Jesus—to ‘see’ Jesus, meet Him, know Him, and fall in love with Him. That’s the only way we can be effective witnesses to the Risen Christ.

The Hidden Seed

We too must respond with the witness of a life that is given in service, a life that is patterned after the Way of Jesus, which is a life of sacrificial self-giving for the good of others, recalling that the Lord came to us as servants. Practically speaking, how can we live such a radical life? Jesus told His disciples: “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be My witnesses.” (Acts 1:8) The Holy Spirit, just as He did at the first Pentecost, frees our hearts chained by fear. He overcomes our resistance to do our Father’s will, and He empowers us to give witness that Jesus is Risen, He is alive and He is present now and forever!

How does the Holy Spirit do this? By renewing our hearts, pardoning our sins, and infusing us with the seven gifts that enable us to follow the Way of Jesus.

It is only through the Cross of the hidden seed, ready to die, that we can truly ‘see’ Jesus and therefore give witness to Him. It is only through this intertwining of death and life that we can experience the joy and fruitfulness of a love that flows from the heart of the Risen Christ. It is only through the power of the Spirit that we reach the fullness of the Life He gifted us with. So, as we celebrate Pentecost, let us resolve by the gift of Faith to be witnesses of the Risen Lord and bring the Paschal gifts of joy and peace to the people we encounter. Alleluia!

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By: Deacon Jim McFadden

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Apr 26, 2024
Evangelize Apr 26, 2024

Anacleto González Flores was born in Mexico in the late 19th century. Inspired by a sermon heard in his childhood, he made daily Mass the most important part of his life. Though he joined the seminary and excelled in academics, on discerning that he was not called into the priesthood, he later entered law school.

During the years-long Christian persecution in Mexico, Flores so heroically defended the fundamental rights of Christians that the Holy See awarded him the Cross Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice for his efforts. As many Mexican Christians courageously gave their lives for their faith, he continued to write against the atrocities and became a prominent leader of the Cristero War.

In 1927, he was arrested and cruelly tortured—he was flogged, his feet were cut open with knives, and his shoulder was dislocated. An unfazed Anacleto remained firm in his faith and refused to betray his fellow faithful. As he was shot to death, he openly forgave his killers and died, exclaiming: “I have worked selflessly to defend the cause of Jesus Christ and His Church. You may kill me, but know that this cause will not die with me.” He openly forgave his killers and died, exclaiming: “I die, but God does not die. Long live Christ the King!”

After years of living a holy life centered on devotion to the Blessed Sacrament and an exemplary Marian devotion, Flores gave his life to the Lord with three of his fellow faithful. This brave martyr was beatified by Pope Benedict XVI in 2005, and he was declared the patron of the Mexican laity in 2019.

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By: Shalom Tidings

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Apr 20, 2024
Evangelize Apr 20, 2024

Several years ago, I participated in the annual meeting of the Academy of Catholic Theology, a group of about fifty theologians dedicated to thinking according to the mind of the Church. Our general topic was the Trinity, and I had been invited to give one of the papers. I chose to focus on the work of Saint Irenaeus, one of the earliest and most important of the fathers of the Church.

Irenaeus was born around 125 in the town of Smyrna in Asia Minor. As a young man, he became a disciple of Polycarp who, in turn, had been a student of John the Evangelist. Later in life, Irenaeus journeyed to Rome and eventually to Lyons where he became Bishop after the martyrdom of the previous leader. Irenaeus died around the year 200, most likely as a martyr, though the exact details of his death are lost to history.

