Saturday, March 31, 2012

Accepting God's Mercy

I love you, Lord, my strength,
My rock, my fortress, my savior.
My God is a rock where I take refuge;
My shield, my mighty help, my stronghold.

The Lord is worthy of all praise;
When I call I am saved from my foes.

-- Psalm 18

As I read the psalm this morning, I reflected back on the events of last Tuesday. Certainly as the day progressed I saw much stress and things of sorrow, but reading the psalm above, I saw Tuesday’s events in a new light. I saw that my many prayers for God’s mercy were answered then, although perhaps not as I would have wanted them answered, for as often as I also pray “Not my will, but Thy will be done,” I really am hoping that God will choose to do my will, answering my prayers in the way I desire. But I think I saw His will --- and His Mercy --- occur on Tuesday, even if not in the way as I wished. And for that I give gentle thanks and praise. Looking back, I can accept His blessings and mercy without regret, even if they were not as I would have wished.

For as often as I am aware that God works in small ways --- and gives us opportunities to do the same --- still, my mind wishes for things in big ways. I don’t wish for a convert to the Faith, I want the whole world to come to know and love Him. I don’t wish for one sinner to be saved, but for none to go to hell. I don’t wish for one healing, I wish to have all sufferers healed. And I don’t wish for one day of peace, I wish a lifetime --- no, an eternity --- of peace.

But Jesus showed us how to live by His example: He converted one sinner at a time. He healed one leper at a time. For one day, He gave all the bread and fish the people on the mount wanted. His blessings were not as grandiose as those I would wish. I wish for more than just one miracle --- except, of course, in the case where that miracle is for me. Throughout my life He HAS blessed me with many miracles; if he would grant me just one more, for peace for my friend’s dying mother, I think I would be content.

I need to constantly remind myself to be thankful for God’s blessing and mercy, each and every time I see it, and to indeed even look for it. For it is always there, if I can look beyond my sorrows and grandiose wishes, wishes of what I would do if I were God, and remind myself, often, that I am not Him.

Tuesday my friend was able to re-arrange her business day to drive the two-hour journey with me to spend some hours with her mother. Arriving there, we were surprised to see her mother up in a chair, relaxed, watching television, and happy to see us. Obviously uncomfortable due to her bed sores, she asked us to help her back into her bed, but the hospital staff were insistent she needed to spend more hours up from the constant lying in bed. She was not pleased with this response to her plea, but despite this she was not stressed --- unlike the many other days when she pleaded for this or that or just about ANYTHING to relieve her situation, and mostly she wished for things we could not supply, including, occasionally: “Take me home.” And Tuesday, she was not in the deep pains we so often saw in the past, when she gritted her teeth and tears rolled down her face, and for which we could also do so very little. No, for Tuesday at least, she expressed little anxiety or pain, and we ourselves felt little stress. We were happy for her status (and she even smiled once or twice at my lame attempts at humor). For that day, it was a miracle of Divine Mercy on all of us there.

A doctor came in to check on her status that afternoon and answered some of our questions. For me, at least, it was an education. She seemed relatively calm that day, he noted, and her breathing was so relaxed that it appeared that she largely didn’t need the ventilator which assisted her breathing. In another patient, these signs might indicate imminent release from the need for the vent, but this was not her case. Her lungs had hardened from her disease, and she could not inflate them strongly, nor persist in inflating them on her own for any length of time, and she would inevitably get weaker in her ability to breathe. It will bring death in weeks, or months, or even a year, but it is coming. Death will happen that way, if one of her other medical problems does not win the race to death first. And any of a number of her illnesses well might.

