Walk of Faith: God is Calling
Today if you clearly hear what God wants you to do…dare to do it!
“Become a monk first.” Those were the words I received from God when I was 21 years old; 21 years old with the sort of plans and interests that would be expected of an average 21-year-old. I had plans to graduate from college within a year. Plans to serve in youth ministry, while working as a stuntman in Hollywood. I fancied I might move to the Philippines one day, and spend some time living among tribes on a remote island. And of course, marriage and children had a very strong appeal. These aspirations among others were arrested swiftly when God spoke those four unmistakable words. Some enthusiastic Christians express envy when I tell them about how God made His will explicit for my life. They often say, “I wish God would speak to me that way.” In response to this, I wish to offer some clarification on God’s pattern of speech based on my personal experience.
God does not speak until we are ready to hear and receive what He has to say. What He has to say may determine how long it takes before we are ready. Until we can hear and receive God’s word, He will simply wait; and God can wait a very long time, as illustrated in the parable of the Prodigal Son. More importantly, those who wait on Him are esteemed throughout Scripture. I should preface my calling to become a monk with details about how my vocation really began, when I started reading the Church Fathers as an adolescent, or more accurately, when I started reading the Bible daily. Factoring in these details shows that it took seven years of discernment before I could receive just four words from God.
Digging into Books
I hated reading as a child. Sitting in a stuffy room with a book for hours on end made no sense when endless adventures were lying just outside my door. However, the imperative to read my Bible daily posed an unresolvable dilemma. Every Evangelical knows that any Christian who allows dust to collect on the Good Book is not much of a Christian. But how could I study Sacred Scripture as someone who hated reading? By the influence and example of a youth pastor, I gritted my teeth and set myself to the task of laboring over God’s Word one book at a time. The more I read, the more I began to ask questions. More questions led me to reading more books for more answers.
Teenagers are intense by nature. Subtlety is something they learn later in life, which is why the Church Fathers left me so enamored as a young man. Ignatius was not subtle. Origen was not refined. The Church Fathers were extreme in every sense, renouncing earthly goods, residing in the desert, and often sacrificing their lives for the Lord. As an adolescent with proclivities toward the extreme, I found no one who could rival the Church Fathers. No MMA fighter could compare with Perpetua. No surfer was gnarlier than the Shepherd of Hermas. And yet, what these early radicals cared about was nothing other than imitating the life of Christ as modeled in the Bible. Furthermore, all were in consensus on leading a life of celibacy and contemplation. The paradox was striking to me. Being extreme like the Church Fathers entailed a lifestyle that, on the surface, appeared rather mundane. More questions to ponder.
With graduation on the horizon, I was torn by a couple job offers that would determine denominational affiliation, as well as prospective institutions for further education after college. At the time, my Anglican priest advised me to bring the matter to God in prayer. How I should serve Him was ultimately His decision, not mine. And what better place to discern the will of God in prayer than a monastery? On Easter Sunday, a woman I had never met approached me at St. Andrew’s Abbey, saying “I am praying for you, and I love you.” After asking for my name, she advised me to read the first chapter of Luke, saying “this will help you determine your vocation.” I kindly thanked her, and did as she instructed. As I sat on the chapel lawn reading about John the Baptist’s origin story, I noticed several parallels between our lives. I will not stray into all the details here. All I will say is that it was the most intimate experience I ever had with God’s Word. It felt like the passage was written for me in that very moment.
I continued to pray and wait for God’s direction on the grassy lawn. Would He direct me to accepting a position in Newport Beach, or back home in San Pedro? Hours passed by as I patiently listened. Suddenly, an unexpected voice popped in my mind; “Become a monk first.” This was startling, as it was not the answer I was looking for. Entering a monastery after graduation was the last thing on my mind. Besides, I had a vibrant and colorful life to live. I stubbornly pushed God’s voice aside, attributing it to be some wild idea that rose from my subconsciousness. Returning to prayer, I listened for God to make His will evident to me. Next, an image captured my mind; three dry river beds appeared. Somehow, I knew that one represented San Pedro my hometown, another represented Newport, but the river bed in the middle signified becoming a monk. Against my will, the riverbed in the middle began overflowing with white water. What I saw was completely out of my control; I couldn’t not see it. At this point I became afraid. Either I was going mad, or God was calling me to something unexpected.
The bell tolled as tears trickled down my cheeks. It was time for Vespers. I shuffled into the chapel along with the monks. As we chanted the Psalms, my weeping grew uncontrollable. I could no longer keep up with the chanting. I remember feeling embarrassed about the mess I must have looked like. As the brethren filed out one by one, I remained in the chapel.
Lying prostrate in front of the altar, I began to weep harder than I ever have in my entire life. What felt strange was the complete lack of emotion to accompany the weeping. There was neither sorrow nor anger, just sobs. The only explanation I could attribute to the downpour of tears and snot, was the touch of the Holy Spirit. It was undeniable that God was calling me to the monastic life. I went to bed that night with eyes swollen but peace knowing God’s path for me. The next morning I promised God I would follow His bidding, seeking to become a monk first and foremost.
I am Not Done Yet?
Although God is punctual at times, as with Moses on Mt. Sinai or Elijah on Mt. Carmel, more often than not, His words are inopportune. We can’t presume that by putting our lives on hold, God will be forced to speak up. He is not manipulatable in the slightest. Thus, we are left with no choice but to carry on with our humdrum tasks until we nearly forget about Him—this is when He shows up. Young Samuel heard God’s voice precisely when Samuel was attending to his daily (mundane) duties, i.e., ensuring the tabernacle candle remain lit. There are vocations within vocations; callings within callings. Thus, a student may very well hear God speak in the middle of attending to her algebra problem. A single mother may receive a word from God while quietly sitting in traffic on the 405 freeway. The point is to watch and wait always, for we do not know when the Master will appear. This gives rise to a question; Why is a word from God so infrequent and ambiguous?
God gives us just the amount of clarity we need to follow Him; no more. The Mother of God received a word without much clarification. The prophets, who constantly received revelations from Him, were often perplexed. John the Baptist, who was the first to recognize the Messiah, second guessed himself later on. Even the disciples, Jesus’ closest kin, were constantly confused by the words of our Lord. Those who hear God speak are left with more questions, not answers. God told me to become a monk, but He did not say how or where. Much of my own vocation He left up to me to figure out. It would take four years before my calling was realized; four years (within which I visited eighteen other monasteries) before I was granted entry to St. Andrew’s. Confusion, doubt, and second guessing, are all part of the lengthy process of discernment. Moreover, God does not speak in a vacuum. His words are preceded and followed by the words of others. A youth pastor, an Anglican priest, an oblate of St. Andrew’s—these acted as God’s vassals. Hearing their words was essential before I could receive God’s.
My vocation remains incomplete. It is still being discovered, still being realized every day. I’ve been a monk for six years now. Just this year I professed solemn vows. One might say I’ve done what God told me to do. Be that as it may, God is not done speaking. He did not stop speaking after the first day of Creation, and He will not stop until His magnum opus is complete. Who knows what He will say or when He will speak next? God has a history of having very strange things to say. Our part is to watch and wait for whatever He has in store.
Brother John Baptist Santa Ana, O.S.B. is a monk of St.Andrew’s Abbey, Valyermo, CA. Presently he is pursuing MA in
Theology at the Dominican House of Studies in Washington, DC.
His interests include martial arts, surfing and drawing.
