Yes, the Eucharist is a Prize! Are you perfect?

 

We live in an age of sound bites, and tweets. When they sound convincing, people latch on to them, sharing and repeating them over and over, regardless if they really understand what they are saying. Short phrases and quotes about the Catholic faith are some of the worst going around. You may have heard this: “The Eucharist is not a prize for the perfect!”

I think it is generally quoted to support those who feel that because of the Church’s “judgment” of their sins that they are unwelcome at the Lord’s table. There is some truth to that, but as is the case with most theological truths…there is so much more. Continue To Read More

True and Good and Beautiful (Will we fight for it for our children?)

photo by Sarah Herod

My nephew, a young teen, helped me learn something recently, and he doesn’t even know it.

At a family gathering, I was sitting with him watching a movie that someone had turned on. The name of the movie isn’t important as is this one scene, which is far from the worst of what our children are exposed to on a daily basis, but indicative of what our culture has become.

It was a well-known PG-13 movie, sentimental, nostalgic, a glance at a more innocent era, only parts of it were really anything but that. While nothing was explicitly shown, one scene showed teenage girls and boys, “romping around” in cars, in a popular “make out” parking spot. In the heat of passion, one boy pulls his “protection” out of his wallet, and comments that it had been in there since the seventh grade, so they promptly toss it and resume their activity anyway.

While we had been chatting a little before, there was an awkward silence that followed, sitting there with my nephew. I hadn’t seen this movie in many years, so I didn’t remember this being in there. And unfortunately, as often happens to me when I am caught off guard, I did not have the proper response. I wish I could say that I had used this as some great teaching/sharing moment with my nephew, but I dropped the ball, and probably said something as equally awkward as the silence.

But at least I learned something!  Having him there next to me, showed me something about how far we have allowed Hollywood, the media, music industry, and others to steal away goodness from our children.

Earlier that day, while in prayer, the Lord seemed to put something in my mind. It was the question, “What is true, and good, and beautiful?”  So, I just pondered it, turning it over in my thoughts, while asking the Lord what it is He wanted to show me about this.

Later when I was thinking about this situation, I realized something…people have become so used to being exposed to immorality, that no one is really phased by it anymore, so it may help to apply this little God-test:

 Is it true, and good, and beautiful?

Truth

I went back to the scene from the movie. Was the truth of God presented?

God’s truth is that sex is meant for Holy Matrimony alone. It is a self-donation of husband and wife, with God, to bring children into the world, and form the family. This is God’s design. After the sexual revolution which began in the 60’s and 70’s, we have trampled that in every possible way. The family is crucial for society and for the Church, but especially for the children. When we don’t follow God’s plan for morality we will cause suffering to ourselves and others. In this movie scene, we are supposed to think that this is a rite of passage, the harmless fun of teenagers exploring their sexuality, but what we don’t see is the reality that often follows…unwanted pregnancies, abortions, STDs, young teens already on the pill, an abortifacient, and cause of cancer, manipulation, lies, being used, painful breakups, and sometimes life-altering consequences, just to name a few!

Another thing that I only recently came to realize, after listening to a talk by a priest, is that when a man and woman have sexual relations, if they are not married, an emotional/physical/spiritual bond still occurs that can then distort their right reason. It becomes skewed. Among the effects is that someone may stay with a person who, if sex was not part of the relationship, he/she may have clearly seen as a wrong relationship. Once that physical aspect of the relationship is there, it is much more difficult to have good judgment about the other person, and it may keep you attached to someone God hasn’t meant for you. Not only that, but just as a holy bond can bring God’s grace to a relationship, an unholy bond can bring evil with it. This priest, an exorcist, said that demons can be attached to you, and stay with you, dragging you further down into sin, and causing chaos in your life. (This is not the same as possession, although this too can happen with mortal sin.)

Goodness

Truth then led me to the word goodness. Does goodness come from this movie scene?

It was obvious from the level of awkwardness, and embarrassment felt, that this was not something “good” for my nephew’s soul, or mine! There was nothing redeeming about this scene which was clearly showing two people using each other for pleasure. The boy in the scene couldn’t even remember her name! There was an aspect of revenge in it too, if I recall. The bottom line was that there was nothing good for my nephew’s heart in this….nothing.  It could only steal innocence and goodness from his heart and soul. Furthermore, it gives him the wrong notions about how to treat women, about sex, and it desensitizes him to things that God does not wish his eyes to see nor his heart to accept.