And now for a bit of medical education for you, my friends: As I understood the good doctor, the critical point, leading to the present situation, happened a couple of months ago. At a point when infections critically invaded the body of my friend’s mother, she coded in her hospital room, and alarms rang out that she had stopped breathing. A quick glance at her medical directives said that she wished to be resuscitated, one time, if she coded, and so a ventilator was quickly attached to help with her breathing --- a temporary measure until she healed and breathed on her own again. And now the temporary has become permanent. The doctor said if he were there he would have questioned putting her on the ventilator, but I don’t believe that for a moment. In a crisis situation, there was no time to question anything, nor second guess the directive --- the medical directive to resuscitate one time. That was the crucial point. You see, my friends, I, my friend and her mother, and likely you, are misled by television medical shows. We see someone have a heart attack; we see the paddles put on them; we see a “zap!” and then we see them go home and live happily ever after. That is not the total picture of reality, but it is the one perceived by most people: “If my heart stops, by all means, resuscitate me.” But that is not the only crisis which calls for resuscitation; it is called for if any critical organ stops functioning, the heart, the kidneys, the lungs. If you do not have a DNR --- Do Not Resuscitate --- medical directive in writing, in a crisis you will be resuscitated, including being put on a ventilator if necessary. And, as I’ve researched, in the very elderly who go on a ventilator, up to 40% never come off because their underlying medical problems overtake the body’s other defenses and they die. In some circumstances, they may go into comas or be brain-dead, still on the ventilator, and it will be shut off. But in some cases, while the underlying illness prevents coming off the ventilator, a person may live for a long time, otherwise stable and alert --- such as my friend’s mother is. This brings about a two-fold problem: If the underlying illnesses are progressing, you may qualify for hospice care, but no hospice will take someone on a ventilator, but demand it be turned off --- and it’s imminent death. And of the few places which would take someone in such a condition, in this state all are rated one-star ---- horrible places to send a loved one. And that is the condition of my friend’s mother, and my friend who must decide what to do.

If you or a loved one is very elderly, know the ramifications of not having a DNR directive. You never want to be put in a position of having to decide to turn off that ventilator, your oxygen, and your life. For many people, it is not a decision they can make.

Meanwhile, my friend continues to search for a facility which, in mercy, might accept her mother, and/or an agency which might provide personnel to augment her care in a sub-standard facility. Thus far, all responses are a “regretful” no, or counseling on how she should convince her mother to commit suicide by turning off the vent. And I continue to go visit, reading her mother stories, playing games with her, and praying by her side. And trying to accept that it is God’s mercy that she has even one day free from pain or anxiety.

God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him by your service, past and present, to his holy people. Our desire is that each of you show the same zeal to the end, fully assured of that for which you hope. --- Hebrews 6:9

Thursday, March 29, 2012


Whoever meditates on the law of the Lord,
Will bring forth much fruit at harvest time.

His gifts to me:





Mine to Him:



Monday, March 26, 2012

Dying Well; Living Well

I watched another episode of The Little House on the Prairie with mom last night. It was one starring Patricia Neal, who played a single mother with three small children. It opens with her visiting the doctor, and finding out bad news. She goes back to her farm where Charles Ingles is plowing her field for her, and she walks up to him, thanks him for his hard work, and then says: “Charles, I’m going to die. Soon.”

Charles does the expected questioning of her: “Are you sure?” And after she responds, he doesn’t know what to say, but just hangs his head. And then Patricia Neal says in a firm voice: “Charles, I need your help now, not your sympathy. I’ve got a lot of things to do and not much time. I need to find someone to take care of my children.” And Charles promises to help her. She eventually presents her petition to the little town church congregation that Sunday, and says “I know it takes 9 months to make a child, so I don’t expect you to take on three right now, so think on it.”

It’s an amazing episode of the strength of the mother, the children, and her fellow neighbors in facing up to the inevitability of death. There are many stories of faith conveyed among the people and the children, and of trust in God. At the episode’s end, at the graveside, the pastor reads a short note the mother had asked to be read “loudly, pastor, and don’t mumble. They’ll need to hear this.”

And so he read: “Remember me with smiles and laughter. If you can only remember me with tears, then don’t remember me at all.” And then the episode closes, and you never really find out which family agreed to adopt her children, because that wasn’t important to the lesson being taught. I enjoyed that episode very much; I had written about it previously here, a while back. It seems appropriate to glance at it again.

Orig: 7/19/09

Mom likes watching animals and little kids on television. Last week we began watching some re-runs of The Little House On The Prairie. We watched an episode where a neighbor woman, whose husband died, works the farm and cares for her 3 kids. Then she visits a doctor and finds out she is dying. She comes home that night and tells her children: “Soon I am going to be in heaven with your father.” Her oldest boy cries: “Oh God. How could this be happening?” The mother chastises him: “Don’t you take the name of God in vain. And you stop crying right now. I am going to a wonderful place; if you are crying it is not for me, it is for yourself. And I thought I taught you better than to be selfish.” The boy apologizes, and everyone hugs.