Jan 19, 2023
Jan 19, 2023
When troubles come, how quick are we to think that nobody understands what we are going through?
In almost every church, we find a crucifix hanging above the altar. This image of our Savior does not present Him crowned with jewels sitting on a throne, nor descending on a cloud carried by angels, but rather as a man, wounded, stripped of basic human dignity, and enduring the most humiliating and painful form of execution. We see a person who has loved and lost, who has been hurt and betrayed. We see a person just like us.
And yet, in the face of this evidence, when we ourselves suffer, how quick we are to lament that nobody understands us, nobody knows what we’re going through? We make quick assumptions and sink into a place of isolation bound by inconsolable sorrow.
A Change of Course
A few years ago my life changed forever. I had always been a healthy child, a ballet dancer with dreams I had already begun to realize by the time I turned twelve. I had regularly attended Sunday school and felt drawn to God but had never done much about it, so I went on enjoying my life, my time with friends, and dancing lead roles at top ballet schools. I was content with my life. I knew God was there, but He was always over there. I trusted Him, but never thought very much about Him.
Yet in eighth grade, at the peak of my childhood dance career, my health started to plummet, and four years later I still have not recovered. It all began just one week after performing in a ballet at the Metropolitan Opera House, the day after I received the sacrament of Confirmation, and two weeks before I was to attend a summer intensive at the second most prestigious dance school in the United States. A bad strain of ligaments in my foot aggravated a previously undiscovered break in my ankle bone which now required surgery. Then I developed appendicitis, requiring another surgery. The two surgeries in close succession caused severe damage to my neurological and immune systems and weakened me to a point that no doctor could treat or even fully understand my situation.
As I continued to push my body to continue ballet, my body pushed back and I ended up fracturing my spine, ending my ballet career.”
Throughout the year leading up to my Confirmation, I experienced Jesus in ways I never had before. I saw His love and mercy magnified through study of the Gospels and discussions of His ministry. I started going to church every Sunday and experienced the power of the Eucharist. Before the confirmation classes with my parish priest, no one had ever taught me so clearly about Jesus’ love for me. His instruction clarified my growing understanding of who God truly is. Jesus, who I’d always known to be my Savior, was now my dearest friend and becoming my greatest love. He wasn’t just a statue hanging in the church, a character in stories; He was real, and He was the embodiment of Truth, Truth I had never known I was seeking. Through that year of study I made the decision to fully live my life for Jesus. I wanted nothing more than to become more like Him.
Since my injury, as my health bounced up and down and took me off the path I expected to be on forever, I struggled to remain hopeful. I lost ballet and even some friends. I could barely get out of bed to go to school, and when I did make it, I couldn’t stay the entire day. The life I had always known was crumbling and I needed to understand why. Why did I have to suffer so much and lose so much? Did I do something wrong? Would it lead to something good? Each time I started to heal, some new health issue arose and knocked me down again. Yet even at my lowest points, Jesus always pulled me back to my feet, and back to Him.
I learned to offer my suffering to God for the sake of others and watched it change their lives for the better. As things were taken away, space was made for better opportunities. For instance, not being able to dance ballet gave me the space to photograph the dancers at my ballet school and showcase their talent. I finally had spare time to attend my brother’s football games and started taking photos of him in action. I soon ended up photographing the whole team, including boys who never had anyone come out to watch them play, let alone capture their skills in a photograph. When I could hardly walk, I would sit and make rosaries to give to others. As I began to feel worse physically, my heart grew lighter because I was given the chance not merely to live for myself, but to live for God and see His love and compassion at work in others and in my own heart.
Listening to Jesus
Yet it is not always easy for me to find the good in suffering. I often find myself wishing the pain would be taken away, wishing I could live a normal life without physical agony. Yet one evening last March I received clear insight into my eternal questions. I was in adoration, sitting on the hard wood of the church pew, gazing at the crucifix in the dull candlelight and for the first time I wasn’t just looking at the crucifix—I was truly seeing it.
My body ached all over. My wrists and ankles throbbed painfully, my back hurt from the latest injury, my head was tender from a chronic migraine, and every so often, a sharp pain pierced my ribs and knocked me to the ground. Before me, Jesus hung from the cross with nails through His wrists and ankles, wounds from the whips lacerating His back, a crown of thorns painfully thrust upon His head, and a gash between His ribs where the spear had pierced His side–a spear that was meant to ensure He was dead. A thought struck me so forcefully, that I nearly fell over in the pew. Every pain I felt, even the smallest suffering, my Savior felt as well. My back pain and headaches, even my conviction that nobody else could understand, He understands it all because He experienced it too, and continues to bear it with us.
Suffering is not a punishment, but a gift we can use to grow closer to God and to shape our character. While physically I have lost a lot, spiritually I have gained. When all that we think is so important gets stripped away, then we can see what truly matters. That night in adoration as I looked at Jesus’ wounds so similar to my own, I realized that if He bore it all for me, then I can bear it all for Him. If we want to be more like Jesus, we’re going to have to walk the same journey He did, Cross and all. But He will never leave us to walk alone. We need only to look at the Cross and remember He is right there walking beside us through it all.
Jan 12, 2023
Jan 12, 2023
Overwhelmed by the uncertainties in life? Take heart. I was once there too—but Jesus showed me a way through
I was thirty-something, strolling through downtown in the dress I loved, an airy sky-blue print. Its shape flattered me I thought, so I wore it often. Without warning I suddenly glimpsed my reflection in a store window. Revolted, I tried to suck in my gut. It wouldn’t suck. It had nowhere to go. Bulges everywhere. Beneath the hem, my legs were hams. I loathed myself.
My eating and weight were skyrocketing out of control; and beyond that, my entire life was a train wreck. Divorce had recently shredded my brief marriage. Externally I pretended everything was fine, but inside I was shattered.
Isolating behind walls of fat, I shared my anguish with no one. To numb my pain, I drank alcohol, worked, and ate—excessively. Successive dieting attempts only plummeted me into another cycle of obsession, self-pity, and compulsive binging.
And, beneath all that rubble, spiritual problems festered. I still called myself Catholic, but I lived like an atheist. To me, God was ‘up there’ all right, but far away and caring nothing about my miseries. Why should I trust Him in the slightest? I showed up at Sunday Mass only when visiting my parents, to deceive them into believing I practiced faithfully. In truth, I bulldozed through my days with no thought of God and went ahead doing whatever I pleased.
But the chilling memory of my reflection in that window haunted me. A new restlessness gripped my soul. Change was needed, but what? I had no idea. Nor did I have any idea that God Himself was moving in that moment, beginning to expose the ache in my heart with His gentle fingers.
Contending with Goliath
A woman at work expressed discouragement about her eating and weight, and we connected. One day she mentioned a twelve-step group she’d begun attending. The group asserted that because disordered eating is related to our emotional and spiritual lives, losing weight and keeping it off needs to address these components as well. This integrated approach appealed to me. Despite my scorn for groups, I tried some meetings. Soon hooked, I attended regularly, and though I rarely spoke up in the meetings, afterwards I would experiment with some of the ideas I heard. This approach worked somewhat, and after a few months I was elated when my weight began to drop. However—though I admitted this to no one—I was contending with a vicious Goliath, one which threatened to destroy my progress.
While at work each day, I followed a food plan that allowed me to eat moderately and to minimize temptations. But by 5:00 p.m. each day I was famished. I’d rush home and fly into a rampage, stuffing my face nonstop until I collapsed into bed. Powerless over this beast, and terrified that pounds would soon be piling on, I was disgusted with myself. What was I to do? I hadn’t a clue. The bleak pattern dragged on, and hopelessness gripped me.