His theological masterpiece is called Adversus Haereses (Against the Heresies), but it is much more than a refutation of the major objections to Christian faith in his time. It is one of the most impressive expressions of Christian doctrine in the history of the church, easily ranking with the De Trinitate of Saint Augustine and the Summa theologiae of Saint Thomas Aquinas. In my Washington paper, I argued that the master idea in Irenaeus’s theology is that God has no need of anything outside of Himself. I realize that this seems, at first blush, rather discouraging, but if we follow Irenaeus’s lead, we see how, spiritually speaking, it opens up a whole new world. Irenaeus knew all about the pagan gods and goddesses who stood in desperate need of human praise and sacrifice, and he saw that a chief consequence of this theology is that people lived in fear. Since the gods needed us, they were wont to manipulate us to satisfy their desires, and if they were not sufficiently honored, they could (and would) lash out. But the God of the Bible, who is utterly perfect in Himself, has no need of anything at all. Even in His great act of making the universe, He doesn’t require any pre-existing material with which to work; rather (and Irenaeus was the first major Christian theologian to see this), He creates the universe ex nihilo (from nothing). And precisely because He doesn’t need the world, He makes the world in a sheerly generous act of love. Love, as I never tire of repeating, is not primarily a feeling or a sentiment, but instead an act of the will. It is to will the good of the other as other. Well, the God who has no self-interest at all, can only love.

From this intuition, the whole theology of Irenaeus flows. God creates the cosmos in an explosion of generosity, giving rise to myriad plants, animals, planets, stars, angels, and human beings, all designed to reflect some aspect of His own splendor. Irenaeus loves to ring the changes on the metaphor of God as artist. Each element of creation is like a color applied to the canvas or a stone in the mosaic, or a note in an overarching harmony. If we can’t appreciate the consonance of the many features of God’s universe, it is only because our minds are too small to take in the Master’s design. And His entire purpose in creating this symphonic order is to allow other realities to participate in His perfection. At the summit of God’s physical creation stands the human being, loved into existence as all things are, but invited to participate even more fully in God’s perfection by loving his Creator in return. The most oft-cited quote from Irenaeus is from the fourth book of the Adversus Haereses, and it runs as follows: “The glory of God is a human being fully alive.” Do you see how this is precisely correlative to the assertion that God needs nothing? The glory of the pagan gods and goddesses was not a human being fully alive, but rather a human being in submission, a human being doing what he’s been commanded to do. But the true God doesn’t play such manipulative games. He finds His joy in willing, in the fullest measure, our good.

One of the most beautiful and intriguing of Irenaeus’ ideas is that God functions as a sort of benevolent teacher, gradually educating the human race in the ways of love. He imagined Adam and Eve, not so much as adults endowed with every spiritual and intellectual perfection, but more as children or teenagers, inevitably awkward in their expression of freedom. The long history of salvation is, therefore, God’s patient attempt to train His human creatures to be His friends. All of the covenants, laws, commandments, and rituals of both ancient Israel and the church should be seen in this light: not arbitrary impositions, but the structure that the Father God gives to order His children toward full flourishing.

There is much that we can learn from this ancient master of the Christian faith, especially concerning the good news of the God who doesn’t need us!

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By: Bishop Robert Barron

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Apr 10, 2024
Evangelize Apr 10, 2024

When a terrible loss led Josh Blakesley into the light, music from his soul became a balm to many bleeding hearts.

Growing up in the small town of Alexandria, Josh was a carefree child.

He grew up listening to his Dad’s music; two elder sisters with a great music collection was a bonus that nurtured his musical taste. Without professional training or theoretical inputs, in an age with no internet and YouTube, Josh had what he would later call ‘a side entry’ into the world of music. Starting on the drums and simultaneously learning to sing, he was enamored by the likes of Don Henley and Phil Collins, following their legendary works through magazines and books.

With his mother, though, Church was a non-negotiable matter. Thanks to her insistence, he went to Mass every Sunday. But he would leave God there and live the rest of his life on a totally different plane.

Diving Deeper

They met in Spanish class when he was 15, and unlike any other 15-year-old, she took him along to a prayer meeting. This was new and different from anything he had experienced before. Teenagers his age were coming together to worship the Lord. This worship experience was modern and engaging…with music, talks, and skits by people his age! He was intrigued, but he wouldn’t have kept coming back every week if Jenny hadn’t asked him to.

Several months later, Jenny was hit by a drunk driver and killed in an accident. Her loss was a huge blow to the entire community. As he struggled with the grief of losing her, it triggered a realization that life here is finite, and there must be purpose in it, a reason that we are living.