At the church next Sunday, the mother asks for a family to volunteer to take in her children, when the time comes. After church, the mother invites the neighbor Engels family on a picnic: “It’s a nice day.” During the picnic, the kids are playing and the mother gets up to join them, but Mrs Engels asks if she is well enough. She responds: “I want my children to remember me laughing; I’ve got to show them the right example.” And all the adults join in on the games.

Meanwhile, young Laura Engels sits alone next to a tree. Her dad comes over and asks what’s wrong. She responds: “Look at her, dad. She’s dying, and she’s playing like it’s not important.” Her dad says: “Yes, she’s dying and will be going to heaven. You know that, and that is not a bad thing.” Laura then asks: “How old is she?” “About 35.” “You and mom are in your thirty’s. What would happen to us if you died?” And then dad replies: “Laura, you can spend your whole life worrying about things you cannot change. And before you know it, your life comes to an end, and you have never lived it. Look at them playing there. That’s what life is about: Laughing and loving and knowing they’re not really gone when they die.”

After we watched that show, I flipped the channel to the news, and immediately saw the images of the 5 teens killed at the train crossing. I wondered if any of their families had watched that Little House On The Prairie episode. I hope so, but probably not. I hope that someone, somewhere, gave them that message about what life is about. And I hope it gives them peace.

We’ve watched a few more episodes of the series since that day last week. Each one had a wonderful moral message, one which could be understood by watching children and adults alike. They were each an excellent teaching moment, an opportunity for parents to talk about and children to see and learn some of the very serious, very important moral lessons of life.

I don’t remember watching much of The Little House On The Prairie series when it first aired. Maybe I was busy with school, maybe with work. But I now know I missed something then. The few television series which I glance at today usually have parents and children yelling at each other, hating each other, belittling each other. Aren’t there any homes where parents still talk to their children, teach them, hug them, talk to them about God? Pray together? I hope so, but they’re certainly not shown as “reality” television.

Some people describe the old family television series from the ‘50’s and ‘60’s as “fantasy families”. Well, perhaps America needs more fantasy, and less reality. It certainly needs more morality on television. Meanwhile, my time with mom has me watching the re-runs of Little House On The Prairie.

I’m not too old to learn from their moral lessons; I’m not too old to be reminded of timeless wisdom. And to give thanks to God for my family.

When was the last time you watched a television show which inspired you to pray, and give thanks for your blessings?

Saturday, March 24, 2012


I don’t know how to describe how I’ve been feeling of late. I’ve prayed the Divine Mercy prayers for my friend each day for many weeks now. I’ve fasted and tried to make this a good Lent. Spring has arrived waaaaaaaayyyyyy early in my neck of the woods. In summary, I’ve experienced pains and sorrows and joys of late, but none of them to a degree of fullness. And the only word which comes to mind to describe my feelings and emotions in total is: disappointment.

The Scripture and Office Readings these days talk of us as being on a Lenten Journey; for some of us it is a long journey. In many ways, our time now is meant to dwell on our Lord’s journey, and His passion and death. His was a journey for which He had a map; He knew where He was going, what He would feel along the way, and what was the purpose for it all: the reason He willed it to go on to its end. I feel as if I am paralleling His journey this Lent, but I am not at all sure of where I am going, I have mixed feelings along the way, and I can’t see why things are happening as they are. But I guess I do relate firmly to one thing which Jesus did along the way: He prayed for His Father’s mercy and strength. And so do I.

I continue to visit my friend’s mom in the hospital. While she lays dying, she is mentally alert and chooses not to turn off the ventilator which enables her to breathe. She is afraid. That is her right, and maybe it IS right, but suffering abounds. Her daughter, in trying to find a hospice for her mother’s compassionate care, finds that hospices are turning her away: “We will only take her into our facility if she turns off the vent” --- which means instant death. They will allow feeding tubes, “we won’t starve a dying person,” but they will suffocate her. Catholic teaching, as far as I can discern, says that if the mother chooses to stay on the vent it would be euthanasia to turn it off against her will ---- yet many hospital employees are trying to convince the daughter to do just that “to alleviate her suffering.” A Catholic hospice, in denying admission to her mother told the daughter that “it’s your fault that she is suffering, since you should have never allowed her to be on the vent in the first place.” This “compassionate Catholic hospice” believed the daughter should have told the number one rated hospital in the country that they were wrong in recommending her mother be put on a ventilator “temporarily.” The hospice apparently believes that the daughter should have instead said: “No, just kill my mother.” And my friend is in despair and riddled with guilt, but she will not euthanize her mother, nor spend time trying to convince her mother to do so.

