Archive for August, 2013


I really can’t remember the last time that a homily made me squirm in my seat and cast a downward glance at being convicted of my sinfulness. I can’t call to mind ever leaving mass with a zeal and fiery passion to go make a difference that was so hot I wanted to jump in the Baptismal font just to cool off.

I don’t mean to be facetious.

Let me state first off, that it is my deepest desire to go to heaven.

However, I am human, a sinner, and in desperate need of unabridged, pure, uncensored truth. As such I long to be inspired, motivated, incriminated, and called to redemption. I need the gentle and sometimes not so gentle guidance, of the shepherd’s staff to direct and keep me on the narrow path. I hunger for Scripture to be opened up and made relevant, as well as doctrine and dogma to enlighten my mind and direct my footsteps. Father Barron says that “too often the dogmas and doctrines of the Church are presented in such an abstract and disembodied way that their transformative power is largely overlooked.”

I have sat there in talks and been preached at in pews, as the speaker danced and side stepped around any word or phrase that has the potential to offend me in some unintended way. I once heard a Deacon preach on Ephesians 5:22, by literally apologizing his way through the entire sermon leaving the whole congregation totally befuddled and perplexed.

Why are so many fearful to save our souls but doing back flips not to offend our puny egos?

I want to learn, to grow, to be provoked to change my habitual tendency to sin. I want the leadership in our Church to be the shepherds God appointed them to be and to do whatever it takes to bring their congregations to heaven. Teach us, arouse our curiosity about all things God, wake us out of our long slumber and lethargy.

Why are so many Catholics leaving the Church? I dare say it has more to do with being lulled into a coma instead of rallied for battle-a spiritual battle with eternal consequences. Shame on us all, if anyone ever leaves the Church. For it is in her loving arms that we find Christ Crucified, Christ Risen and Christ Present in every Tabernacle and at every Mass.

But how do we know this when we only hear marshmallow sermons and get gumdrop catechesis?

Is what we hear worth dying for? The early Christian martyrs were willing to be fed to lions, skinned alive, and tortured to death for the truth that we today are so afraid of speaking because someone might look at us sideways.

What will it take to turn things around I wonder? How long will God be patient with us as we cycle back into widespread apathy and prevalent disobedience fueled by subjective relativistic banter? What can each of us do as laity to lift up, encourage, and rekindle fire in the hearts of believers? How can we speak to our priests and catechetical leaders and call them to be catalysts striving to set humanity on fire with the winds of the Word and the Magisterium as the fuel which ignites the flames?

I don’t want to hear any more personal theologies, inclusive language, and whack ideologies. I really don’t care what your opinion is either. Give me the truth, give me the facts, and get out of the way and let God pierce me to the marrow.

Personally I am at wits end.

I have been blessed on occasion to hear some of the great voices of our time and I lapped up the truth like a thirsty man at a spring. I can’t get enough, I want more, I want to dive in head first and swim in the waters of knowledge drinking up every last droplet. The more I learn, the more I realize I don’t know anything at all and yet, I crave all the more to taste the Infinite God.

We are fat, and our teeth are rotten.

Stop feeding us junk, and reintroduce us to a good old fashioned fire and brimstone, keep us out of hell sermon, that has the power to transform us into a people willing to go the distance; even if it means being the main course in the lion’s den.

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Prayer, Faith, Hope and Love

“Faith and hope are given to us in prayer. So without prayer, we are unable to love.” (S.O.G. Madeline Delbrel)

I never thought of it in this way and yet I know it to be true. When we pray we tap into the single greatest source of hope- the Lord. Our faith might be a step into the unknown, but not the Unknowable.

We know God, we really do deep inside. We came from Love itself, our hearts know this at their very center. We march through this world day in and day out, searching, yearning, filled with desire… an insatiable desire to taste again that supreme Love.

We can’t re-cognize something we don’t know, but only something we have known before. We know it when we feel it, sense it, experience it again. It is Divine Truth, Divine Love, an experience that cuts to our very center and we KNOW unequivocally and recognize it.