An Idea Popped Up
Then unexpectedly the most outlandish thought popped into my head. Instead of going straight home from work, I could hit the 5:15 p.m. Mass. That would at least postpone my binge and reduce its duration by one hour. At first this idea seemed pathetic. Wasn’t it stop-gap and preposterous? But, with no other options in sight, desperation prompted me to try it. Soon I was attending Mass and receiving Holy Communion daily.
My one goal was to reduce my binging. Apparently, that was enough for Jesus. Truly present in His Body and Blood, He was waiting for me there, and glad to have me back. Only much later did I realize that He had an agenda in all this too: one unfathomably higher, wider, and deeper than my own. He knew precisely what I needed and how to provide it.
With tender care, he used my despair to draw my faltering feet onto solid ground and began what would be a lengthy process of healing my heart and connecting it with his own. At Mass each day, feeding me His very own Body and Blood, He began to remedy my ills, bathe me in supernatural graces, radiate light into my darkness, and equip me to combat evils that threatened me.
Freedom at Last
His Eucharistic graces ignited and invigorated me, and I upped my program participation to a new level. Earlier I had dabbled; now I jumped in with both feet, and as the days passed, I found two gifts which proved to be indispensable: a supportive community that stuck with me through good days and bad, and an arsenal of practical strategies. Without these, I would have lost heart and given up. But instead—over a long period, as I learned to let Jesus be for me the Savior He had died to be, as my twelve-step friendships enriched and strengthened me, and as I employed the tools and wisdom I was given, I found freedom from my disordered eating and a stable and lasting recovery plan which continues to this day.
In this process, faith that was once only in my head shifted to my heart, and my false image of a remote uncaring God crumbled to smithereens. Jesus, Blessed Savior who continues to draw me closer to Himself, turned so much of my bitter into sweet. To this day, as I cooperate, He continues to transform other pits and waste lands that prevent me from flourishing.
What about you? What impossible hurdles are you facing today?
Whether you are troubled about your eating, anguished about a loved one who has left the faith, or crushed by other burdens, take heart. Embrace Jesus in the Holy Eucharist and in adoration. He is waiting for you. Bring your ache, your bitterness, your messes to Him. He yearns to come to your aid just as He rescued me in all my distress. No problem is too great or too little to bring to Him.
By: Margaret Ann Stimatz
Dec 24, 2022
Dec 24, 2022
I was surprised at how Jesus showed up that June day
A heavy wool suit trimmed with fur isn’t what I usually wear in ninety-five-degree weather, especially in a car with no air conditioning. Yet there I was, one hot and humid Michigan afternoon, wearing not just the suit, but boots, a snowy white beard, and a thick woolen hat.
It felt like a sauna on wheels, but I really didn’t mind. This was no ordinary day, and I was no ordinary person: I was Santa Claus, on a mission of mercy to a little girl who was dying of leukemia at a nearby children’s hospital.
I worked as a chaplain at another pediatric hospital—a role that often plunged me into the struggles and sorrows of families grappling with the illness and death of a beloved child. When Christmas came around, I also had a moonlighting job playing Santa at various stores and events, including the annual J.L. Hudson Parade through downtown Detroit.
The two jobs could hardly have been more different, yet each was an opportunity to bring God’s love to others. Both as Santa and as a hospital chaplain, I was often privileged to see God breaking into people’s lives and hearts in surprising ways.
A Grandfather’s Love
On this particular afternoon, my two roles coincided. As I made my sweltering way to the hospital, I asked the Lord to use my visit to delight four-year-old Angela (not her real name) and console her grief-stricken grandfather. He was the one who had arranged this “Christmas in June,” after learning that Angela had just five weeks to live.
“What can I do?” he had asked God. “How can I put a lifetime of loving into the heart of my little granddaughter?”
As he sat sipping coffee at the kitchen table, he had noticed Angela’s crayon drawing of Santa Claus still taped to the refrigerator. He remembered what she had asked him once, as they watched the Detroit Christmas parade together: “Why does it have to end, Grandpa? …I wish Christmas could be forever!”
Suddenly, he had known exactly what to do.
Santa Makes a Stop
Approaching the hospital, I was surprised to see many helpers awaiting Santa at the main entrance—a doctor sporting a Santa hat, nurses, social workers, and volunteers decked out as Christmas elves.
“Merry June Ninth!” they called out. “Everything’s ready! We’re so excited that you’ve come all the way from the North Pole to visit the kids.” I quickly got the message that all the patients in the pediatric cancer unit were about to enjoy the surprise arranged for Angela’s sake.
Moving merrily through the lobby, my entourage and I packed into the elevator. Excitement mounted as we made our ascent to the oncology floor. When the doors opened, a magical scene greeted us. The ward was ablaze with holiday lights and filled with the sound of Christmas music. Garlands decorated the hallway, where four Christmas trees stood in splendor. A lively Frosty the Snowman was there to welcome us, scattering snow through a spout that poked up through his top hat.
Then came cries of delight, as Santa was spotted by six or seven children who were strong enough to be sitting in wheelchairs. I stopped to greet each one, then went visiting the other children room to room. Meanwhile, Angela’s grandpa stood watching with a smile.
When I finally got to Angela’s bedside, two big blue eyes were peering out over the top of the sheet. “Angela!” I said. The blue eyes opened wider still. A look of sheer joy came over her face.
With the whole staff crowded around to watch, I reached into my bag and presented the gift her grandfather had chosen; a new blue dress that Angela had wanted for a long time. There was a guardian angel doll with red tennis shoes and beautiful blonde hair—just like Angela’s was before chemotherapy. A small snapshot from her grandpa’s wallet was still fresh in my memory. “She looks a lot like you,” I observed. There was a little button that Santa pinned to her hospital gown, that read, “Santa says I was a good girl!”
With the mood so jolly, we launched into some familiar Christmas songs—“Jingle Bells,” “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” and “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town.” Then I began one of my favorite carols, “Silent Night.”
I really don’t have the words to describe what happened as we sang that last song. All I can say is that an almost palpable peace descended on the room. By the power of the Holy Spirit, Jesus was there. It didn’t matter that our celebration was at the wrong time of year, or even that some of the singers might not have understood what God did for the human race on that holy “silent night.” Despite it all, the eternal Son of God who revealed himself to poor shepherds as an infant in a manger was making Himself present to another unlikely group in another unlikely setting.
As always when I’m privileged to witness such events, I came away surprised and awed at how the Holy Spirit works—but somehow not surprised that he had come.
The Real Christmas Spirit
Angela died just ten days later. Her grandfather phoned to tell me, after her funeral in another part of the state. “I’m not going to pretend that I’m having an easy time,” he said. “Before I called you, I had a good cry.” But then he went on to recount an experience he’d had at the funeral home.
“I was looking at my little granddaughter lying there in a white casket—wearing her new blue dress, with the guardian angel doll by her side, and wearing the pin you gave her that said: ‘Santa says I was a good Girl!’ The grief was almost unbearable.
“But right then, when I was feeling the pain most profoundly . . . I can’t explain it, but I felt a sudden deep peace, even a joy. At that moment, I knew that Angela was with God and that we would be reunited in eternity.”