And you remember what Jesus said about the heart, “But the things that come out of the mouth come from the heart, and they defile. For from the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, unchastity, theft, false witness, blasphemy.” Matthew 15:18-19

Being a parent, and now grandparent, I fully realize the tremendous effort it takes to protect your children from bad influences. They are literally everywhere. No one really thought anything about this movie being on, and it seemed quite harmless. My nephew, himself, may have even forgotten it. But here is where the danger lies. You may be thinking that I am making a mountain out of a molehill…fair enough. I have heard that before.  I have also failed terribly at times in protecting my own children. But consider this, if we are not vigilant, faithful even in the small things, as Jesus asks us to do, look at what is at stake…the hearts and minds of our children concerning one of the most important aspects of their lives!

Beauty

So, what about Beauty?

Truth and goodness leads to beauty. There is beauty in created things, but there is also a beauty that comes from living in God’s will. And just as God is Truth, and Goodness, He is also Beauty. So, when you turn to Truth and Goodness, you naturally encounter Beauty. And you see the Beauty in things as God intends.

So, applying this to the movie scene, I could say that there was no real Beauty, only the distorted beauty that the world sees sex being. Have you ever noticed that the term “making love” is often used synonymously for sex, especially in movies, music, etc., whether it is sex between two unmarried people in a one night stand, or even sex with a prostitute! The term itself is a distortion of what sex is meant to be. So, since any sex outside of matrimony doesn’t follow from Truth and Goodness, it is not real Beauty either. It is false love. It is fake. Oh, but we will still try to hold on to it, as if it is real.

We have become so desensitized, and so blinded, that we no longer look at things from God’s perspective, and see things as they really are. But I think we can easily see what the absence of Truth, Goodness, and Beauty has given us. We are living in the foul result.

Our children are suffering because of it. If we who DO see, do not fight for our children, protecting them from filth, and filling their minds and hearts with what IS true and good and beautiful, then who will? There is no one else!

For many years, we, as a society, as parents, and as a Church too have allowed it to happen without much protest. We have gotten sucked into it ourselves, and let it happen. Much of it we have considerable control over with a simple push of an “off” button, or removal of a tv, or other devices, or by how we spend (or don’t spend) our money for channels, or movies and shows. Some things we think we can’t live without, but do we have the courage to try?

All of this goes without saying for parents, but if you have a niece, nephew, Godchild, or a friend’s child, you can also do something to show them what Truth, Goodness, and Beauty really is. Think and pray about it, and see what you and the Lord come up with! It can be something as simple as reading a really great, inspiring book together, or expanding their horizons to some wonderful experience.

We can also speak, write, and stand up for Truth, Goodness, and Beauty! Do we care enough to do it? You are probably thinking, “What difference does it make? There is too much filth, and I am just one person. It is too late.”  

But it is NOT too late, because God Himself, is for Truth, Goodness and Beauty! And guess what? He chooses to use us to accomplish the uplifting of it! So, he is waiting for YOU to do some things that only you are meant to do. Most of the time God doesn’t expect me to do big things, just to be faithful in small ones. So, look at the gifts you have, and the circumstances God has given you, and ask Him, “What is it you are asking me to do, Lord.”

You can also look at different things in your life, and apply the question: Is there truth, goodness, and beauty in this? Perhaps, God has something to show you.

I feel like the Lord wants us to wake up to this.

He created us for something far more beautiful, and He wants his children back.

“All that is good, all that is true, all that is beautiful, brings us to God.” Pope Francis

Sheep Without a Shepherd (Bishops, we need you now!)

[I wrote this in 2017, before the latest scandals and Vigano testimonies. In light of these developments, and the Bishops meeting coming up now in November 2018, I felt that I should repost it. I know that I am not alone in my feelings, and if anything they are felt more strongly and urgently. I hope that it is taken with the love and respect intended for our Bishops.]

 

At the sight of the crowds, his heart was moved with pity. They were lying prostrate from exhaustion, like sheep without a shepherd. He said to the disciples: “The harvest is good but laborers are scarce. Beg the harvest master to send out laborers to gather his harvest.” Mt 9:36-38

Dear Bishops,

I have tried to write this a dozen times, but the words burning in my heart never seemed to come out right. Today, after Adoration of Jesus in the Eucharist, I feel compelled to write to you.