Prayer is the pathway. It is the reaching out, the step forward, the new breath. “Speak oh Lord, your servant is listening.” (1 Sam 3:9)

Like a spider waits on the web, attentive and sensitive to even the slightest movement, we too must be to the whisper that our Lord may wish to impart to us in prayer.

“It is our faith and hope, growing through prayer, that remove the obstacle that most blocks the road of our love; namely, a concern for ourselves” (Delbrel)

Faith then, I believe, is a surrender of myself, a letting go, a falling back into the waiting arms of my beloved Lord. A free fall in the truest sense of the word. A free fall into the safety of the hands of the One who will never let go, never leave, and never give up on us…even when we give up on ourselves and Him.

Trust that Divine Love awaits, thirsts for you, pines for you and desires to be in conversation and relationship with you. This is our hope, our faith, and ultimately our prayer.

The “Y” Cord

I would like to think that it all started with the “Y” cord, but I know that is not so. Maybe it would be more accurate to state that perhaps it started with the words, why not.

We were presenting a marriage preparation class to thirty-five couples the other day, and wanting to give them the best experience possible we had all the latest presentation tools lined up, well almost anyway. We had hoped to show the newest USCCB video, “Saying I Do” but a simple little cord was needed to get sound to the whole room. My mission, get the “Y” cord.

After waiting forty-five minutes for the guitar place to open, I confidently strolled up to the counter and asked for a Y cord, to which the tattoo laden, half asleep young man answered, “which one?” This was not a question I was prepared to answer. Silly, old lady, she thought there was only one. Using my spiffy camera phone I took pictures of the various possibilities and sent them to Rob our techno-wizard/youth minister. As the minutes clocked by, I wondered why the delay in his response and looked at my phone. After all we are all trained with the new technologies to get instantaneous world wide information in seconds. The little blue spinny thing indicated that it was still trying to send the pictures. I walked outside and held my phone up high hoping this would get it a little closer the satellite for faster sending capabilities.

That didn’t work and I looked like an idiot to the other tattoo laden, gauge incrusted young folks having their morning smoke outside.

Plan B was go inside and take a stab at the possibilities, as time was of the essence. I made my purchase feeling pretty confident that I had the right pluggy things to go in the correct receptors. At the break we anxiously plugged all the right cords into the right places and we still seemed to be missing, one simple little cord. This was beginning to feel like feeding a mouse a cookie.

We ended up just sticking a microphone by the LCD projector to pick up the little bit of volume coming from there. It sounded muffled and dull, so much for wowing them.

If technology is supposed to make our lives so much easier, why does it feel so difficult?

I found myself thinking of Christ’s Sermon on the Mount. Unavailable were Power Point, or Prezi, a sound system or sound tech. He didn’t have the Apostles set the mount with special effects to dazzle the crowd in the preconcert show. Lacking were the huge jumbo-trons with giant images of Christ while he spoke.

He just spoke.

The Apostles had a hard enough time figuring out where to get enough food to feed everyone, imagine if they were sent out to find a Y cord.

So much today we rely on technology when we do our presentations to blow the minds of our audience, tickle their gray matter, and titillate their senses. Mostly I think, they get lost in all the fanfare and completely ignore what is being said…or worse we lull them into a coma like state.

This all leaves me in a bit of a quandary frankly. Jesus I am not.

I imagine the kind of hold Jesus had on His listeners. They hung on His every word, let it sink in, roll around in their minds and produce a response. Sometimes it was positive, and transformative. Other times, negative and people picked up stones. That means He got their attention, because they were listening. So what will we do in the future as we have many more classes to teach and couples to impact?

I think I will try and minimize the effects and maximize the message. It means I need to know my message and more important know Who it comes from. Do I trust that the Holy Spirit can work in these fickle modern times when we depend more heavily on gadgets and gimmicks to get people’s attention than on the words themselves?

Jesus is after all, the Word.

That Word, His Word, has the power to cut through to the bone and into the marrow; to pierce hard hearts, to plant seeds on fertile ground, and to set souls on fire.

It will take prayer, lots of prayer. It will take surrender to the Holy Spirit to be lead, to trust, to guide. It will take courage beyond measure to entrust our audience over to God and let ourselves be His conduit to bring His electrifying message home to darkened hearts.