A sense of wonder came over me as I listened to his story. It had happened again! Just as we had felt Jesus present at Angela’s bedside, her grandfather had encountered him at her coffin. The Light that came into the world over two thousand years ago had filled his heart, bringing hope and joy in a place of sorrow and death.
This is the real “Christmas spirit”— not a feeling that comes once a year, but the knowledge of Christ that comes through the Holy Spirit. The true Christmas Spirit—the Third Person of the Trinity—is available 365 days a year, if only we open our hearts and lives to him.
Then, “Christmas forever” is not just a little girl’s dream, but a solid reality—in June, December, and all year through.
By: Father Joseph Bernie Marquis
Dec 15, 2022
Dec 15, 2022
Father Fio scaled the thick wall of hopelessness, and experienced how God writes straight on crooked lines
At the age of nineteen, after two years of college, I joined the Jesuit novitiate in Mumbai, and four years later, after my religious studies, I was sent back to St. Xavier’s College to complete a degree in chemistry. I was happy and proud about my future career as a college professor! I studied hard and did very well in the preliminary examinations. However, at the final examinations in 1968, my mind suddenly went blank, and I couldn’t remember a word of what I had studied! Far from covering myself with glory, I failed the exam! I felt confused and humiliated, and angry. “How could God do this to me?” I asked.
However, there was worse in store for me. I prayed and studied more determinedly and appeared again for the chemistry examination some months later. Everything had gone well during my preparations, yet in the examination hall my mind went as blank as before and I failed a second time! By now I had entered a real crisis of faith. I asked myself, “Is there really a God? If he is a loving God, how could he do this to me?” Slowly, I began to give up prayer. My religious life was in crisis and I began to lead a worldly life.
Hitting the Wall
Meanwhile, in 1970, I prepared for a third attempt at the chemistry examination. Before entering the hall, I whispered, “God, I know you don’t love me, so there’s no point in my asking you for help. But I hope you still love my mother, so please answer her prayer!” But for the third time the same thing happened, and I failed. I was then sent to learned Jesuit psychologists who gave me many tests and eventually diagnosed my problem as having “developed a psychological block to chemistry.” But none of them could tell me how to get rid of the block!
Two years after my third failure, having successfully completed religious studies in philosophy, when I was preparing for a fourth attempt at the chemistry exam, “amazing grace” unexpectedly flowed down upon me from the hands of the great and good God who had not given up on me! On 11 February 1972, I suddenly felt moved to kneel in my room before my vows-crucifix to surrender my life to God.
From the depths of my poverty and nothingness, I found myself crying out: “Lord, I have nothing to offer you! I am a failure, and I have no future! But if you have a plan for my life, if you can use me in some way for your Kingdom, here I am!”
That was my moment of surrender to the Lordship of Jesus Christ and of being “baptized in the Holy Spirit.” I was no longer in the driver’s seat of my life telling the Lord what to do for me; instead, I was asking Him to do with me as He willed.
God’s response was immediate! Even as I knelt there, I clearly heard God say to me, “Fio, you are my beloved son in whom I am well pleased!” Those last words,“well pleased,” made no sense to me at all! If God had scolded me for all those months of unbelief, for giving up on prayer, etc., I would have understood it. But to be affirmed, to be welcomed so lovingly was too much for my small mind to grasp! And yet, deep down in my heart, I felt tremendous joy springing up, a divine consolation. In that moment, I was filled with such exultation that I shouted aloud, “JESUS, YOU ARE ALIVE, ALLELUIA!” This was at a time when the Charismatic Renewal had not yet reached India.
Experiencing the Lord speaking words of love to me completely transformed my life. I now understand that before God’s plans for me could be fulfilled, my ego had to be broken. My strange exam failures did the job! God gave me a new mindset and only then could I begin to appreciate the gratuitous character of salvation in Christ. God’s abundant love for each of us is a gift, for we are saved by grace, through faith, not by our merits.
The direction of my life soon changed! After I finally passed the chemistry exams and received my science degree with honours, my superior made a surprising announcement: “Fio,” they said,“we no longer want you to become a Professor in our College!
You have had a special spiritual experience; go share it with the world!”
You can imagine my surprise at the divine irony of what God had done in my life. Had I passed those exams straight away, for the whole of my priestly life I would have gone daily to the chemistry lab to teach college students how to mix hydrogen and sulphide…and then breathe in that wretched smell!
God indeed had a plan for my life. For 30 years He blessed me with a pioneering servant-leadership role in the Catholic Charismatic Renewal in India and worldwide, enjoying eight of those years in Rome. For the last twenty years, God has used me in the pastoral-biblical ministry as a preacher and writer. By God’s amazing grace, I have happily proclaimed the Good News in over eighty countries to hundreds of thousands of people hungry for God’s word. I have authored eighteen books on biblical spirituality, many of which are translated into several Indian and foreign languages. All this resulted from my embarrassing and demoralizing failure. But God writes straight with crooked lines!
By: Father Fiorello Mascarenhas SJ
Sep 23, 2022
Sep 23, 2022
For years Margaret Fitzsimmons endured deep pain and shame—until she heard the four words that changed her life forever…
I came into the world in 1945, when war-torn Germany was struggling with damaged infrastructure and millions of displaced people. As a single mother going through a series of relationships, my mom struggled to raise me up. To help pay the rent, my mother would take on extra jobs like sweeping the stairs of the building we lived under, and I would be there with the dustpan trying to help.
My favorite pseudo-Dad was a policeman, a nice man. They conceived a child together, but she didn’t want the baby, so she had an abortion, then left that relationship and started working in hotels. While Mum was downstairs working and drinking with the customers, I was usually alone in the attic bedroom. When she was drunk my mother got cantankerous, and found fault for no reason when she got home. She always left a long list for me, but I could never complete it to her satisfaction. Things got worse, and she ended up in jail one night after fighting with the policeman’s new girlfriend.
From Bad to Worse
After her younger brother emigrated to Australia, my granddad thought it would be good if my Mum and uncle were in the same country. So we followed him to Australia in 1957, and lived with him for a while. Mum got a job as a cook, and I washed all the pots and pans. If she caught me not concentrating on the work, she would throw things at me, like a barbecue fork. Since I was only twelve and often made mistakes, I ended up with scars all over my body. When she was in a drunken stupor, it was even worse. I started to hate her.
We were living at a boarding house by then, and she had met a lot of new people who liked driving into the countryside and sitting under the trees to drink. I was nearly thirteen by then, so she wouldn’t leave me at home, but she would go off into the bush and leave me sitting with whoever was around. On one of those nights, I was gang-raped, but I was too scared to say anything to Mum.
Another night, driving along the highway, a car kept overtaking us and finally pulled us over. It turned out to be undercover police. They took us back to the police station and questioned us individually. When they found out I had been interfered with, a doctor came to examine me. They gave Mum a court summons for a day or two later. But as soon as we got home, she started packing and caught the next train out of town. We ended up in a small town where she got another job as a cook, and I was put on as house maid. It was a hard life, but I learned to survive.
Desperate for Hope
Mom hooked up with a fellow called Wilson, and we went to live with him in Tully. He had been in a mental institution after his first wife died. Mum soon corrupted him, and they started fighting when they were drunk. I hated being in the middle of their fights. When Mum fell pregnant, she said, “Let’s take Wilson’s car and go down to Sydney and start a new life. I don’t really want to get married or have this baby.” I felt terrible.