From that very moment, he began a journey, searching for answers to the questions that fascinated him…‘What is the reason for me? What is the purpose of what I’m doing right now? Why has God put me on this planet? What’s my role while I’m here?’

He started diving more into why we were here on this planet. In realizing that his gifts were from God, and in searching for a purpose in the use of these gifts, he realized that he wanted to give back to God and return the love.

A Bolt of Realization

He started playing music for Mass and getting involved in the liturgy. As he puts it: “There has been a faith part to my music and a music part to my faith as well. Those are still ingrained. I pray through music a lot”. And it is this experience of prayer that he tries to hand over to his brethren through writing and playing music. The “awesome and overwhelming” experience of leading people into worship and hearing them singing along makes him whisper so often: “The Lord is moving right now, and I don’t have to work.”

Bridging the Gap

Josh is now a full-time singer, songwriter, producer, music director, husband, and dad.

Even while leading the music at Mass every Sunday, Josh knows that Mass can happen without music—what a musician does at Mass doesn’t bring Jesus any greater into the room; He is there regardless. What a musician can do is “elevate the worship of the faithful by bringing some extra beauty through music.” This indeed, is one of his life goals—to try and bridge that gap and bring quality music into the liturgy.

But he doesn’t stop there; in addition to adding beauty to the Sacramental experience, he goes another mile to bring God to the people.

Right from His Heart

As a Catholic musician, Josh writes songs for the Mass and writes from the heart. Sometimes, when it comes out, it might not be out rightly Mass-material, but what comes out is still a tribute to God for the gift of music.

He relates that his song Even in This was such an experience right from his heart.

The Church community he was part of had just lost a teen, and seeing them go through the pain, the tragedy, and the devastation took him back to his own experience of losing a dear friend in his teenage years. Diving into the pain, he wrote that even in these darkest nights, God is with us. In the ‘valleys of pain’, in the ‘shattered, broken things’, in the ‘ hurt you cannot hide’ and the ‘fear you cannot fight’, he reassures his listeners that though you cannot see God, “You are not alone.”

This is one message Josh wants to repeat to the world: “God is moving with you.”

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By: Josh Blakesley

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Mar 25, 2024
Evangelize Mar 25, 2024

We all wrestle with God at one point or another, but when do we really attain peace?

Recently, a struggling friend told me: “I do not even know what to pray for.” She wanted to pray but was growing weary of asking for something that was not coming. I immediately thought of Saint Peter Julian Eymard’s Eucharistic Way of Prayer. He invites us to model our prayer time after the four ends of the Mass: Adoration, Thanksgiving, Atonement, and Petition.

A Better Way

Prayer is more than asking, yet there are times when our needs and worries about our loved ones are so pressing that we do nothing but ask, ask, plead, and then ask some more. We might say: “Jesus, I leave this in your hands,” but 30 seconds later, we grab it right out of His hands to explain why we need it again. We worry, fret, and lose sleep. We don’t stop asking long enough to hear what God might be trying to whisper to our weary hearts. We go around like this for a while, and God lets us. He waits for us to wear ourselves out, to realize that we are not asking Him to help us, but we are trying to tell Him how we think He needs to help us. When we grow tired of wrestling and finally surrender, we learn a better way to pray.

In his letter to the Philippians, Saint Paul instructs us on how we should approach our petitions to God: “Have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God. Then the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” (4:6-7)

Combat the Lies

Why do we worry? Why do we get anxious? Because, like Saint Peter, who stopped looking at Jesus and began to sink (Matthew 14:22-33), we too lose sight of the Truth and choose to listen to the lies. At the root of every anxious thought lies a big lie—that God will not take care of me, that whatever problem worries me now is bigger than God, that God will abandon me and forget me…that I don’t have a loving Father after all.

How do we combat these lies? With the TRUTH.
“We must simplify the work of our mind by a simple and calm view of God’s truths,” reminds St. Peter Julian Eymard.