And all this just disappoints me. My friend asks where is God in all this pain and suffering; I have no answer.

Balancing out this deep sadness, this week a new neighbor moved in next door to me. The house which had gone through foreclosure was bought by someone who fixed it up in two months, and then re-sold it in another two months. The new family is a young couple with two small children; they are building a playscape in the yard. And they have no bulldogs, as the last neighbor did. I look forward to their company, and the joyful sounds of their children --- and a lawn which is tended to.

At mass on Friday across from me in the chapel, sat a mother and her daughter, who is now about one year old. Since the week of her birth, the young girl, Grace, has been brought to mass daily and has rarely made a sound. Instead Grace could usually be seen staring at the priest and his actions. She seemed to know something important was going on there on the altar and acted almost reverently, like she knew more about what was happening than I did. On Friday Grace stood next to her mother as the priest walked near them to accept the gifts to be offered on the altar. As the wine and water were given to him, Grace sensed his presence, turned, and took a few wobbly steps, and then hugged his leg. Grace’s mother quickly grabbed her, and as the priest returned to the alter he commented softly to himself: “And Grace comes to us all.”

And I guess I felt, then, a level of contentment, not a great joy or happiness or a feeling of a need to laugh, but just contentment. It seemed right, and I felt right about it. Maybe it was a grace coming to me. It wasn’t much above the level of disappointment I had felt earlier, but it was a move in the right emotional direction, from a negative feeling to a positive one. Perhaps that is what grace does for each of us, if we look for it and accept it.

In politics in our country it seems that people can only comment on the EXTREME right or left; anyone who disagrees with them is extreme the other way. But I don’t believe that’s true. Emotionally, I think most of us usually vary from a level of disappointment to contentment in our lives, and it is only on rare occasions when life turns in some radical direction of pain or joy. Those extremes are few and far between, although whenever they happen, our reactions also become extreme, to avoid the pains and to seek to extend the joy --- even to eternity. But all of life is not a pain, although like Jesus’ Passion, there may be long treks along that path, nor is all of life a joy --- no matter how much we may hope and pray it to be so.

And so, I think, when those extremes come to an end we will find ourselves not in some other extreme, but rather only in a level of disappointment or contentment. And life goes on. And we should also

The flowers are blooming on the trees outside my front door, and along the fence in my back yard. Spring is here, and I can’t help but feel a joy at the beauty, and the birds I hear singing in the early pre-dawn hours. All of creation seems to be calling out for the summer of warmth and light. And all seems at peace. But there will come storms. Some flowers may be buried under hail stones at some point. And considering the earliness of this Spring weather, perhaps there may yet be a killing freeze in the temperature, wiping out all the beautiful flowers and perhaps stilting the trees’ growth. Even in the best of times, in life, disaster and death are near.

When the great storms arrive in our lives, especially as the time of our death approaches and we cannot expect to see another Spring, it is easy to despair. For the dying, they must remember that there will be joy again and, even more amazingly, it will be eternal. They must hope in this, and trust in His promise. For those of us who remain as our loved ones depart, we must recognize that this is just another storm, albeit a killing one, but that there will be more Springs for us. We must take comfort in His words, Do Not Be Anxious.

And for the rest of us, neighbors and friends of those undergoing storms in their lives, we must remember to love our neighbor. Now is not the time to chastise them, even if they have made mistakes in the past. Now is not the time to walk away from them, out of our own fears of pain and suffering. Now is the time to love them.

For a child caring for a dying parent, it is important for them to remember the commandment: Honor thy father and mother, that you might have eternal life. But it will not be obtained easily. And in seeking consolations from others, there will be those who are cruel and those who are stupid. Even as a child bears his own sorrows, he must put up with these also. And it is not easy.

