October Baby and the struggle with commitment

October Baby and a test of commitment
Lately I’ve been thinking about a reflection my brother (Fr. Paul Rutten) gave on our cultures struggle with commitment; whether it is a commitment to a party or a married relationship, our culture fears commitment. The example he talked about was evites. The fact that we can select maybe as a response for an evite, instead of yes or no, is new to our culture. There are many reasons for selecting maybe but I tend to think we might want to attend, but we don’t want to be committed in case something else comes up.
I experienced this trial of commitment myself last week when I went to the movie October Baby. I went the last night it was showing in town and after I ordered my ticket, I heard a guy behind me ask for a ticket to the Godfather. Caught off guard by the request, I slowly walked away and pondered the situation. As I was trying to comprehend how he could be going to the Godfather, I saw the sign in the theater advertizing a one-time showing of the Godfather part II and it happened to be that day. My problem was that I was already committed to October Baby and I had bought my ticket.
A battle in my heart began to be waged. Should I go to October Baby or change my mind and go sneak into an all-time Hollywood classic, the Godfather. My brother’s reflection on our cultures inability to commit to things came to mind and I felt myself called to stick with my first commitment, although everything else in my body was telling me to go to the Godfather. My brothers wisdom won the day and I went to October Baby.
If you have seen the movie, you know I made the right decision. If you have not seen the movie, it is a must see when it is released. It is a truly powerful story with lessons of love, forgiveness and ultimately the mercy of God. I also learned that the spiritual battle of commitment to Christ is waged in many small ways every day. In small ways everyday our fidelity to God and others is tested. Some day the test won’t be as light-hearted as a decision between two movies, it will be between heaven and hell. It is our small commitments today which will strengthen us for the big commitments in the end.
Make it a great day!

Prayer to Our Lady of Good Counsel

Posted by Monsignor Charles Mangan + J.M.J.

 “Short Prayer to Mary Most Holy of Good Counsel
to Implore Her Protection” (from 1796)

O Mary of Good Counsel, inflame the hearts of all who are devoted to you, so that all of them have shelter in you, O great Mother of God. O most worthy Lady, let everyone choose you as teacher and wise counselor of their souls, since you are, as Saint Augustine says, the counsel of the Apostles and counsel of all peoples. Amen.

April 26th is the Feast of Our Lady of Good Counsel.

Trust and Respond to God’s Call

Hands lifted up in supplication to God will always be strengthened to serve him.  Look at all the great saints who did incredible works though they had nothing.  God glorifies himself by calling us to trust in him and by bringing abundant life where the land is dry.  In this way, you will see that the work is his and not your own.  He simply calls you to trust and to respond to his call.  Be vigilant so that when he asks you to serve him in a particular way you will be ready to go forth and do so.  You will see that this is the greatest path for your life.  By trusting, you will be greatly rewarded and you will understand God’s abundant goodness.  He loves you. Be not afraid!

Discernment and Interior Freedom

Posted by Fr. James Mason:

Look at some of the practical steps in discerning.  First the facts, what am I discerning? Second, prayer, have I prayed on this?  Simple question but often overlooked, may be it is only a suggestion from another who is influential in my life and I have let that be enough and not given it back to God.  Even if it is the bishop you still must discern and pray on your own.  It is your decision.  As with all true decisions there must be freedom.  Am I free to say yes or no?  I could never be a priest because…  What is God’s will and have I given over my likes and dislikes to him and allowed him to mold me into the man he created me to be?  Once again am I being unduly pressured, is this my decision, and am I free to make it.   “When God Asks for an Undivided Heart” by Fr. Andrew Apostolici is a great book in this area.  What happens when I pray, can I share these experiences with someone trained in this area, a spiritual director?  As we grow in pray we should begin to see more and more with God’s eyes and not our own, this is true freedom, interior freedom.  Which dream or vocation when I pray and think about giving everything to God brings me more peace in the long run?  A consistent inner peace, recognizing that there will be struggle, the cross, but a good struggle for the perfection God has called us to.  It is becoming aware of God’s call slowly in your life and then having the courage to pursue it whatever it may be.  The initiative lies with God and it must always be left to God.  We must allow God to work.  The perfect examples, Jesus at Gesthamane “Lord, not my will, but your will be done,” and Mary “Be it done unto me according to your Word.”

Addressing Moral Political Issues

Posted by Dr. Martin Albl:

Although Rick Santorum exited the race for the Republican Presidential nomination, he did bring some important issues into the national spotlight. A key contribution was his insistence that we cannot find the solution to our economic difficulties  in strictly economic policies alone, but that we must also address moral issues that have economic effects. He had the courage to identify the greatly increased poverty rates of children in single parent households, and to further point out that some government policies (such as ending support for single mothers if they marry) actually discourage marriage and thus increase poverty.