Frankly, while the task sounds daunting, and scares the crud out of me; it is also a grand relief. The unbelievable stress that malfunctioning, nonfunctioning and crashed equipment has caused me over the years has aged me a decade. If it can go wrong, I have found…it does. I am tired of placing my trust in manmade material and it is time to plug into the Divine.

Pray for me. Pray for us, and pray that our listeners will open their hearts and ears to the Good News God wants to share with them for their marriage.

Let the Fire Fall

“Just about the worst thing we can do with Jesus is to domesticate him, to turn him into a nice, harmless figure, simply a teller of tales and wise spiritual teacher. He announces himself as an arsonist: “I have come to set the earth on fire, and how I wish it were already blazing.” ~ Fr. Robert Barron

Why do we humans settle for “lukewarm” when it comes to faith?

I see people on game days dressing up in jerseys and sporting team colors, spending countless hours and dollars on following a team and when it comes to faith or participation at mass can barely utter an audible AMEN.

I see people spending millions of dollars on the latest clothing trends and for church they look like they have barely given more than a seconds attention to what they wear to God’s house.

What was Christ talking about when he stated His desire that we were already blazing? Do we possess a single heart for Him? Do our hearts burn with love? Do they have the ability to set the world afire?

What images arise in your mind when you hear these words of Christ?

Regret? Anger? Disappointment? Passion? Energy?

For myself; all of the above.

Regret, that it isn’t happening already and it is 2000+ years later.

Anger, that we let temporal things get in the way of the eternal realities, and are easily distracted, defeated, and discouraged.

Disappointment, because we lack focused discipline and determination for the things of God.

Passion and Energy, for all the wrong things; diets, politics, sports, material things, excessive exercise, gastronomy, celebrities, clothing, shoes; need I go on?

So what will it take to transform our hearts, refocus our lives, and realign our priorities? God knows a little secret that has worked for as long as humans have walked the planet; suffering.

Nothing gets our attention like pain. It seems to cut through all the BS and get right to the heart of the matter. We tend to look up when there is no relief in sight. We tend to bend the knee when answers are not forth coming. We tend to bow our heads and surrender our wills when we have no one else to turn to.

Yes, God knows what it takes to get our attention. What we have to remember is that it is not out of spite or malice but out of love. Suffering can purify and cleanse away impurities. It can help us detach from harmful habits and unhealthy attachments to earthly things and more importantly it can assist us making the necessary adjustments to fire up the furnace of love.

Let us beg for the fire of the Holy Spirit to fall on humanity and set our hearts on fire for Christ– a transforming fire, a fire of love… a cleansing fire that purifies hearts and souls!! Come Holy Spirit come, set us a blaze!

Bear Your Cross

Blessed John Henry Newman writes, “You have one work only: to bear your cross after Him.”

What is our natural aversion to suffering and the crosses of our life? Self-preservation, weakness, wimpy-ness, apathy or out and out refusal? I am sure there are many more words than the few I have listed.

If we declare ourselves Christians, and at its very root that means following Christ, He states, “If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. (Luke 9:23, Matt 16:24) then we must consider what this means.

Surely as human beings we understand the value in pushing through difficulties. In hindsight, we often look back at those times in our life and see growth from those times. After all, “that which doesn’t kill us makes us stronger.” We can all attest to that no doubt.

So why the reluctance to take up our crosses?

Fear, I suspect is a strong motivator. Fear of what? The unknown, the consequences, the outcomes, the price.

If we believe Christ to be God and trust that He has our backs and only wants what is best for us, loves us beyond measure, and desires our union with Him in eternal bliss; we have got to believe that the cross is good for us.

So why delay? One of my favorite parts in the Passion of the Christ was when Christ was given His cross and He embraced and kissed it. In imitation of our Lord we must do the same. It only becomes sweeter and lighter when we do. Yes, sweeter and lighter.

Newman goes on to write, “Every act of obedience is an approach-an approach to Him who is not far off, though He seems so…”

Do not fear, trust in the Lord and pick up that cross you have been avoiding- it is you will find, the very remedy to your problem and the key to heaven.