From the papal encyclical, Miserentissimus Redemptor, comes the mystical teaching that the Mystical Body of Christ must pass through the same Passion and death as Jesus, “whatever the head suffers, all the members must suffer with it.” With all the turmoil going on in the Church now, I wonder if the Mystical Body is truly in its Passion.

Peter and the apostles loved Jesus deeply, but when He needed them most, Peter lost his strength and conviction, and the rest scattered in fear. Only John remained at the foot of the cross with Mary. There are still faithful, courageous “Johns”, and I thank God for them, but why aren’t there more, standing together for the Lord? Then, even more upsetting, it seems that some Cardinals, Bishops and priests, like Judas, have sold out Jesus, for power, lust, money, adulation, or perhaps to affirm themselves in their own sin. I don’t know, but please God, if that is the case, give them the grace of repentance. How will they answer to God, especially for souls led astray?

I have read Pope Francis’ exhortation Amoris Laetitia; his words are moving and relevant for our time. I believe that I understand his mission. It is vital to reach and draw in all of God’s people. But…. he is strangely silent when confusion and disorder in Our Lord’s Church is increasing. Cardinals, Bishops and priests all over the world are interpreting his words differently and claiming “new” moralities. This has led many people to think that the teaching of the Church has changed, or that Truth and morals are just an ideal, and in the “real world”, unattainable, as if the power of the Lord’s grace is as nothing!

Others are twisting truth, tamping it down with words more palatable, or outright defying definitive teachings. Some of our Priests, Bishops and Cardinals are bowing to the secular world instead of the Lord! I know I am not the only lay person who wonders… why is it being allowed? Why are we not hearing the courageous voices of ALL of Jesus’ chosen ones?! I think that Pope Francis has a great responsibility to clarify and defend Truth for the sake of people’s souls, and because he is the guardian of the Church and the faith, but, as our chosen Shepherds, don’t you too?

Even though this can be discouraging and despairing to watch, I am holding on to hope. Because I see how Jesus taught something to Peter and the apostles. And after realizing their weakness, they found their strength, and zeal with an outpouring of grace! Some of us are praying for an outpouring now. I know it WILL come!

The Church’s mission is to save souls, to help them get to heaven. I have children and grandchildren living in a spiritually toxic world that is death to their souls, and the insanity seems to be increasing day by day. I fear for them, and if I didn’t believe in the Triumph of the Immaculate Heart of Mary foretold at Fatima, my heart could not bear it. I hear other parents and grandparents pleading for prayers, and help. Many of our children are sucked into every trap of Satan, blinded by mortal sin or the empty trappings of the world, some rejecting their faith or even God, some lost in addictions, depressed, in despair, without hope.

Do you see? They are languishing on your watch. They need the truth and grace of Jesus Christ! They need to be stirred and steeled in these times! They need to know that they are not called to a life of mediocrity; they are called to be Saints! And I have no doubt that saints, maybe even great ones for our time, will be influenced by you, a holy Bishop or priest! You have a great responsibility to us all, but I think more so to them, because they are the future of the Church!

I was speaking with my son, who is in his early twenties, recently. He said, “When I need real nourishment for my body, I don’t need the ice-cream shop. When I need real nourishment for my soul, I don’t need the Church to be the ice-cream shop, giving me just what I like.”  Our young want and need REAL nourishment. My son goes around to different Catholic Churches in his city looking for truth, direction, motivation, challenge, inspiring words, quiet and a sense of the Sacred. He struggles just like most young people, but is searching for something that is lacking, and trying to be faithful. Won’t you help him?

“They were lying prostrate on the ground, like sheep without a shepherd.” Other translations of this verse use the words dispirited, distressed, helpless. I have been pondering this line for a long time, and while it hurts me deeply to say it, dear Shepherds, this is the image I see of your people. Many have lost their faith altogether. Many don’t know or believe major tenets like the Real Presence. And some who by the grace of God are still holding on, need their Shepherds to lead us through the treacherous, narrow paths, and to quench our thirst with life-giving Truth, and inspire us with zeal and conviction! We are dying out here!