What is the truth? I like Saint Mother Teresa’s answer: “Humility is truth.” The Catechism tells us that “humility is the foundation of prayer.” Prayer is raising our hearts and minds to God. It is a conversation, a relationship. I can’t be in a relationship with someone I do not know. When we begin our prayer with humility, we acknowledge the truth of Who God is and of who we are. We recognize that, on our own, we are nothing but sin and misery but that God has made us his children and that in Him, we can do all things (Philippians 4:13).

It is that humility, that truth, that brings us to first adoration, then thanksgiving, then repentance, and finally to petition. It is the natural progression of one who is completely dependent on God. So when we don’t know what to say to God, let us bless Him and praise His name. Let us think of all the blessings and thank Him for all He has done for us. This will help us trust that this same God, who has always been with us, is still here today and is always for us through good times and difficult times.

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By: Ivonne J. Hernandez

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Feb 29, 2024
Evangelize Feb 29, 2024

It was July 1936, the height of the Spanish war. El Pelé was walking through the streets of Barbastro, Spain, when a huge commotion captured his attention. As he rushed to the source, he saw soldiers dragging a priest through the streets. He couldn’t just stand on the fringes and watch; he rushed to defend the priest. The soldiers weren’t intimidated and shouted at him to surrender his weapon. He held up his rosary and told them: “I have only this.”

Ceferino Giménez Malla, fondly known as El Pelé, was a Romani—a community often pejoratively referred to as Gypsies and looked down upon by mainstream society. But Pelé was held in great esteem not only by his own community, even educated people respected this illiterate man for his honesty and wisdom.

When he was arrested and imprisoned in 1936, his wife had passed away, and he was already a grandfather.

Even in prison, he continued to hold fast to his rosary. Everyone, even his daughter, begged him to give it up. His friends advised him that if he stopped praying, his life might be saved. But for El Pelé, to give up his rosary or to stop praying was symbolic of denying his faith.

So, at the age of 74, he was shot dead and thrown in a mass grave. This brave soldier of Christ died shouting: “Long live Christ the King!” still holding a rosary in his hands.

Sixty years later, Blessed Ceferino Giménez Malla became the first of the Romani community ever to be beatified, proving again that the Savior is ever-present to everyone who calls upon Him, irrespective of color or creed.

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By: Shalom Tidings

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Feb 10, 2024
Evangelize Feb 10, 2024

Scared and alone on a boat in the middle of a stormy sea, little Vinh made a bargain with God…

When the Vietnam War ended in 1975, I was still a child, the second last of 14 children. My wonderful parents were devout Catholics, but since Catholics suffered persecution in Vietnam, they wanted us children to escape to a different country for a better life.

The refugees usually left in tiny wooden boats, which would often capsize at sea, leaving none of the passengers alive. So, my parents decided that we would try to leave one at a time, and they made great sacrifices to save enough to pay the tremendous costs.

The first time I tried to leave, I was only nine. It took me two years and fourteen attempts before I finally managed to escape. It would take another ten years for my parents to make it across.

The Escape

Crowded onto a small wooden boat with 77 others, 11-year-old me was on my own in the middle of nowhere. We faced many hazards. On the seventh night, as a huge storm battered us, a lady beseeched me: “We may not survive this storm; whatever your religion is, pray to your God.” I responded that I had already prayed. I had, in fact, set a bargain: “Save me, and I’ll be a good boy.” As the wind and waves whipped over the boat that night, I promised to dedicate my life to serving God and His people for the rest of my life.

When I woke the next morning, we were still afloat, and the sea was calm. We were still in dire peril, however, because we had run out of food and water. Two days later, my prayers were answered when we finally landed in Malaysia after ten days at sea.

Starting a new life in a refugee camp, I set out to be faithful to the bargain I had made with God. Without parents, without anyone to take care of me, without anyone to tell me what to do, I put my total trust in God and asked Him to guide me. I went to church every day, and the priest soon asked me to be an altar server. Father Simon was a French missionary priest who worked really hard, helping refugees with all their needs, especially their immigration applications. He became my hero. He found such joy in serving others that I wanted to be like him when I grew up.