Violated

I awoke before dawn and was assaulted by the knowledge that today the President of the United States was coming to our little neck of the world. From the moment I heard about his little visit I have been torn, frustrated and angered.

Why here, why come to a high school in a remote southern section of Phoenix on the second day of class, when there is already sufficient confusion and anxiety.

Why indeed?

This twenty minute visit serves what purpose? To what positive end, what benefit will this brief visit provide for a hurting nation? I know what this stopover will do for us locally; disrupt traffic, add apprehension to an already charged atmosphere on campus, cause additional delays by the heightened security, as well as an influx of strangers on site. What cost will this spectacle be to tax payers and a nation already in extreme debt?

Rather than feel honored at this visit, I feel violated. Like Ananias, I wanted to say to God, “Lord I have heard from many sources about this man, what evil he has done…” How I wished and prayed that this day might be more about his conversion, like Saul’s. Imagine the real good that a man in his position, influenced by the Holy Spirit might make.

This is the school that all five of our children attended. This is where our kids were educated. This is where we spent countless hours watching volleyball games, marching band performances, tennis and badminton games. We met friends here, formed relationships, laughed and cried. We sat on the bleachers in sweltering heat for five graduations.

This man who is my single biggest challenge in charity due to his assault on the unborn, his attack on religious freedom and his policies that continue to degrade and divide this great nation.

I began to weep as I prayed for answers. I picked up the greatest weapon I knew of, the Rosary. Tears cascaded down my cheeks and I let them soak into the olive wood beads.

“…deliver us from all evil.”

Lord, it is only so, because you allow it. Somehow all of these setbacks, tribulations, actions that seem to increase evil in the world and attachment to sin-you allow in your Divine Providence. You have a plan. Never let me forget that. Your ways are greater and higher than my mind can understand. Help me trust in you. Let me feel your presence, and be an instrument for your work in the world.

“…lead all souls to heaven especially those most in need of your mercy.”

No one while living, is ever completely lost or without the need for prayers and mercy. Help me pray for the conversion of all sinners most of all myself. Let your mercy be upon us as we place our trust in you.

“…to thee do we send up our sighs mourning and weeping in this vale of tears…”

Mother Mary, you weep and intercede for all of your children. He is yours too; he is lost and is in need of conversion. We are all in this “exile” as we journey towards heaven. Help us turn to you in our mourning, in our pain, confusion and hopelessness. Lead us to your Son.

“…be our protection against the wickedness and snares of the devil”

We are not alone; we are not left to our own devices. All of heaven is fighting for us, interceding for us. There is a spiritual battle raging and there will be causalities. Pray that we will not be put to the test but knowing if we are, you will give us the words, and the tools we need to fight.

As I concluded my prayers, I looked out the window and saw that a light rain was falling, a miracle in this dry desert. I wondered if heaven was weeping too at the state of humanity.

Perhaps there was a chance for a real storm after all, and maybe even some lightening too; the kind of light that comes from heaven and knocks people to the ground and they hear voices.

As Summer Drags On

When it finally heats up in Arizona, it seems to drag on well into the fall. Other states might be getting into their light jackets and raking leaves…we are still swimming in sweat and in our pools.

Sure there is good and bad to every place on the planet. Some worry about tornadoes, tsunami’s, and earthquakes; we get dust storms. A couple of years ago we made the national news with what they coined a “haboob.” This one was seventy miles wide and brought dust through anything with even the minutest crack. We live on the edge of a wide open reservation, so we saw this mighty wind coming. It was different than other dust storms as it seemed to pick up the very ground it proceeded giving a eerie other worldly appearance. We stood out there like fools filming it as it consumed our home in total darkness. Can’t imagine any of that was good for our lungs- but boy golly we had great footage.

So the long and short of this note is that life can seem like an endless summer; sometimes full of fun and other times hot, humid, painful and unending. But the simple truth is it only really lasts a little while and then the next season eventually comes and so too will relief.

God can use any occasion to teach us something, stretch our limits, expand our hearts; even hot summer days that turn into hot summer nights.

Let us glory in the Lord in sweltering heat and in frigid cold. Let us never weary of saying “thank you” for every moment of every day of our lives because before we know it they will be over.