I was tired of being on my own, and had wanted a brother or a sister for years. So, I went and told Wilson. After he confronted my Mum, they ended up getting married, but she held me responsible. She told me I had to look after the baby because she didn’t want her. My baby sister was my world until the day I met Tom. I was sick of all the fighting, and Tom promised to marry me when I was old enough, so I left home. I thought life would be fantastic after that, but it wasn’t. Tom’s mother was lovely. She really tried to look after me, but Tom would get drunk, then come home and abuse me. He kept getting drunk and getting sacked job after job, so we moved constantly. We did marry, and I hoped he would settle down and start treating me better, but he kept beating me and having affairs. I had to escape this misery, so I cleared out and moved to Brisbane where I got a job washing dishes.
Late one night after work, I got off the bus and saw someone standing across the road. I knew it was Tom. Although I was terrified, I stayed near the light in case he tried something stupid. He followed me, but I told him I wouldn’t go back and wanted a divorce.
A New Beginning
When I got home, I packed my bags, took a train to Sydney, and got on a bus out of town. For months, I had nightmares about him chasing me. I buckled down and got a job as a domestic helper at the hospital, where I made new friends.
There was another young girl with poor English who was a lot like me. We got along well, and started our nursing training together, then worked at a hospital after our training. She knew a chap that was doing National Service in the army. When he invited her to a ball, she got me, a blind date so we could go together. I wasn’t impressed with the date, but it was a way to get out.
One of the army caterers serving the meal started paying me attention. I thought he was better than the blind date, so we had a few dances and got on well. We kept on seeing each other, but after a few weeks Peter told me he was being sent to do an aviation course. I felt terribly disappointed. We had shared our life stories, so he knew what was going on, but he didn’t give up on me and kept in contact.
The more I got to know him, the more I liked him, but I didn’t want to get married again after the first disaster. Eventually, he introduced me to his family, and we got engaged before he finished his training. He was posted to Townsville, where I had lived with Tom. Though I didn’t want to revisit the horrors of the past, I couldn’t say no to Peter. We lived together for nearly two years before we were able to marry legally. Peter had grown up Catholic but stopped practicing in the hurly burly of military training, so we got married in our backyard.
Words That Changed Everything
Sometimes I was lonely because Peter was often away servicing helicopters in the field. I got a job as a high school lab assistant, but we came to realize there was something missing in our life. We had everything, but there was still an emptiness. Then Peter suggested, “Let’s go to church.” The first few times, we sat in the back pew, but as our hearts opened to the presence of the Lord, we got more involved.
We heard about a Marriage Encounter weekend and signed up. It was a real eye opener for both of us. Our hearts were stirred.
On that weekend we learned how to communicate by writing things down. I had never been able to put what I felt into words. Mum had always told me to shut up, so I learnt not to talk, and became unable to share my emotions.
When I first heard the words, “God doesn’t make junk,” I knew those words were meant for me. A wave of emotion overcame me. “God made me. I am okay. I am not junk.” All those years, I had been putting myself down, blaming myself for the awful things that had happened—the rape, marrying someone who drank when I should have known better, the divorce, my mother’s abuse …. I was coming back to life. My heart changed for the better every time I went to Mass or a prayer meeting. I was so in love with God and my husband.
Replacing Hate With Love
Up to this point, I hadn’t ever forgiven anyone. I had put my hurts in the background, and locked them away as if they never happened. When Peter and I got engaged, I wanted to let Mum know. I sent letters, but she returned them “to sender,” so I gave up.
Then, I dreamt that I saw my mother hanging from a tree. Her stark blue eyes were open and staring down at me. I looked at her with pity and said, “God, I dislike her, but not that much.” Somehow, that dream taught me not to hate. Even if I strongly disliked what someone had done, hate was wrong. I forgave Mum completely, and that opened other doors to grace. I softened and reached out again to my mother until she finally responded, and we stayed with her for a couple of days. When my sister called to tell me she had died suddenly of a heart attack, I burst into tears.
After her death, I felt I hadn’t forgiven Mum properly, but counseling and prayers with a good priest helped restore my peace. When I uttered the words of forgiveness, the light of the Holy Spirit penetrated my being, and I knew I had forgiven her
Forgiving Tom was something I had to keep taking back to prayer. It took quite a while, and I had to say aloud more than once that I forgave Tom for the times he abused me, his affairs, and for not looking after me properly. I know I’ve forgiven him. It doesn’t take away the memories, but it does take away the hurt.
Wiping the Slate Clean
Forgiveness isn’t a one-time thing. We must forgive whenever resentment resurfaces. We must continually give up the desire to hold on to grudges, and surrender them to Jesus.
This is how I pray: “Jesus, I surrender everything to you, take care of everything.” And He does. I feel totally at peace once I have prayed that a few times.
It took a long time before I felt strong enough to bring healing forgiveness to the rape. I just pushed it aside. I didn’t even want to think about it. Yet even that was healed once I had presented it to Christ and forgiven my rapists. It doesn’t affect me anymore. God has wiped it clean, because I asked God to come and take away anything that is not of Him.
Now, I hand things over to God as they happen, and a peace washes over me. We have an awesome God, who is forgiving, morning, noon, and night. Whatever darkness we have in our lives, God is there waiting for us to repent and ask for His forgiveness, so that He can cleanse us and make us whole.
By: Margaret Fitzsimmons
Sep 06, 2022
Sep 06, 2022
Yearning to feel God’s love deep in your heart? All you need to do is ask
I heard my son’s truck pull into the driveway. I quickly pushed back tears, wiped my face with my sleeve, and went out into the garage to greet him.
“Hey Mom,” he said with a grin.
“What brings you here this morning?” I asked.
“Dad said I received a package. I’m going to grab it before I head out to the office,” he said.
“Oh, okay,” I replied.
He grabbed the package and I followed him out to his truck.
He gave me a big hug.
“You okay Mom?” he asked.
“I’m okay,” I answered with a shrug.
I turned my face to hide my tears.
“She’s just going through a rough patch. She’ll be alright,” he said gently about his sister.
“Yeah, I know. It’s hard though. It’s just too much sadness. Her sadness is just too tough for me. I don’t know why but from a young age I’ve been surrounded by people struggling with sadness. Is it just my lot in life?”
He raised his eyebrows questioningly.
“Or maybe,” I continued, “there’s something here I need to see.”
“Maybe. I’m here Mom if you need me,” he said.
“Depression can be part of a family system,” my therapist said. “You and your daughter are very close, but sometimes relationships can get enmeshed. What I mean is that there need to be boundaries, a healthy separation for growth and independence.”
“I just feel like I’ve worked so hard to make changes but honestly, I can’t bear her sadness,” I replied. “And little things feel so big. Like Easter evening. After dinner, my daughter asked if she could visit her boyfriend. As I watched her pull out of the driveway a wave of dread and panic washed over me. I know her leaving was not about me, but I felt so much shame,” I said.
“Can you remember when you first felt that type of panic and dread?” the therapist asked.
I began sharing the difficult memory that immediately surfaced.
“We were all in my parents' bedroom,” I said. “Dad was angry. Mom was a wreck. She was holding my baby brother and trying to calm down my dad, but he was too mad. We were getting ready to sell our house to move to a new one. Dad was raging because the house was in a shambles, as he put it.”
“How old were you?”
“About seven,” I said.
“Let’s go back to that room in your memory and do some work,” she said.
As we processed the memory, I discovered I had focused on my parents’ and siblings’ feelings but not my own. When I finally got in touch with what I was feeling, the floodgates opened. It was hard to stop crying; there was just so much sadness.