I continue to pray for my friend and her mother, and visit both. But all I feel at this moment is a level of sadness and disappointment. I’ll continue to sit out on my front porch on occasion, and look at the flowers and greening of Spring, and try to see God in all this, for I know He is there. And perhaps my disappointment will fade, and I might find contentment.

Until better days arrive, I wish you joy and peace and love ---- and contentment.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Seeing and Understanding

This was a weekend in which I had many thoughts about my faith --- or lack of it. I couldn’t sit down at home (or at mom’s) and not have my mind wander, and I couldn’t sit in the church and not look at the altar, always asking the question: Why? And then asking it yet again, only this time of myself: Why do you need to know “why”?

My friend remains in the hospital, seriously ill. Maybe her plight and that of her family were underlying my thoughts. I did think some about death, and some of the readings this weekend reminded me of the uncertainties in my life, like this from Psalm 118:

Open to me the gates of holiness:
I will enter and give thanks.
This is the Lord’s own gate
where the just may enter.

That’s a good example of my thoughts. In my mind I might say “I will” enter heaven, as if it is all a done deal because I wish it to be so, but then I am reminded that it is only that the just “may” enter heaven ---- it is by no means a done deal. I think on my hand in these matters and my wishes, but it is so easy to forget that God has a hand in these matters also.

Reading the scriptures about the flight of Moses and the Jews from Egypt, I recall the Egyptian army which was wiped out by the flood of the Red Sea --- weren’t there some good men among that large army? What were they thinking about the hand of God then? Were they asking: Why? And what of the Jews in the desert, all received manna as an answer to prayers --- weren’t there some bad men among that large people? What were they thinking about the need for prayer? And what about my prayers for health, knowing all men must die --- why pray for health?

Amen, Amen I say to you: Unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains a single grain, but if it dies, it bears much fruit. (Jn 12:24)

The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want. (Ps 23:6) ------ Oh, Really???

In Sunday’s gospel I heard the blind man responding to Jesus’ question about his wants: “Lord that I might see.” But most of us can’t see, we can’t see the future, and we can’t even clearly see today, and what it all means in the will of God. The former-blind man was later brought to the Pharisees in the temple who demanded to know how he became able to see. They demanded to understand. We are so like those Pharisees; we demand to know why sorrow enters our lives and won’t go away, and act like we understand why blessings enter our lives --- as if we deserve them. But we don’t understand either. That is where faith enters, and as we also read in that same Gospel Jesus later asked of the blind man another question: Did he believe in Jesus? And his response was: “Lord, I believe.”

That’s the answer we need to be able to give, sincerely, to all of our questions about “why”. We have to be able to accept that we may never know “why” many things happen in this life, but accept that the answer is within the will and mercy of God. For most of us, however, this is a very big leap of faith.

At every Catholic mass the host is raised heavenward and the priest says the words of Jesus: “This is My Body.” Then I thank Him for his great sacrifice for us --- and for me. And then I also recall the sacrifice of Jesus’ heavenly Father, who gave up His Son’s life for me, a Father sacrificing his son for me. And there also, although I pray words of thanks, I think in my heart are the words: “Lord, I do not understand.” How could anyone (much less God) offer such a sacrifice for me?

Sometimes I wonder how well I am leading my life. Am I doing enough; am I doing it well enough. And I try to consider ways I might do things better, even pray better --- that better prayers might somehow mean that God will answer my prayers more often, and, I think, that I might understand His answers. How foolish I am. The good Egyptians dying under the Red Sea’s flood, the Jews lost and starving in the desert, and me in my sorrows: we all want to understand. I want to know with some assurance that this is part of God’s plan, as if my wisdom were equal to His and I could understand all of creation and life --- and death.

How foolish I am. What I need is the faith of that former blind man, who was healed in a way no one could understand, and yet he said: “I believe”.

Thank you, O my Father, for giving us Your Son;
And leaving us Your Spirit
‘Til the work on earth is done.

