Archive for the ‘Mercy’ category

Better than winning the lottery!

April 7, 2010

As I surfed the Catholic web today, I found some descriptions about the Archbishop-designate of Los Angeles very intriguing.  Abp Jose Gomez, currently the Archbishop of San Antonio, was described on Rocco’s blog as “the lone American bishop ever to be a full member of Opus Dei,” and was quoted by Tim Drake as saying “In the Archdiocese of San Antonio we started a new marriage preparation program based on the Theology of the Body.”  Tim also mentioned the Abp’s 2007 pastoral letter entitled “The Tender Mercy of Our God.”  Since we’re in the middle of the Novena to Divine Mercy, that seemed too coincidental to pass up, so I searched it out and began reading.

Wow!!!  What an awesome letter!  The very first paragraph uses the phrase “called to holiness and mission.”  The second paragraph is in-your-face Trinitarian.  So, already, by the third paragraph, I am deeply appreciating Abp Gomez’s teaching style.  After reading the sixth paragraph (still on the first page [of the pdf]), I’m addicted.  And it continued.  Nothing new, mind you.  What was so striking to me was the JP2-esque pastoral clarity with which he presented the Truth.  Christocentric throughout.  Challenging us to “deepening a personal relationship with [Jesus] in order to be his follower and his friend.”

More specifically relevant to Catholic Men’s Fellowships was this role model to whom he directed us:

“Let us remind our culture of people like Blessed Luis Magaña Servin, one of our newest American blesseds, a devoted husband and father, martyred in Mexico in 1928. Facing a firing squad, he was able to speak words of forgiveness to the soldiers about to execute him: ‘I pardon you and I promise you that on arriving in the presence of God you are the first ones I will intercede for. Viva Cristo Rey! Viva Santa María de Guadalupe!’”

All in all, a tremendous read in this ‘mercy week,’ and a great resource for teaching about the Sacrament of Penance.

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The Passion of Jesus

April 1, 2010

Jesus said to St Faustina:

There are few souls who contemplate My Passion with true feeling; I give great graces to souls who meditate devoutly on my Passion. (Diary, n. 737)

Crucifix in Chapel crypt at Mount Saviour Monastery

On the fruits of Holy Indifference

March 22, 2010

Late last week, a fellow brother on his journey with Christ passed away.  James ‘Jay’ Cobley 28,had struggles in his life just like so many of us.  He was a member of the Ashley men’s fellowship group, and touched many of us with his insights.  This past weekend, Fr Toomey gave a talk at the Dallas Men’s fellowship breakfast in which he spoke of ‘the Grace of Holy Indifference.’  This being the ability to focus in the moment on the issues that really matter.  Jay Cobley was brought to our group by one of the men exhibiting this very grace.  The two men had a disagreement, and rather than give in to anger — our brother invited Jay to come before the Blessed Sacrament in Adoration.  And like many of use he realized that in the end he had to turn his life over to God because doing it ‘his’ way wasn’t providing a lot of peace.  Jay leaves behind a little girl with some serious health issues of her own.  If you check out his obituary (viewing tonight) you will notice that the family has asked that memorial doanations be made to the family at the funeral home.  I can tell you Jay was not a rich man and that no young man like that has prepared his estate for his own funeral. 

Please my brothers — I have a request.  I was once asked why we have these men’s fellowship meetings.  Part of the answer lies in the Spiritual Works of Mercy.  We come together as men to talk about our relationships with God as a means, principally of healing our own souls and finding our own ways to Christ.  But importantly, we do it for eachother to help our fellow brothers become the disciples we are all meant to be.  “Iron sharpens Iron as one man sharpens another.”  But once we have set our courses towards Christ on this spiritual journey, we are also called to live out our faith.  “Show me your faith apart from your works, and by my works I will show you my faith.’  (James 2:18).  In many of the more mature men’s fellowship groups, they often choose a ’cause’ to support as a means of bringing their faith to action through the spiritual and corporal works of mercy.  Please consider making a donation to the family at the funeral home to bury the dead.  One of our own.  He may be a stranger to you, but I and the members of the Ashley GOTR men’s fellowship can tell you he was no stranger to Jesus Christ, and in that regard his untimely death is not a tragedy.  Please pray for the repose of his soul.

An extreme trust

November 12, 2009

mercyThe message at the bottom of the famous image of Jesus as Divine Mercy says “Jesus, I Trust in You.”  During protracted periods of trial our trust in Jesus can be attacked, and if we’re not careful, it can weaken, and even falter.

The Divine Mercy site today had an article by Fr Seraphim Michalenko MIC which explained well how we need to trust in the Lord.  It included this challenging paragraph:

The trust that Jesus desires and needs, and, we can say, even demands, from His beloved humankind, created in His own divine image and likeness, is bold acts of instinctive and unquestioning dependence and reliance on His goodness, honesty, integrity, and trustworthiness, by which we express our absolute conviction that we will not be deceived, or injured, or let down in the expectation of God’s being faithful to His promises. Our placing complete trust in God binds us to Him most intimately, and, according to our Lord’s own admission, renders Him the greatest honor.