With the challenges I faced in starting a new life, I forgot my old promise. At the end of Year 10, as I thought about what I’d really like to do with my life, our Lord reminded me of my desire to become a priest. They arranged work experience for me with our parish priest, Monsignor Keating. I loved it so much that I decided to join the seminary once I completed high school. As my parents had immigrated to Australia by then, I joined Saint Charles Seminary in Perth.

Keeper of Promises

For the past 26 years, I have been serving as a priest for the Archdiocese of Perth. Like Father Simon, I have found great joy in serving God’s people. My biggest challenge was being appointed to found a new parish on the outskirts of Perth in 2015. I was at a loss. There was a school but no church or facilities, so we started by meeting to say Mass in a classroom.

I sought advice from my fellow priests. Two of their remarks stuck with me. One said: “Build a church, and then you will have people,” another said: “Build a community. When you have the people, you can build a church.” I asked myself, “Do I have the chicken, or do I have the egg?” I decided that I needed both the chicken and the egg, so I built both the community AND the church.

A Vietnamese refugee with scant chances of surviving persecution in his home country, who feared he wouldn’t live through the night of a terrifying storm in the middle of the ocean, building a church community in the Australian bush—I am still amazed at the marvelous works of the Lord!!

The Dominican Sisters helped me  to build the community and also in fundraising to make Saint John Paul II Catholic Church a reality. Scores of generous hearts from other parishes in Perth and all over the world extended us a helping hand, and I am thankful to God for all their support. Instances like these repeatedly remind me that the word ‘Catholic’ means universal—no matter where we are in the world, we are the people of God. Our church, which started with a dozen people, now has over 400 parishioners. Our members come from 31 different cultures. Every week, I see new faces. As I come to learn about these diverse cultures and people who share a common faith, it helps deepen my relationship with God.

Receiving Begets Giving

Although I enjoy my life and ministry in Australia, I have not forgotten my roots in Vietnam. The Lord has been using me to support an orphanage run by Dominican Sisters. Along with fundraising, I also bring people on mission journeys to help the nuns take care of the orphans. The youth immerse themselves in the missionary work, feeding them, teaching them, doing whatever is needed, and forming a relationship that continues beyond the length of our visits. No one goes home without experiencing a profound shift in their outlook on life.

It has been over 40 years since I was on that little boat where I made a promise to God. My relationship with God had been nurtured by my parents to reach that point of surrender. When they taught me to say the Rosary, I thought it was boring. I would complain, “Why do we have to say the same prayers over and over again? Can’t we say them once and then say the same, the same, the same so I can go out and play.” But I came to appreciate that the Rosary is a summary of the entire Bible, and the repetition of prayer enables me to meditate upon the mysteries. I tell people now that BIBLE stands for Basic Information Before Leaving Earth.

My parents had given me the formation to be faithful to the promise I made on the boat, and God, in His mercy, took care of me when my parents could not. They continued to pray for their children, entrusting us to the Lord, and it was a delightful surprise for them when I became a priest. Now, it is my job to support families in nurturing faith and counseling anyone who comes to me for advice: “Do not be afraid to discern a call from God. Take time to talk to God and allow God to talk to you. You will slowly get to know what God would like you to do in your life.”

I continue to pray every day that I will truly be faithful to that promise I made to God—to be His child forevermore.

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By: Father Vinh Dong

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Dec 29, 2023
Evangelize Dec 29, 2023

Ecstatic over the good news of a much-awaited pregnancy, their world turned upside down during the 12th-week routine ultrasound.

Our first-born Mary Grace was growing up to be a beautiful child. Our family and friends had been actively praying for us to have another baby, so we were overjoyed to learn about the pregnancy! The genetic testing returned normal results, and we decided to keep the gender a lovely surprise.