There is a Redeemer, hymn by Melody Green

Today, Monday March 19, is the feast day of St. Joseph, the foster-father of Jesus Christ, God’s own son. Entrusted to care for His own son, certainly God had confidence in Joseph’s faith and fidelity. So let’s look at that faith of Joseph: He agrees to take this declared virgin, Mary, in marriage and care for her, and then what happens? She promptly turns up pregnant! So where was the faith of Joseph at that time? It didn’t take him long to decide to divorce Mary --- because, he thought, he had to take actions into his own hands, “to make sure things got done right.” Where was his faith? It was only after an angel appeared to him and assured him that this was part of God’s plan that Joseph agreed to go on.

Even St. Joseph, this specially chosen man had, at least at times, weak faith in God. But that shouldn’t surprise us, the Bible is riddled with stories of people with weak faith, good men who couldn’t trust God’s help would be there for them in times of trial, until they actually heard His voice or saw His action. So I guess we shouldn’t be surprised that we too fail in our trust at times of great trial. We too ask God to speak to us, to explain: “Why?” We too request miracles, “Lord, that I might see.”

I honestly think that some of us have a faith so weak that we want Jesus along behind us, on a leash, sitting up at our every command before we will believe in Him. “Make his bad weather go away, Lord --- please?” “Punish that sinner there, that evil person ---- please?” “Make my friend well, so that he can live and make me happy --- please?” And even if we had a God such as that at our every command, I think some of us would still be displeased that we didn’t understand each and every thing He did: “Look at that mess you made. Shame on you!” Some of us wouldn’t be content unless we were in control of God entirely ---- and what kind of faith in Him would that be?

I can answer that question. I think that is the kind of faith that Satan has.

Joseph, this very important man chosen by God for a hugely important task, is barely mentioned in the Scriptures. Like him, we too are uniquely created, with a purpose for our life, and are uniquely loved by God. How much notice do we need? How little faith do we have?

We all will have many pains in our life, and God will console us in our sorrows, but as He wills, not as we demand. That is faith; it’s a gift, which we can choose to accept. Or not.

Faith is trusting in God to care for us. He gave manna, food from heaven, to the Jews in the desert --- but note: not until after they ran out of the flower from Egypt. God expects us to do what we can with our talents, before He would provide His Divine Providence. But it is always there. We CAN and MUST have faith in that, even if we sometimes fail as the saints did, and even if we sometimes find it hard and do not understand.

For above all these things and all these worries (and this blog) are His words: Do Not Be Anxious.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

You're Doubly Mine

Last summer, when I went to Steubenville’s Franciscan University for their Summer Conference, I ordered copies of two of the talks given there, because they impressed me so much. But I guess they didn’t impress me that much, however, because I let the CDs sit on the bookshelf until this week, when I picked them up to listen to as I traveled the miles to the hospital to visit my friend.

The talks were by Steve Ray, a member of my parish and publisher of many books and tapes, and Kimberly Hahn, the convert and theologian Scott Hahn’s wife. Listening to them again, I realized why I thought both talks were so impressive. I decided I’d write here one particular story for your reading, which I had just listened to Kimberly relate. The story is short and simple, but has much application during this Lenten season. Perhaps it will give you something to meditate upon during the quiet time you spend in church --- or, perhaps, motivate you to spend some quiet time in church.

This story is about a young boy and his dreams. He dreamed of vast oceans and seas and the many things to marvel at there, and he decided to build a boat. He took a lot of time to build his boat, finding just the right materials and ensuring it fit together just right. And so when he first placed it in the river which ran near his yard he was thrilled to see how gracefully it floated, and conquered the swirling waters around it. He was so proud. But then one of the swirls caught the boat and moved it beyond his reach. He ran along the shore looking for an opportunity to capture it back, but it only drifted farther away and faster down the stream. And he could not get it back. And he was heartbroken. His father tried to get him to build another boat, but there could be none to replace that one, the one he had so worked on, perfected, and yes loved.

It was quite a while later and the boy had almost given up any hope of ever seeing his boat again when he was walking along the street in town and suddenly, there in a toy store window, was his boat. He rushed into the store and said: “That’s my boat in the window. I made it.” The store owner believed the young boy, but said, sadly, that he had paid someone for the boat and he could not afford to just give it back to the boy. So the boy went home and broke open his piggy bank and took all the money he had saved over years and ran back to the store. He paid the store owner, and bought the toy boat. And then he looked at it and remembered again how much he loved it. And he spoke to the boat: “I made you and I bought you back, so now you’re doubly mine.”