Superheroes.

October 20, 2009

Well as Stan Lee says, ” Greetings, True Believers!”  I’ve just returned from my Florida Vacation, and though I’ve come down with some kind of virus (not the H1N1), I was all revved up to start a series of new posts.

And then, last night I read about Fr. Bob Timchak.

As so many of you were, I was simply thunderstruck.  It is now 3:15 AM and whether it was the fever or the news;I was having nightmares about it and I honestly can’t sleep.  I ask your indulgence as I set some of my thoughts down in an attempt to work out my feelings, I apologise for any disjointedness or rambling — it’s late.

I had followed his saga with a lot of interest a few years ago and was really rooting for him to come back.  I even sent him an encouraging letter.  Even though I didn’t know him personally, I had a few encounters with him over the years (even attempted to send my daughter to his Transfiguration when it was still his parish), and of course like so many, had read his columns fairly regularly.  Through the medium of his newspaper column he is the only Catholic Priest a lot of people have ever heard, and takes on the role of an emissary for the church.

I would be an outright liar if I said this didn’t hit me pretty hard.  It really took the wind out of my sails and robbed me of all the enthusiasm I had been feeling for the faith.  At first, I thought I wasn’t going to post on the subject, figuring that so many blogs, and newspapers would talk the story to death.  I would ignore the story.   Then I read some of them.  Though not unexpected, the comments in the online newspaper accounts really brought me down.  A somewhat popular local traditional Catholic Blogger is simply spitting venom.  Where is our charity?  Where is mine?  Don’t misunderstand me, Fr. Bob needs to face justice.  I think that I might be able to find it within me to ‘love the sinner, and hate the sin’ — but it simply isn’t there yet.

So it seems Fr. Timchak has a form of an addiction that a lot of men have: Porn.  Granted, he seems to allegedly be addicted to a form of it that is horrifying to most men who have porn problems. But nevertheless, it boils down to porn.  A few weeks back I posted on a great Catholic site designed to help men fight porn addictions, called Who does it Hurt? For so many people, the anonymity of the computer leads them to ask that very question about their own porn addiction.  Here is a classic example of how the subterfuge we put into play to hide our addictions and sins simply pulls apart our spouses, families, friends, and even churches.  Although I am truly trying to find it in my heart to pray for Fr. Bob’s soul, I am really upset over the damage this causes to the souls of the rest of the community.  Fury, resentment, depression, grudges, taking pleasure in the justice coming– I don’t think these are fruits of the Spirit.

My father walked away from the church in 2002 during the height of the last sex scandal.  I had always seen him to be an example, a rock of faith and a real soldier for Christ.  He was (and is, though in different ways now) a superhero to me.  His fury and anger somehow took root and lent a logical justification to him for the shoddy arguments he now poses against the faith.  I pray and hope that someday he will see the Church more clearly, but until then it hurts me a lot.  Just as it hurts me a lot to see all of these other Christians giving reign to their emotions and letting it change their perspectives on faith.  Just as I have let it change my own perspective and really makes me want to crawl under a rock and not be proud of the fact that I am Catholic — and share that joy with others.  It has robbed me of the joy, and set a fear in my heart.

Fr. Bob’s sin was undoubtedly committed with the idea that the privacy and anonymity the situation afforded allowed it to only hurt himself.  How many of us have sinned with the same justification, only to find that like a pebble dropped in a pond, the ripples travel out to the edges, touching everything.  Whether it is porn, lying, theft, abortion, whatever — each sin damages everyone we touch and those who learn of our sins.  I may not be the victim of Fr. Bob’s sin, but the scandal of seeing a person whose very life is meant to be upheld as an inspiration, has caused me to sin in turn.  I am now guilty of a lack of charity in my thoughts, a certain amount of despair,  seeking pleasure through the justice coming to others, and unbridled anger with some of my fellow Christians for their own visceral responses.

I highly reccommend those of you struggling with the news today to read this article on Catholic.com about scandal in the church.  I think it strikes just the right tone.

Somewhere on the internet, I read about how Satan hates priests with such a mighty fury that he throws his strongest assaults against them.  They are, after all, only men with the same sinful nature as the rest of us, and if he could just pick off one of them, Oh the damage it would do…  We somehow think that Holy Orders creates Saints, and infuses them with an ability to be superhuman.  Is it any wonder a priest falls?  We live in an age where they have fewer of each other for company, support, and cameraderie; a society where it is a wonder if even the best of us can truly live out our Christianity, a media which is intent on desensitizing ALL of us to the basest impulses, a culture which is rapidly destroying the very basic supports we rely on in times of personal trouble.  The enemy attacks our foundations with the most subtle of arguments.   Religion as a concept is openly questioned as though scientific principles could reveal it.  The Church as a force for good is questioned by joining vice to virtue in wondering why so many evils have been done by men and women of the Church ? Sex as a covenantal sign of marriage is torn apart by calling it merely a sign of love.  Marriage is undermined as really only just ‘a union born of love.’ Children are seen as glorified puppies, fulfilling the needs of the parents  — If I ‘want’ a child I will go so far as to create one from a test tube and a stranger.  If ‘I’m not ready for one’ I’ll kill it; it’s just a collection of cells.  The idea of the self is undermined by the constant message of the culture,’ I can be whoever I want to be, I can have whatever I want to have — I am my own’.  “Who does it hurt,” we ask.  I’ll bet you could take the seven deadly sins and find ways how the culture is desentisizing and glorifying all of them.