When I went for the routine 12th-week ultrasound, the technician showed me the side profile of the baby and then quickly turned the screen away from me. They took my daughter out, and I immediately knew something was wrong. I thought: “Maybe the baby has some sort of heart problem or defect, but it is alright. God can fix anything, and we can have surgery.” But being a doctor, I prayed: “Please God, don’t let it be anencephaly.” Since I had had a glimpse of the ultrasound, I felt confident it would be something else.

As the doctor came into the room, I asked: “Please tell me the baby is alive.” With a solemn face, she said: “Yes, the baby does have a heartbeat, but it doesn’t look good.” I started crying and called my husband on Facetime. It was what I feared the most—our baby has anencephaly, one of the severe defects a baby can have in utero where the skull does not develop appropriately—and the doctor told me the fetus wouldn’t live long.

It was heartbreaking. This precious child that we had been waiting for so many years was not going to live! I thought about how excited my older daughter was. In our daily family prayer, she used to say: “Jesus, please let me have a baby brother or sister.” I kept saying in my mind: “Lord, you can heal, you can heal the baby.”

My husband immediately came down. Trying hard to keep a straight face, I told my daughter that I was crying tears of joy. What else could I say?

The doctor said we could terminate the pregnancy. I said, “Absolutely no way. I am going to carry the baby until he/she lives. If it’s going to be 40 weeks, it’s 40 weeks.” She did warn me that I would likely not make it that long, and in case the baby dies in the womb, there was the possibility of me getting a severe blood infection. I also needed frequent checkups as fluid build-up in my uterus could be very dangerous. I told her that I was ready to face anything. Thankfully, I wasn’t pressured further, even on the following visits. They knew that I had made my decision!

Destined for Hope

We came home and spent time praying and crying together. I called my sister, who was an OBGYN resident. She called a lot of friends, especially in Jesus Youth, and started a Zoom Novena that very night. We just said to our daughter that the baby has “a little bit of a booboo, but it’s okay.” We didn’t tell our parents or in-laws; my sister was to get married in a month, and we didn’t want the wedding to be affected. We also had this thought that they wouldn’t handle it with the same strength we felt.

The first few days, many people talked to me, helping me trust in God’s providence and believe that He doesn’t do anything that’s not good for us. I felt immense peace. I thought about Mother Mary—the joy of receiving the good news at Annunciation and the later sorrow at knowing that He was going to die. We decided, that day, to open the card from the blood tests that revealed the gender because by then, we wanted to pray for the baby with a name.

We named her Evangeline Hope, meaning ‘the bearer of good news’ because, for us, she still radiated the hope of Christ’s love and mercy. Not once did we consider aborting her because she was such good news, not only for us but for all our well-wishers—a child who would evangelize the world in many ways.

I joined an Anencephaly Support group, which helped me immensely in my journey. I met many people, even atheists, who deeply regretted their decision to abort their babies. I was brought in contact with ladies who sewed angel gowns from donated wedding gowns and professional photographers who volunteered to document the birth through beautiful photos.

We did a gender reveal at our sister’s wedding but still didn’t tell anyone that the baby was sick. We just wanted to honor and celebrate her little life. My sister and friends also organized a beautiful baby shower (more like a celebration of life), and instead of presents, everyone wrote letters to her for us to read after the delivery.

Perpetual Adorer

I carried her until the 37th week.

Even after a complicated delivery, including a uterine wall rupture, Evangeline was not born alive. But somehow, I remember feeling a deep sense of Heavenly peace. She was welcomed with so much love, dignity, and honor. A priest and her Godparents were waiting to meet Evangeline. There in the hospital room, we had a beautiful time of prayer, praise, and worship.

We had beautiful dresses for her. We read the letters that everybody wrote to her. We wanted to treat her with more dignity and honor than a ‘normal’ child. We cried because we missed her presence, and also because of joy as she was with Jesus now. In that hospital room, we were thinking, “Wow, I can’t wait to get to Heaven. Let’s do our best to be there with all the Saints.”