Those are the words that Jesus said.

I liked that story that Kimberly related. She went on further, and spoke of how it always impacted her as a convert, to see the crucifix and Jesus hanging there, a reminder of His sacrifice and how much He loved her. He made her, and He bought her back at a great price.

Sometimes we’re tempted to think our life is worthless, and all the sadness we face makes life unbearable. We wonder how we can go on. If those thoughts sometimes enter your mind, perhaps you’ll remember the story of the boy and his boat, the little thing made of wood that was so precious to him that he wanted to own it doubly. And then you’ll remember the crucifix and how much Jesus wants to own you, and how so very important He thinks you are.

And then, my friend, do not be anxious anymore.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Lenten Thoughts --- Again

I have many things on my mind, and calling for my time. As I sit and pray in the chapel, I have so many things I need to pray for, and quite frankly, beg for. So I guess with my mind occupied with MY thoughts, Jesus has been paying attention and not troubled me with other thoughts. And since I am not reflecting on anything new of late, I think I'll just re-post this old thought, but one that is ever new for this Lenten season:

Orig: 2/22/10

“It is interesting to note that when people do works of charity, they require that the poor they help be destitute. Actually, in our country, very few people are destitute, but many live right on the margin of destitution, with little or no security and very few frills. Some will say, “Who needs frills?” We all need a few, and I mean need. I love to give presents to poor children and poor old people. They’re not starving but few have ever given them something just because they are themselves. Is it really a frill for a child whose mother is on welfare to get a Christmas present, which could not possibly afford to buy?
Do you want to have a great Lent? Tip the gas station attendant who doesn’t speak English. Tell the newsboy to keep the change, with a smile. Buy a cup of coffee and a doughnut for the fellow collecting aluminum cans to trade in.
Or go first-class. Send a poor child to Catholic school. Help an old lady on Social Security get her medication every month. Tell her you can get it at a discount, and just take a dollar to make her feel that she’s paying for it. She’s getting it at a discount from you.
Lent may be a time of penance, but if you are generous with the frills for God, then you will know that you have brought a smile to the face of Jesus Christ. Happy Lent.”

The King Crucified and Risen – Daily readings from Ash Wednesday to Divine Mercy Sunday, by Benedict Groeschel, C.F.R.

I like most all of Fr. Groeschel’s books; this an excerpt from his daily reader for Lent, and I highly recommend it.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

A Vote For Mercy

I was still thinking about the difficulties in my life and my prayers for mercy when I listened to a talk by Al Kresta, CEO of Ave Maria Radio, on First Friday morning. At one point Al said something I had heard often before: “It’s great to be a Catholic today,” only THAT day my dark thoughts immediately turned it to sarcasm: “Sure it’s great, like it was great to be Catholic in the time of Peter and Paul, who suffered persecution --- like we are today --- and death, as trends seem to indicate we might also see.

But then I stopped. I suddenly saw that my words didn’t seem such a sarcastic comment at all, but rather a true one. There are many things similar about the relationship between Rome and the people of Rome and the Christians of that time, versus the relationship of America and Americans to the Christians of our time. Then there was an arrogant government that thought it knew all --- and even claimed it was led by a god --- and it felt a need to appease and distract the populace. There was something for everyone then, as the people were taught to “eat, drink and be merry” --- and ignore the failings of the Roman government, even in its most basic duties, such as defense. And eventually Rome fell.

The U.S. government acts today in many similar ways, and it too may fall because of its excesses even as Rome did, and like then that would be a great trial for many people --- or perhaps a very good thing.

One thing I thought on Friday morning was the fact that today we are worried about the fate of the Church and Christians (and America!), even as Christians in the time of the Roman Empire were worried about their fate, but Christianity survived that time and even flourished. With a government then, like ours now, giving the people all they might want, still, people turned to Christianity, despite the seemingly pleasing alternative, and despite the persecutions Christians faced. Pope Benedict XVI has declared that starting in October of this year will be a “Year of Evangelization.” What message did the Roman citizens and atheists hear then which turned them from the circuses and sin and a prevalent “me first” attitude to choose Christianity? I wonder: Could that same message be evangelized effectively today?? And just what was it?