I had believed everyone’s happiness was my responsibility. When my therapist asked what would have helped me feel safe and cared for in that experience, I realized what I needed but didn’t receive. I took responsibility for the wounded seven-year-old inside me. Even though she had not received what she needed then, the adult me would meet those needs, and dispel the lie that she was responsible for making others happy.
When we’d finished, my therapist said, “I know that was difficult. But I can assure you it will pay off. I’ve seen many parents heal through the struggles of their children.”
Shortly after my session, my friend, Anne, called unexpectedly.
“You want to meet me at the healing Mass today?” she asked.
“Sure,” I said.
After Mass, a line formed of people seeking healing prayers. I waited and soon I was ushered to two female spiritual directors.
“What would you like to ask Jesus for?”
“To heal my childhood wounds,” I said.
They began to pray silently over me.
Then one of the women prayed aloud, “Jesus, heal her of the wounds of her childhood. She was just a little girl standing in the middle of all that rage, confusion, and chaos, feeling all alone and desperate for relief. Jesus, we know that she was not alone. We know that You were there with her. And we know that You have always been with her, throughout her life. Thank you, Jesus for her healing and the healing of her family.”
In my mind’s eye I saw Jesus standing next to me. He looked at me intently, with love and compassion. I understood that my parents’ and siblings’ sorrow and pain was never mine to carry, and that Jesus had always been with me, sharing the weight of my sadness and pain. He had orchestrated the exact moment when the hidden places in my heart would be filled with His healing love and mercy.
Silently, I wept.
I walked away in awe. The woman’s prayer perfectly described what I had experienced so long ago. This intimate encounter with Jesus was incredibly healing.
I soon realized that my desire to lift others up and meet their needs was, in part, a subconscious desire to meet my own needs and be healed. While I carried the weight of other people’s sadness, I was unaware of my ocean of pain that I had never expressed.
Recently, my daughter told me she felt guilty for her sadness, and that she felt she was a burden to me. I felt horrible. How could she feel that way? But then I understood. She wasn’t a burden, but her sadness was. I had felt pressure to make her better so that I could feel better. And that made her feel guilty.
My healing has brought me relief.
Knowing Jesus is with my daughter, orchestrating her healing, frees me to love her just as she is.
With God’s grace, I will continue to take responsibility for the beautiful life God has given me. I will allow Him to continue healing me so I can be an open vessel for God’s love to flow through.
I once asked a wise counselor, “I know that Jesus is always with me and that I can trust in His goodness to care for me, but will I ever feel it in my heart?”
“Yes, you will,” he said. “He will make it so.”
Amen. So it is.
Jun 04, 2022
Jun 04, 2022
Addiction to porn led him to hate sexuality and God, but one night everything changed. Discover the salvific journey of Simon Carrington on breaking out of pornography
I was very blessed to be raised in a Catholic home as the third born among six children. My Dad was a great spiritual leader. He led evening prayer at home and recited the Rosary every night before we went to bed. We went to St Margaret Mary’s parish, Merrylands on Sundays, serving on the altar and in the choir. So overall, God was central to my life.
Craving for More
When I was 15 years old, my grandmother passed away. I really missed her and would cry every night for months afterwards. The deep loneliness and pain that set in, led me to seek something that was going to make me feel loved.
That’s when I began to seek out pornography. The more I watched, the more I craved. Slowly, my faith began to weaken. In School, I was still having fun, playing sports, and going to Church. Outwardly I was doing everything right as just part of the routine—going to Mass, praying the Rosary etcetera, but inside my faith was dying. My heart was elsewhere because I was living in sin. Although I was going to Confession, it was more out of fear of Hell than love of God.
On a visit to a family friend, I discovered a stash of porn magazines right next to the toilet. I will never forget picking up the first one and flipping through the whole magazine. It was the first real, physical and tangible porn I had ever seen. I felt so many emotions rushing through—excitement that this was the answer to the emptiness I felt, but also deep shame. This seemed to be the “food” that would satisfy the ache in my heart for love. I walked out of that bathroom a different person from that day. It was then that I subconsciously turned my back on God. I chose pornography and a life of impurity over Him.
After that experience, I began buying porn magazines. Since I went to the gym every day, I found a crack in the wall there to store all these porn magazines. Every time I went to the gym, I would begin and end the session by going to the stash of magazines and flipping through for 20 or 30 minutes. That became my life for years. I became so obsessed by pornography that I almost lost my job taking toilet breaks every hour to look at porn. It took up every spare moment I had.
I tried listening to different Catholic speakers and reading books on chastity and sexuality. I realized that all of them stated that sexuality was a gift from God, but I couldn’t understand this. The only thing sexuality brought me was pain and emptiness. To me, my sexuality was the furthest thing from a gift from God. It was a beast that was dragging me into Hell!
I began to hate my sexuality and hate God. It became a poison in my heart. When my family prayed the Rosary, I could not say a Holy Mary. I was almost never in a state of grace. I went to Mass for months at a time without receiving the Eucharist. Even if I went to Confession after Mass, I could never seem to last until the next day. There was no love in my heart. When my mum would hug me I would tense up like a rock. I didn’t know how to receive love and affection. On the outside, I was always friendly and happy, but on the inside I was empty and dead.
I remember coming into my room one day after just viewing pornography and I saw the crucifix on my wall. In a moment of anger I said to Jesus on the Cross, “How do you expect me to believe that sexuality is a gift from you? It is causing me so much pain and emptiness. You are a liar!” I leapt up onto my bunk bed and snatched the crucifix off the wall and smashed it over my knee. Looking at the smashed crucifix I blurted out in rage, “I hate you! You are a liar.” I then threw the crucifix in my bin.
When My Jaw Hit the Floor
Then one day, Mum told me to go to a chastity talk by Jason Evert with my older brother. I told her politely that I didn’t want to go, but thanks anyway. When she asked me again, I blurted out, “Mum, love isn’t real. I don’t believe in love!” Mum simply said, “You’re going!” That night I went reluctantly.
I remember being amazed at how Jason spoke that night. One line changed my life. He said, “Porn is the surest way to shoot your future marriage in the head.”
As soon as he said this, I realized that if I didn’t change my ways, I would be harming the woman I married because I didn’t know how to treat her properly. All the desires I once had for marriage resurfaced in me. I really did want love and marriage more than anything, but I had buried that desire with sexual sin.
I got a chance that night to speak to Jason personally and the advice he gave changed my life. He said, “Look, there’s love in your heart and there’s all these temptations to lust. Whichever you choose to feed more will grow stronger and eventually overpower the other. Until now you have been feeding lust more than love, it’s time to start feeding love.”
I knew God had touched me that night, and I decided I need a clean-start Confession. I booked a priest in for Confession and warned him it would be a long one! I made a general Confession that took about an hour and a half. I confessed every sexual sin I could possibly remember, the names of the porn stars I had watched, the number of times, the amount of hours and for how many years. I felt like a new man walking out of Confession that night.
A Beautiful Discovery
There began the third stage of change in my life. Though I still struggled with those sins of sexual impurity, I was in a constant fight. Little by little, I was able to experience greater freedom from sexual sin, and felt God calling me to begin really learning what His plan for human sexuality was, and start sharing it with others.