We must address these issues sensitively and with compassion, and not simplistically blame single mothers and fathers for our economic woes. But Santorum’s points should encourage us to re-assess our governmental and social policies and attitudes towards marriage, and honestly consider whether these policies and attitudes are really helpful to those who most vulnerable: children.

The Inviting Road to Emmaus

Posted by Monsignor Charles M. Mangan + J.M.J.

After His Resurrection, Jesus showed Himself to His disciples at various times and in various ways. One of the most poignant manifestations of His risen glory is the revelation to the two disciples making their way to Emmaus.

Christ approached these travelers and began to walk with them. Mysteriously restrained from recognizing Jesus, the two were incredulous that this “stranger” was unaware of the newsworthy events of the past several days. Then, Jesus “interpreted to them what referred to Him in all the Scriptures.” (Saint Luke 24:27)

Amazed by the wisdom and knowledge of Jesus, the disciples uttered a cry of the heart that still reverberates in the souls of believers everywhere: “Stay with us.” Three short words sum up the servants’ appeal to their Master.

Easter Sunday comes and goes. The greatest event in human history is often relegated to a happy memory. The Resurrection may sometimes be considered, albeit unintentionally, as a joyful occasion without much practicality. After all, paying the bills or caring for a loved one who is terminally ill is typical of the overwhelming concerns facing even devout Christians.

All the more reason to imitate the stirring entreaty of the Emmaus-bound disciples: “Stay with us.”

Only Christ—the Christ of the cross and the empty tomb—can make sense of the trials that confront a person. “Stay with us” gives God “permission” to remain in our lives through the invisible but nevertheless real principle of grace.

A common concern expressed among those who arrange retreats and spiritual endeavors for youth is the need for “follow-up.” A high school boy or girl attends a weekend retreat and experiences an emotional spiritual renewal. Then this newfound vigor is crushed at the first sign of temptation or turmoil. How may one enjoy a profound relationship with Our Lord in the midst of a hostile and uninterested world?

Father Gabriel of Saint Mary Magdalen, O.C.D., in his remarkable classic Divine Intimacy, wrote that the soul that enjoys the state of grace need not worry whether God is present to help with difficulties. “Hidden in the obscurity of faith, God draws near our soul, makes Himself our traveling companion, and still more, lives in us by grace.” True, one may feel, because he does not understand the workings of the Lord, that God has abandoned him. But, “God is there, God remains with us; it is for us to remain with Him.”

When Christ vanished before the eyes of the two disciples after the Breaking of the Bread, Cleophas and his unnamed companion could have melted into lethargy. Their Master had left; they were seemingly by themselves. But instead of becoming passive, they quickly journeyed to tell the Eleven what had transpired. Although Jesus had temporarily departed, His presence remained.

The Resurrection, a far cry from a one-day event, is a life-changer. The happiness to be found in the Risen Lord remains with us because of His abiding presence. Despite life’s difficulties and pain, the joy of the Resurrection is always there for one who believes. Saint Augustine, who knew his share of hardships, remarked: “We are an Easter people, and alleluia is our song.”

Jesus Christ, the Son of God and the Son of Mary, has conquered sin and death. When we pray, “Stay with us,” we have the assurance that He has heard us. For just as the stone was rolled away from His tomb, so will our own burdens become manageable.

Mary, Star of the Sea

Posted by Monsignor Charles M. Mangan  J.M.J.

“Take away this star of the sun which illuminates the world: where does the day go? Take away Mary, this Star of the sea, of the great and boundless sea: what is left but a vast obscurity and the shadow of death and deepest darkness?”

 Saint Bernard of Clairvaux, Abbot and Doctor (1090-1153), In Navitate BMariae Sermo-De aquaeductu, 6

The Victory of the Resurrection

Jesus’ Resurrection changes everything.  Without it, his would have been another life ended in death, and our human condition would still be doomed to its fallen state.  By contrast, the gates of Heaven were opened, the glory of God was revealed, and human nature was given the opportunity to share in divine life.  Moreover, Jesus did not stop after his Resurrection but instead came to us, showed us tangible proof of his great work, and invited us to mercy and restoration.