Two days later, we had a ‘celebration of life’ for her with everybody wearing white. The Mass was celebrated by four priests, and we had three seminarians and a beautiful choir honoring our precious baby. Evangeline was buried in the Angels section for babies in the cemetery, which we still visit often. Although she isn’t here on earth, she is very much a part of our lives. I feel closer to Jesus because I see just how much God loves me and how He chose me to bear her.

I feel honored. She is a perpetual adorer for our family to bring us to sainthood in a way no other situation could ever bring us to. It was sheer grace from God and full acceptance of His will that gave us the strength to go through this. When we accept God’s will, He showers the graces that we need to go through any given situation. All we have to do is abandon ourselves to His providence.

Raising Saints

Every unborn child is precious; healthy or sick, they are still gifts from God. We should open our hearts to love these children made in the image of Christ, who are in my view more precious than a “normal” child. Taking care of them is like taking care of the wounded Christ. It’s an honor to have a child with disabilities or special needs because caring for them will help us reach a deeper state of sanctity than accomplishing anything else in life. If we can see these sick unborn children as gifts—pure souls—it wouldn’t even feel like a burden. You will be raising within you, a Saint who will be seated beside all the angels and Saints.

Our youngest baby boy Gabriel was born last October. As we awaited him, we used to pray that even if he is diagnosed with something, we would still have the grace to receive him with open hearts and arms. Thanks be to God, it was His will that Gabriel be born a beautiful healthy baby; and an added thanks to his sister’s intercession from heaven too.

All life is a precious gift, and we are not the authors of life.  We must always remember that God gives, and God takes. Blessed be the name of the Lord!

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By: Dr. Hima Pius

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Dec 27, 2023
Evangelize Dec 27, 2023

The Scripture read at Mass always sounded beautiful to my ears as a young girl. However, as it was confusing, I put it amongst the “too hard” pile of things to comprehend, thereby categorizing all of Scripture as a mystery that someday will be explained when I’m in heaven with God. 

Later, as a young adult, I heard a life-changing quote by Saint Jerome: “Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ.” Saint Jerome was telling me that I didn’t have to wait for “someday.” Instead, I had God’s permission to understand and know Christ at this very moment. 

My journey into God’s word was like assembling a puzzle that became clearer as the pieces were put into place. Scripture, especially John’s Gospel, reveals that the Almighty Word of God, creator of everything, became flesh because He loved me. As a part of His creation, He wants me to be His daughter, to inherit His Kingdom, and to live with Him in peace for eternity.

However, the King of Glory humbly chose to take on flesh as an infant, suffered, and died on the cross for me to achieve His plan. With each turn of the page, the veil of ignorance becomes lifted while my faith and love for Him grow; I now know that I belong to Him. 

With the help of the Holy Spirit, I try to encourage others not to be ignorant of Christ because of a lack of understanding of the Scripture. For many years, my husband and I have been the coordinators of the Scripture study program at our parish in the hope of drawing others to The Word of God and coming to know Jesus, the Son of God, made flesh.

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By: Teresa Ann Weider

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Dec 27, 2023
Evangelize Dec 27, 2023

Baby Jesus, peacefully nestling in His parents’ hands…it’s a beautiful image that has been reproduced in so many forms over the centuries. My personal favorite is a sleeping Mary with Joseph by the side, lovingly looking at the child in his arms.

Throughout the scary journey to an unknown land, Mary and Joseph would have done all they could to make sure that the baby they held close felt safe. They knew that this was The Savior who had come to save the world, and so, in spite of all the struggles, they sacrificed their joys for the child.

Jesus taught us to see Him in the person next to us. In fact, didn’t He come down to raise us to Him? 

Every Advent, I am posed with the challenge of seeing Christ in others. 

When I look at the person next to me, I wish I could see beyond the surface–his/her color, race, position, power, ugly scars, to reveal the true beauty within—the image of the Savior reflected deep within their soul. What helps me is to first take a look at myself, to recognize my weaknesses and sinful ways, and be amazed at the fact that God still loves me. If He can see beyond all these, to the possibility of who He created me to be, He can surely help me see the same Christ-like beauty in my fellow brethren.

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By: Maria Teres Sebastian

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