In my prayer, I am begging the Lord to help you realize that we need you now, more than ever! Have some of you been “overcome by sleep”? Please, we need you to become “fully awake”, and to be courageous now, so that we can find courage!

We are living in turbulent times in the world, and in the Catholic Church. But isn’t this a sure sign that Jesus is doing something new, something wonderful to build up His Church, strengthen our faith, and teach us something, just as he did with the Apostles?

I am sure that Mother Mary was a help to the Apostles when they needed it, and I know that she will be there for you too! She has shown me how to better love and respect Jesus in the Eucharist, and I firmly believe if we turn to Jesus in the Eucharist together, as the Mystical Body of Christ that He will shower us with grace and help for His Church, His Shepherds and priests, and the world!

You were chosen for this time to lead us, and I thank God for you! Please show us how to “draw our strength from the Lord, and His mighty power, and put on the armor of God”!!

Finally, draw your strength from the Lord and from his mighty power. Put on the armor of God so that you may be able to stand firm against the tactics of the devil. For our struggle is not with flesh and blood but with the principalities, with the powers, with the world rulers of this present darkness, with the evil spirits in the heavens. Therefore, put on the armor of God, that you may be able to resist on the evil day and, having done everything, to hold your ground. So, stand fast with your loins girded in truth, clothed with righteousness as a breastplate, and your feet shod in readiness for the gospel of peace. In all circumstances, hold faith as a shield, to quench all [the] flaming arrows of the evil one. And take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
With all prayer and supplication, pray at every opportunity in the Spirit. To that end, be watchful with all perseverance and supplication for all the holy ones, and also for me, that speech may be given me to open my mouth, to make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel for which I am an ambassador in chains, so that I may have the courage to speak as I must.
Ephesians 6: 10-20

All Things New

photo by Sarah Herod

He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there shall be no more death or mourning, wailing or pain, (for) the old order has passed away. The one who sat on the throne said, “Behold, I make all things new.” Also, he said “Write this, for these words are trustworthy and true.” Revelation 21:4-5

Do you believe these words of the Lord?
Do you have something in your past that you are ashamed of?
Do you carry hurts and pain from long ago?
Do you feel the burden of daily personal and worldly trials?
Today is for you!

Every bit of your past and present and future,  Jesus saw in the Garden and on the Cross…
every bit of it.
And He loved you all the more! In fact, when he said “I thirst.”, he was asking for much more than water. If it took such tremendous effort and pain to push up on his feet just to get a breath while hanging on the cross, then each and every word spoken there must have the most important meaning. He was saying, “I thirst for souls. Do not let what I have offered for you be in vain. Please accept my Love. Please come to me all you who are heavily burdened. I will give you eternal rest.”

So, take all of those things and bury them. They were with Jesus when He was on Calvary. He wants them buried with Him in the tomb.

You bury them too.
Bury them deep. Ask the Lord to help you.

And if you are Catholic, and need the Sacrament of Reconciliation then go! Go and spill out all your past transgressions, and know the power of forgiveness through the absolution of the priest’s blessing over you. When you receive it, you know you have been forgiven, and can let go of it forever. We have Our Lord’s promise in his own words to the apostles! “Whose sins you shall forgive they shall be forgiven.” There is nothing the Lord will not forgive if we have but a little sorrow, and the desire not to offend Him again. And there is no greater freedom!! Start fresh. We can always start fresh. It is a new day!

If you do this, you are planting a seed along with all the refuse you have buried.

And what is deeply buried can spring forth new life.

This is the transforming power of Jesus’ Resurrection.

“Behold, I make all things new!!”

Do you believe it?

Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!
Happy Easter!!!

Good Friday Happened

 

Our Good Friday Veneration of the Cross service last night was so moving and beautiful, people were in tears. The priest and deacons laying prostrate on the floor in humble submission to the Lord, the Church filled with so many people who, one by one, venerate the crucifix (the corpus of Jesus on a cross) held by the deacon, with a kiss or some other gesture of love, the respect and honor with which Our Lord in the Eucharist is brought out of “repose” in order for us to receive Him on this very solemn, most important day, was all so touching, and just one reason that I love being Catholic.

We fast, we pray, and we remember.