To my priest friends and readers — I apologize if writing about this causes you further pain.  I apologize for sometimes thinking you to be superhuman, and taking greater umbrage when you have injured my feelings in ways small or large.  Although you are not superhuman, you have willingly volunteered for what seems to be a superhuman job in this culture today.  And to me, that makes you superheroes.  But when your hero’s fall , super or otherwise, it behooves us all to remember that we are all but men, and there is only one Hero we can truly lean on without fear.  I will pray for all of you my brothers, will you pray for me?

I believe Lord, help my unbelief.

Living mercy

October 10, 2009

Recently I’ve noticed a coincidence of talks that include a reference to forgiveness.  A few weeks ago, in his General Audience talk on St Symeon the Theologian, Pope Benedict XVI pointed us to “the criteria that tell us whether we are truly close to God, whether God exists and dwells in us”:

Divine love alone prompts us to open our hearts to others and makes us sensitive to their needs, bringing us to consider everyone as brothers and sisters and inviting us to respond to hatred with love and to offense with forgiveness.

Do we love those who hate us?  Do we forgive those who offend us?

There was also this testimony by an African nun, given at the current Synod of Bishops in Africa, of her forgiveness of the murderer of her father and other members of her family, which included this poignant moment:

“A prisoner stood up immediately and asked for mercy,” she recounted. “I was petrified when I recognized the friend of the family who grew up and shared with us.
“He confessed that he had killed my father. He gave me the details of the death of my loved ones.” 
Sister Uwamariya embraced him and said: “You are and will continue to be my brother.”
The nun added that she felt that “a weight had been lifted from her.” 
“I found inner peace again,” she said, “and I thanked him whom I was embracing.”
The Rwandan told of her surprise to hear the man exclaim: “Justice can do its work and can condemn me to death but now I am free!”

Finally, Cdl O’Malley (Boston), in a talk given at a retreat for priests in Ars, France, highlighted the hope we should have that can only come as a result of loving our enemies:

Christians are called to be different, the cardinal illustrated, pointing to the “golden legend” of St. Jerome. This story depicts the saint surrounded by a group of monks. When they are attacked by a lion, they all flee, but Jerome stays:  He sees that the lion is lame and he removes a thorn from his paw.
Cardinal O’Malley extracted this lesson: “We must behave like this. Christ is our physician, our Savior. We must be convinced and convince others and have the grace that our enemies become our brothers.”

In my personal life, though I surely don’t regard them as literal “enemies,” there are several people for whom I currently find it difficult not to bear resentment, difficult to truly forgive from my heart:

  • the thief who stole money and other items from our van one night as it was parked in front of our home
  • the former fellow employee who repeatedly lied about me to my co-workers regarding job-related issues
  • the biological father of a friend of my teenagers who makes harassing and sometimes threatening phone calls to our home

Though I don’t lie about others, steal from people, or make threatening phone calls, I’m sure that, be it a result of my arrogance and selfishness or just simple thoughtlessness and neglect, I’ve caused people to resent me or even hate me; I’ve given them cause to consider me an ‘enemy.’  That’s why, at least several times each week, usually as part of my Evening or Night Prayer, I pray Fr Kirby’s “Prayer of Forgiveness and Reparation.”  With the help of that prayer, I strive for the day when I truly forgive and love my ‘enemies,’ and hope for them to become my brethren in Christ.

Power — Mercy — Transformation

August 18, 2009

A few weeks ago, on July 24th, while on vacation in northern Italy, Pope Benedict gave a homily at Vespers that is surely worthy of some lectio divina.

Following is the concluding Vespers prayer that was the subject of his homily:

Almighty and merciful God, by your will Christ your Son suffered for the salvation of the whole world.  Grant that your people may offer themselves as a living sacrifice to you and be filled to overflowing with your love.

The entire homily is well worth reading, but here are a few notable quotes:

…so that we can knock with greater force on the heart of God.

If the fundamental relationship with God is not living, is not lived, then no other relationship can find its right form.

A Roman prayer, connected with the text of the Book of Wisdom, says: “O God, show your omnipotence through pardon and mercy”. The summit of God’s power is mercy, pardon.

God, through his Son, suffered first, and he is close to us in our suffering.

To forgive is not to ignore, but to transform.

We ourselves, with our whole being, must be adoration and sacrifice, and by transforming our world, give it back to God. The role of the priesthood is to consecrate the world so that it may become a living host, a liturgy: so that the liturgy may not be something alongside the reality of the world, but that the world itself shall become a living host, a liturgy.

It certainly appears that our Holy Father’s broken wrist didn’t hinder his homiletic abilities.