Mary Magdalene’s presence at the tomb on that first Easter morning demonstrates the path of Christ’s merciful love.  Here a woman who had known great sin, but who repented with sincerity of heart, is granted the great privilege of witnessing Jesus first among all his followers.  He calls her by name and assuages her fear.  During this Easter Octave, think of how directly Jesus wishes to demonstrate his merciful love to each of us.  He is calling you by name.  He is calling you out of your current state, and he is offering you a greater gift of his love.  May we all gain confidence in his love so that we may receive fully of the graces showered upon us from his Sacred Heart!

Father, forgive them…

As Jesus hangs upon the cross he utters these incredible words; “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.” Have these words truly sunk into our own lives? How often are we quick to justify our actions, our sins, but then we turn around demand retribution for any wrong done against us? This forgiveness, given by Christ from the Cross, first to the Good Thief and then to all of mankind is not something to be taken lightly.
The cost of our salvation hangs upon every crucifix; meditate before the cross today and allow the weight of God the Father’s love for us to sink in. Jesus is our model and we must realize that his example is one of complete obedience to the Will of the Father. We sin because we choose to follow our own wills and desires. We do not take the time to bring our struggles to the Lord and ask Him to help us become humble servants.
It all starts with our ability to truly receive God’s mercy and allow it to heal our wounds caused by our sinfulness. This is what St. Faustina was asked to share with the world when our Lord appeared to her in Poland. The Divine Mercy of God is like a vast ocean and our sins are but drops of water in that ocean. Will we first bathe in His mercy and allow ourselves to be renewed in His grace? Then, will we pray and fast for those who have not repented of their sins and received His mercy? Will we be mercy for the world around us? Too many of us hold on to the past and allow it to rob us of our peace with Christ. Too many of us hold grudges, are vengeful, or are just too consumed with anger to allow Christ’s peace to reign in our lives.
Today is the day when we are invited to begin the Divine Mercy Novena. Today is the day when we are invited to approach the cross; to walk on holy ground, and allow the love of Christ crucified to set us free.
Do not let today pass you by without begging the Lord to set your heart on fire with His mercy. Do not let today go by without forgiving those who have wronged you. Do not let today go by without forgiving yourself for not being perfect.
Allow our Lady to show you the way to her Son. She took to heart those words from the cross and loved those who had crucified her Son. She would not allow resentment or hatred to fill her heart; for her heart was aflame with God’s mercy and love. Today our Lord cries out, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.” He is seeking us out, let us run to Him and bathe in His mercy.

Holy Thursday

This evening the Church invites us to begin the three days liturgy known as the Sacred Triduum. It will begin with Holy Thursday and end with the Easter Vigil. It will take us through the last days of our Lord’s life and the beginning of the Church’s mission. Tonight we reflect on three things: the institution of the Holy Eucharist and of the priestly Order, and the commandment of the Lord concerning fraternal charity.
The Holy Eucharist is the Source and Summit of our Faith and thus it is fitting that we are invited to spend time this evening recalling the institution of this Sacrament, along with the invitation to spend time in Adoration with our Blessed Lord.
With the institution of the Holy Eucharist comes the priestly order, which makes possible the sacramental life of the Church. Tonight Christ reveals to the 12 that they are being called to something more than they could have ever imagined. Tonight Christ will not simply ask them to follow Him; no, Christ will ask them to share in His life with them through the priesthood. This invitation no one would have ever imagined. The Levitical priesthood was one you were born into and required constant sacrifices and offerings that could not satisfy our debt. Tonight Christ will offer the great sacrifice of His own body and blood and it will pay the debt incurred by Adam and Eve and by you and me.
The third invitation is a call to draw each and everyone of us closer to our Lord. I can remember in seminary being taught about fraternal charity. The rector told us that this would be one of the most difficult, but necessary things we would do as seminarians and priests. To correct a brother or sister who has gone astray must be done with utmost love and respect for their soul. It is not an opportunity to point out another’s faults, but instead to point out the path they are on. It is not about publicizing our sins, but quietly leading another to the mercy of God. Lord knows our world has gone astray, but what it needs is not a bunch of people standing on their soap boxes.
What the world needs more now than ever are Christians on their knees before the Blessed Sacrament asking the Lord for the grace necessary to live out our calling. To first be humbled in our own unworthiness and receive God’s mercy through the sacrament of reconciliation.
Tonight the Church rejoices as we are given a gift beyond belief; tonight we will hear those words anew; “Take this, all of you, and eat of it, for this is my Body, which will be given up for you.” These words will be spoken by a man called forth from us to be ordained a priest of Jesus Christ. Thus, these words are not simply the repetition of words spoken 2,000 years ago. No, these will be the words of our Lord spoken with power and authority. Let us rejoice at the three-fold gift of the Eucharist, the priesthood, and fraternal charity.