There is no greater Love than what happened on Good Friday for each and every one of us! There is no Easter without the suffering beyond any human suffering that Jesus Christ endured for us, just so we could be happy with him in heaven. It is so right to not only remember it, but with great humility and love to revere Him and thank Him. I am not worthy or deserving of this love, but at least I can be grateful.

And so I thank you Jesus, thank you, thank you for loving me this much. I thank you for giving me the gift of faith, and the gift of your Church, my family and just… everything!

Jesus, I love you so much! I wish everybody loved you!

The Good Wine

 

It is Lent as I write this, and although this Scripture passage is one that may not seem to fit with this time of year, it is one that has given me much insight into works and miracles, and how the Lord uses our meager efforts.

photo by Sarah Herod

One of my favorite passages of Scripture to meditate on is the Wedding Feast at Cana. I can picture in my mind, happy faces, laughter, dancing, tables of food and of course, wine…Jesus was there, the Gospel tells us, and so was his mother. I imagine her looking around, quietly taking it all in, when she suddenly notices a group of servers discussing something, and instead of smiles, they have looks of concern. I see her stand, and without notice, go over to see what could possibly be putting a damper on this happy occasion. After discovering that there is no more wine, something that would embarrass the groom tremendously in those days, and ruin the wedding feast, her thoughts turn quickly to her Son.

She simply says to Him, “They have no more wine.” He knows full well what she is proposing to Him, but curiously, says “Woman, how does your concern affect me? My hour has not yet come.” One word in his response speaks volumes to me…

“Woman”. The first woman, Eve, by her disobedience lost sanctifying grace for us, and God could have left us in that state. But instead, because his heart was moved with pity and great love, he created another woman, who was “full of grace”, and in her perfect obedience and fiat to His will, (completely contrary to the disobedience of the first woman) she would bring us the Savior. This one word, “woman”, spoken at the beginning of his ministry tells us who she is, “the woman clothed with the Sun”, and how she fits into God’s plan for all humanity. And so, she does intercede without the bridegroom even knowing. She acts with certainty too, knowing Jesus will take care of it.

“Do whatever He tells you.” She says to the servers.

Six stone water jars are there, each holding twenty to thirty gallons. “Fill the jars with water.” Jesus says. And they filled them to the brim. “Draw some out now and take it to the headwaiter.” And so, they took it. And the headwaiter, when he had tasted the water become wine, without knowing where it came from, said to the bridegroom, obviously impressed, “Most people serve the good wine first, and then when people have drunk freely, an inferior one. But you have kept the good wine until last.

How does this Scripture speak to us now?

It tells us that Mary is our Mother, quietly watching out for us, interceding with her Son. She does it without us even knowing.

It tells us that she always points us to Jesus, “Do whatever He tells you.” She says to us. She always wants to bring us closer to her Son.

And what do the six stone water jars represent in our lives? Well, what vocation, work, mission, prayer need, apostolate, has Jesus given us to do?

“Fill the jars…” He said to the servers. And so, must we, do all we can do, filling our jars to the brim. When we have put our all into it, whatever it is, then we can offer it to Jesus as a gift.  He is touched by our little or great efforts done for love of Him.

Jesus’ first miracle was quietly done, and mostly unseen except for a few. What quiet, unseen, miracle is He working in you? Or doing for your loved one? Or applying to some work you have endeavored? Do we simply trust, like Mary, that He will do it?

Draw some out now…” When it is the right time,  Jesus will show something of this work, this miracle, He has done with your meager efforts, and given to Him with love.

Then you may taste and see the fruit of His work. That is the good wine.

 

 

Trusting in the Goodness of God

“Those who know your name trust in you; you never forsake those who seek you, Lord.” Psalm 9:11

In these dark times, it is easy to slip into despair, feel hopeless, and wonder where God is in all this mess that is in the world we live in. That is what the devil wants us to do. He wants us to believe that God doesn’t care, that we are alone, and worthless.

Trusting In The Goodness of God

photo by Sarah Herod

But we must fight against these despairing thoughts, which cause us to be frozen in fear, or dejection. They keep us from doing the good things we are meant to do. Fear and despair can cause us to give up…on God, on life, and on our own self worth. The devil wants to cause this in order to steal our joy.

And when we lose our joy, it means we have lost trust.

Our Lord said to Saint Faustina, “The thing that glorifies me most is a soul that trusts in my goodness.” Continue To Read More