I encountered speakers who unpacked Saint John Paul’s “Theology of the Body” and in the course of reading I was struck by this powerful thought: My body and every other body is a sacrament of God. I realized that I was the image of God and so was every woman. When I began to see every single person through this lens as a living sacrament of God, it became so much harder for me to use them sexually. If ever I were to lust after someone especially through masturbation and pornography, I would have to dehumanize them in my mind and in my heart. Armed with this new way of viewing myself and other women, I was empowered by the graces received from daily Mass and regular Confession to make a huge transformation.
I began to look at every woman not for sexual pleasure but truly as a beautiful sacrament of God. I was so on fire with this new message that I wanted to share it with everyone I possibly could. At that time I was working as a fitness trainer at a gym, but I felt that God was calling me to leave that environment and serve Him more directly. I wasn’t sure where I was heading, but doors began to open. I got plugged into youth ministry and started working for Parousia Media, packing and posting faith resources. While I was working, I would listen to faith talks all day, learning my faith in a powerful way. I started speaking as a youth minister to high school students almost every weekend, and I fell in love with evangelizing.
Love Like Never Before
One day, a lady reached out to my office, looking for somebody who could speak to some young adults about chastity, and especially pornography. Out of nowhere, I told her that I would do it. I shared my testimony that night, and the response was very encouraging. By word of mouth, more and more people came to know me and my story and invitations to speak began rolling in.
In the past 10 years I have given over 600 talks to over 30,000 people on the virtue of chastity, pure dating and the Theology of the Body. Through this ministry, I met my wife, Madeleine and we have been blessed with three children. God led us on a journey together to launch Fire Up Ministries, with a mission to invite every person to experience the love they always dreamed of!
At this point in my life, I am blessed to experience a level of sexual freedom that I never had before. Whenever I thank God for where I am now, I recall the days when I was really struggling in this area. There were times when I felt there was no light at the end of the tunnel and cried out to God, “Is purity possible?” It seemed hopeless, and I thought I was doomed to live like this forever. But although there were dark patches in my life which I thought would never pass, God never stopped loving me. He worked with me patiently and gently. I am still on that journey, and God is still healing me every day.
“He had some really dark moments carrying the Cross of sexual sin, but when he took it to Christ and surrendered it to Him—Christ was able to free him. Simon had a real encounter with mercy and experienced deep healing in Christ. It was from that place of mercy and healing that he has been able to bring the joy, love and above all that hope to others who are going though similar struggles with sexuality. As I would watch Simon minister to so many people, I am constantly in awe of how he radiates the love of Christ to all of them.”
—Madeleine Carrington (Simon’s Wife)
By: Simon Carrington
May 21, 2022
May 21, 2022
A Special Interview with renowned exorcist Father Elias Vella OFM, from the Archdiocese of Malta, who shares his incredible ministerial journey
As an exorcist for the Diocese of Malta and at healing and deliverance retreats all over the world, I have been blessed to witness the healing and deliverance of many souls from demonic possession, oppression and temptation.
I come from a small Catholic country, the Island of Malta in the Mediterranean Sea. As a Theology lecturer in the seminary for 24 years, I did not always believe in the existence of the Devil because I was influenced by Dutch and German theologians who doubted the reality of Satan. However, when I became involved in the Catholic Charismatic Renewal, people began to come to me with problems that were connected with the occult, satanism and the Devil. I didn’t know what to do. I could see it wasn’t all in their mind and I wanted to help them, so I went to the bishop and asked if I should send them to him. He told me to go and study the issue and discern what God was calling me to do. The more I examined the issue, the more I could see the workings of the Devil and I no longer doubted. I was interested, not for myself, but because people were in need, so the Bishop asked me to become the exorcist for the diocese.
Possession is when a demon takes control of someone, so that they are no longer free to think for themselves. Their will, emotions and intelligence become subject to demonic influence. However, a demon cannot take over the soul and cannot force someone to sin because you can only sin if you are free to do as you will, you know what you are doing and you want to do it. During an exorcism, a person can make sinful gestures, for example call out blasphemies or break a rosary, but these are not sins because the person is not in control of their body.
In an exorcism, the exorcist (who is a specially trained priest) orders the demon to leave the body of the person in the name of God and by the power of the Church. It is often a struggle because the demon does not want to leave the body where he has made a home, but God is more powerful than the Devil, so he must leave in the end. Not all demonic attacks involve possession.
Although, I have personally encountered many cases of demonic possession requiring exorcism, this is because I am an exorcist, so they come to me. It is actually very rare. Many people who think they need exorcism do not. They need other spiritual, psychological and physical help. Although I often visit other countries, I can only perform an exorcism outside my diocese with the permission of the local bishop. If I don’t have that, then I can pray a deliverance prayer, but not the exorcism liturgy. Every exorcism is unique. The Devil is intelligent and cunning, so varies his techniques to elude and deceive us.
These are a couple of the people that have been successfully delivered from possession during an exorcism.
During a healing Mass in the Czech Republic, I invited the congregation to wash their faces with holy water to remind them of their need for purification. After washing her face, this girl took a crucifix and started to beat me with it. I couldn’t respond violently, but when others had restrained her, we offered her an exorcism. It was very difficult because her father had consecrated her to the Devil in a satanic ceremony where she was smeared with the blood of animals.
In Brazil, a fragile 16-year-old girl went into a trance during the Mass. When we prayed over her, she became so violent that she could break a chair with no effort and a strong man couldn’t hold her. Her possession had begun with superstitious use of idols, but despite the difficulty, she was able to be delivered with the aid of Our Lord in the Eucharist.
We are all tempted or oppressed. Even Our Lord and Our Lady were tempted many times not to do the will of the Father, but did not succumb. Oppression is when the Devil targets our weak spots with an attack. It is not the same as possession. Often, someone who is spiritually attacked also suffers from psychological problems. It isn’t always easy to understand what originates from a spiritual problem and what is a psychological problem.
Often, it needs a multi-pronged response. Prayer, grace from the sacraments, therapy and appropriate medical help may all be needed to fully recover. I pray for both healing and deliverance. The sacraments are the most powerful weapons against the Devil’s attacks. The Devil fears the sacraments, particularly the Sacrament of Penance because it directly confronts sin and the temptation to sin. When penitents acknowledge and renounce their sins, and ask for forgiveness from a loving God, they are rejecting the deceptions of the Devil who tries to entice us into thinking that our sins are not wrong; or that we don’t need forgiveness; or that God does not love us; or that He would not mercifully forgive us. Receiving absolution delivers a fatal blow to the Devil’s hold over us. This is why we must not neglect regular Confession.
The Eucharist is a powerful weapon against the Devil because Our Lord is giving Himself to us in humility and love. These are two things that Devil make the devil suffer. He is the opposite, full of pride and hate. Because Satan has an insatiable desire for power, he will never understand how God could offer Himself to us. Therefore, when we receive Our Lord in the Eucharist, or adore Him in front of the Eucharist, the Devil flees, because He cannot bear it and wants to escape. So, when there is no exorcist to help people who are disturbed, they should seek the presence of the Lord in the Eucharist.
Lord God almighty, grant me Your grace by the merits of the passion, death and resurrection of Your beloved Son, Jesus Christ. I accept Him as my Lord and Savior. Protect me, my family, and all the surroundings I live in, by the Precious Blood of Jesus. I renounce and bind all the evil influences that disturb me, by the powerful name of Jesus and by the power of His Precious Blood and chain them at the foot of the Cross. Amen.