In the despair many are feeling in America, is there hope? Al mentioned in his Friday talk that at the time of Jesus the people then also faced some critical elections: and they voted for Barabbas over Jesus, yet in the end it was Jesus who won, and who persevered through His Church. Are these similar days of despair for Christians in America? No, it is a great time to be Catholic, and it is a great time to vote --- with our prayers, to vote for God’s Mercy. And we can have confidence for we have seen its impact in the past.

Easter Sunday reminds us that eternal victory is not just possible, it happened. And Divine Mercy Sunday, which follows one week later, reminds us that even today, in what seems our darkest hours, in what seems a world of sin, that the promise of eternal victory continues, despite our sins, for our God is a Merciful God.
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The night after I listened to Al Kresta’s talk I sat in the adoration chapel and began to read the latest book by Christoph Cardinal Schonborn, titled: We Have Found Mercy. The first chapter was about John Paul II, the Pope of Mercy:

“What can stem the flood of evil? Only God’s mercy sets a limit to evil. Pope John Paul II thinks this while looking back at the terrible years of National Socialism, during which the Poles suffered so much. Ultimately it was not military might that defeated evil but, rather, mercy alone. In this he sees the great sign of hope that God’s mercy has set a limit to the tragic experiences of the twentieth century. The apparent powerlessness of God against the deluge of evil is in reality still the power of good.
In a beautiful prayer, Sister Faustina prays that Jesus’ mercy, this most profound attitude which he brought to the world from the heart of God, so to speak, might thoroughly imbue us, indeed that it might become, as it were, the form of our Being, of our life.”

I want to be completely transformed into Your mercy and to be Your living reflection, O Lord. May the greatest of all divine attributes, that of Your unfathomable mercy, pass through my heart and soul to my neighbor.
Help me, O Lord, that my eyes may be merciful, so that I may never suspect or judge from appearance, but look for what is beautiful in my neighbors’ souls and come to their rescue.
Help me, that my ears may be merciful, so that I may give heed to my neighbors’ needs and not be indifferent to their pains and moanings.
Help me, O Lord, that my tongue may be merciful, so that I should never speak negatively of my neighbor, but have a word of comfort and forgiveness for all.
Help me, O Lord, that my hands may be merciful and filled with good deeds, so that I may do only good to my neighbors and take upon myself the more difficult and toilsome tasks.
Help me, that my feet may be merciful, so that I may hurry to assist my neighbor, overcoming my own fatigue and weariness. My true rest is in the service of my neighbor.
Help me, O Lord, that my heart may be merciful so that I myself may feel all the sufferings of my neighbor. I will refuse my heart to no one. I will be sincere even with those who, I know, will abuse my kindness. And I will lock myself up in the most merciful Heart of Jesus. I will bear my own suffering in silence. May Your mercy, O Lord, rest upon me….
O my Jesus, transform me into Yourself, for You can do all things.

From Diary of Saint Maria Faustina Kowalski: Divine Mercy in My Soul

Do you grasp the heart of this beautiful prayer, my friends? It is a prayer for mercy, but not for us, but rather that we might be merciful, that we might be his instrument of Mercy to our suffering neighbors. The prayer isn’t that God fix my personal problems, but that He help me to fix others’ problems. We look at the coming elections and seek to vote for someone to fix our problems, but the prayer for mercy is a vote for the mercy that WE might do, with God’s help.

I asked what message did the Romans and atheists hear which turned them from the circuses and sin of their time? I think the answer is in the words of the Romans themselves: “See how they love one another.”

I have only read the first chapter of Cardinal Schonborn’s book. It is titled “We Have Found Mercy.” From what I have read thus far, it seems that he implies that “where” this mercy is to be found is in the mirror. And then perhaps even today those who seek to have happiness given to them --- or to take it from others --- and those who think it is love when they constantly seek to pleasure their bodies (and ask others to pay for their sins), perhaps even today these people may tire of this “love” they give to themselves and again marvel at true love, and say once again: “See how they love one another.”

What greater love than this, that a man lay down his life for his friend?

I pray the Divine Mercy Prayer daily: “Have mercy on us and on the whole world.” I think I shall copy this other Divine Mercy prayer and begin to pray it daily also --- and look in the mirror.

If we want to save our country, we have to start by saving one person at a time --- our neighbor.