By: Father Elias Vella
May 06, 2022
May 06, 2022
Make a choice to take a chance and your life will never be the same
As family prayer concluded, we took up the Bible to read from the prophet Jeremiah, chapter 3. As I was reading, my thoughts flew back to the dark days when I fell into depression. Those were the days when the voice of the evil one echoed crystal clear in my head, insinuating that I was so unworthy of love, that even God would reject me. Sadly, I thought it was true. In the midst of my sorrows and tears I would go to church, not because I thought I was loved but because my parents wouldn’t let me stay home. Half-heartedly going through the motions as I reluctantly loitered in the church, I didn’t realize that Someone was constantly beckoning me to return with a whole heart. God persistently called me to repentance.
It’s so true that God gives us a multitude of chances to make the right choices. He spoke to me through priests, laity, dreams and quotes. Over and over again, I received the same message—God truly loved me. He didn’t want me to fall prey to Satan’s lies. He wanted me to know that I am His daughter, no matter what and He relentlessly called me back to Him. During one of those difficult days, I picked up my Bible and it fell open at Jeremiah, chapter 3. Tears glistened in my eyes as they alighted on these words:
I thought how I would set you among my children, and give you a pleasant land, the most beautiful heritage of all the nations. And I thought you would call me, My Father, and would not turn away from following me.
I read it over and over again. Tears rolled down my cheeks and fell unchecked in fat drops onto the open pages of my Bible.
Realm of Truth
“What’s wrong with me?” I wondered to myself. “Why did these words touch me so deeply?” It was as if my heart was being pierced with the burning dart of God’s love, breaking through the hard shell that had formed around me, awaking me from my cold indifference.
God had given me so much, but what had I given back?
“And I thought you would call me, My Father, and would not turn away from following me.”
The sorrow in those words is palpable. “I thought you would call me, My Father.”
A loving Father, bewildered that His daughter has turned away and refuses to call on Him, yearns to hear her say, ‘My Father’.
My God, my God, why did I abandon You? He is my Father. He has always been my Father and He never stopped loving me and cherishing me, even when I refused to call Him ‘My Father’.
“And I thought you would call me, My Father, and would not turn away from following me.”
I had turned away. I had taken my eyes off Him and stopped following Him. I had let go of my Father’s hand, strayed from the path on which He could lead me safely through my troubles. He trusted me, but I let Him down. My loving Father in Heaven was heartbroken that I, His beloved daughter had abandoned Him.
Loved Beyond Measure
I sobbed uncontrollably, overwhelmed at the realization that my Father had been there for me all along, patiently waiting for me to call Him. I had been so blind, obstinately closing my eyes to ignore His presence. Now, I finally opened them to find Him right there, waiting to meet me with open arms. I felt enfolded within His embrace at last and I felt a great weight lift from my shoulders.
We are so familiar with Jesus, that we don’t often reflect on God, the Father. Close your eyes and picture Him, not as an old man with a beard, or a distant monarch, but as the loving Father waiting for all His prodigal children to come home.
This is the Father who loves His adopted children so dearly that He sent His only Son to redeem us from our sins. He is One with His Son. Every hammer blow, every stroke of the whip, every rasping breath that Jesus suffered on the Cross was shared with His Father. Through all eternity, He knew what suffering Jesus would willingly bear for our sake.
In the movie The Passion of the Christ, right after Jesus death, a single drop falls from the sky with a mighty splash. To my heart, it portrayed the silent tears of my Father in Heaven, who suffered silently with His Son through the whole ordeal. Why? For me. For you. For every last sinner. The Father is waiting for every last one of us to turn back to Him so that He can accept us back into His warm embrace where we will always be welcome. He stands waiting to wipe every tear from our faces, to wash us clean from the mire of sin and to wrap us in the cloak of His Divine Love.
Dear Father, thank you for helping me to finally realize that You love me unconditionally. For all the moments of doubt and disbelief, I beg Your pardon. Open the eyes of every single one of us, that we may come to know Your love for us. Through Our Lord Jesus Christ, Your most beloved Son. Amen.
Apr 01, 2022
Apr 01, 2022
The pain was excruciating but I still held on to this anchor of hope and I did experience a miracle!
I was 40 years old when I was diagnosed with Charcot- Marie-Tooth Disease (CMT), an inherited progressive peripheral neuropathy (damage to the peripheral nervous system). I finally knew why I always dreaded going to my PE class at school, why I fell so often, why I was so slow. I always had CMT; I just didn’t know it. By the time I was referred to a neurologist, the muscles in my legs had begun to atrophy, and I couldn’t climb steps without pulling myself up.
The relief of having an answer was clouded by concern about what the future would hold. Would I end up in a wheelchair? Would I lose the use of my hands? Would I be able to care for myself? With the diagnosis, darkness came over me. I learned there is no treatment, no cure. What I heard between the lines was, ‘there is no hope’. But little by little, like the morning sun peeking through the blinds, the light of hope gently woke me from the stupor of grief, like a miracle of hope. I realized nothing had changed; I was still the same. I grabbed on to the hope that the progression would continue to be slow, giving me time to adjust. And it did…until it did not.
I experienced a slow, gradual progression of the disease for four years, but then, one summer, it suddenly got worse. Tests confirmed that my condition had inexplicably progressed. When we went out, I had to be in a wheelchair. Even at home, there was little I could do. I couldn’t stand up for more than a couple of minutes at a time. I couldn’t use my hands to open jars or to cut or chop. Even sitting up for more than a few minutes was difficult. The level of pain and weakness forced me to spend most of my time in bed. I was filled with enormous grief as I dealt with the reality of losing the ability to care for myself and for my family. Yet, I had an extraordinary grace during that time.
I was able to attend Daily Mass. And, during those drives, I began a new habit…I prayed the Rosary in the car. For some time, I had wanted to pray the Rosary daily, but I could not get into a routine and make it last. These daily drives fixed that. It was a time of great struggle and pain but also a time of great grace. I found myself devouring Catholic books and stories of the lives of the Saints.
One day, doing research for a talk on the Rosary, I came upon the story of Venerable Fr. Patrick Peyton, C.S.C., who was healed from tuberculosis after asking Mary for her intercession. He spent the rest of his life promoting family prayer and the Rosary. I watched clips on YouTube about these massive rosary rallies he would hold…sometimes, over one million people would show up to pray. I was deeply moved by what I saw, and in a moment of zeal, I asked Mary to heal me too. I promised her that I would promote the Rosary and do rallies and marathons, like Fr. Peyton did. I forgot about this conversation until a few days after I had given my talk.
It was a Monday morning, and I went to Mass as usual, but something was different when I returned home. Rather than going back to bed, I went to the living room and began cleaning up. It was not until my perplexed husband asked me what I was doing that I realized all my pain was gone. I immediately recalled a dream I had the night before: A priest robed in light came to me and administered the Anointing of the Sick. As he traced the Sign of the Cross in my hands with oil, warmth and a deep sense of peace enveloped my whole being. And then I remembered…I had asked Mary to heal me. The miracle of hope did happen and after five months in bed, all my pain was gone. I still have CMT, but I was restored to where I had been five months before.
Since then, I have spent my time in thanksgiving, promoting the Rosary and telling everyone about God’s love. I believe Mary sent this priest to anoint and heal me, though in a different way than what I thought. I didn’t realize it at the time, but when I grabbed on to hope, I was really grabbing on to God. He healed my body, but He also healed my soul. I know He hears me; I know He sees me. I know He loves me, and I am not alone. Ask Him for what you need. He loves you; He sees you…You are not alone.
By: Ivonne J. Hernandez