Tuesday, June 30, 2015

June 30, 2015 Tuesday: 13th Week in Ordinary Time

June 30, 2015 Tuesday: 13th Week in Ordinary Time

As Jesus got into a boat, his disciples followed him. Suddenly a violent storm came up on the sea, so that the boat was being swamped by waves; but he was asleep. They came and woke him, saying, “Lord, save us! We are perishing!” He said to them, “Why are you terrified, O you of little faith?” Then he got up, rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was great calm. The men were amazed and said, “What sort of man is this, whom even the winds and the sea obey?” (Matthew 8:23-27)

Today’s gospel tells us that Jesus is asleep maybe because, as a human being, He is exhausted after a day of intense work among His people. Even the raging waves touching the sides of the boat do not awaken Him. But the disciples are afraid because they are in danger. And so they awaken Jesus and ask Him to save them because they are perishing (v. 25). And Jesus calms not only the storm and the sea but also the fear of the disciples who are with Him in the boat. After Jesus has calmed the storm, He says to them: “Why are you terrified, O you of little faith,” (v. 26)?

Therefore this Gospel passage reminds us to examine our faith in relation to our fears. D. A. Carson once said: “Faith drives out fear and fear drives out faith.” Yes we all believe that Jesus is God but do we live each day with the belief and trust that Jesus is truly in control of every crisis situation in our lives? How many times do we call God for help in times of trouble and if we feel that He is not responding immediately, we say: “Jesus, where are you when I needed you most?” We feel that Jesus is sleeping in times of our crises and troubles.

But actually this reveals only our sleeping faith in Him. It is because Christ is ever present to us. The theological definition of the Presence of God is this: There are two ways of looking upon the presence of God. The first is that God is present to us, that is, that we think of Him, and that in the eyes of faith, we look upon His Divine Being as intimately present in the place in which we are. This is called the immanent presence of God. The second is that we are presence to God, that is, He sees us and is always looking upon us so that nothing escapes His observation: words, deeds, thoughts, desires and intentions, and that wherever we may be we may always have Him for a spectator, witness and judge of all that we do. This is the transcendent presence of God. That we should act well or ill, such actions are always in His presence and before His eyes. In other words, He is not sleeping. This is the answer to the question to this young nephew of a priest when he asked his uncle-priest: “Does God ever sleep?” And in our times of trouble Jesus asks the same question: Why are you afraid? Have you no faith? Does each one of us recognize the Lord’s presence with us especially when we meet the storms of adversity, sorrow or temptation? Whenever we encounter trouble, the Lord is there with the same reassuring message: “It is I, do not be afraid”.
-Rev. Fr. Joseph S. Benitez

Living God, stand by me. Hold me up. Be my strength when I am tired, my inspiration when I am bored, my life when I am listless. Living God, I cannot always meet the standard expected of me, cannot always be the personality I am known for. Abba when I fail, Abba when I stumble, I will rest in your presence. —Edwina Gately

Monday, June 29, 2015

June 29, 2015 Monday: Apostles Peter and Paul

June 29, 2015 Monday: Apostles Peter and Paul

“Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” (Jn 21:15). Peter had long stopped expecting Jesus to speak to him personally, and if he expected anything, it was a reprimand or correction. He would never have imagined that the Risen One would simply ask him if he loved him. He had prepared to respond to a severe correction; he had prepared to ask for mercy, weeping, admitting that he was a sinner, vile, the last of all . . . “Do you love me?” and again, “more than these”, “more than these”, meaning more than John, who had followed him all the way to the foot of the cross? But what struck Simon was not only the Lord’s question but the tone in which he asked it. Jesus was not testing him; this was not a trial. Jesus was begging for his love, begging for what he needed.

Peter was there, in the midst of his companions, but now everything was taking place between himself and Jesus, as it did in the courtyard of the high priest. Simon was alone before Jesus, who was in need of his love. He didn’t need a sword to free him from the guard who was holding him or from the Jews or the Romans who wanted to take his life. Jesus needed love, his love. “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” Jesus added, not as a question, but as a simple statement: “Feed my lambs.”

There was silence. Peter could have started talking about something else, anything else, just to extend the pleasure of being there together. But Jesus continued to look at Peter, and Peter did not lower his eyes, because he had just told Jesus that he loved him, and because Jesus, with his thirst for love, could not be feared.

Peter heard his name spoken a second time, and he recoiled again. “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” (Jn 21:16). Had he not said the right thing? Or had he not been sincere? Had he not said the right thing? Or had he not been sincere? Didn’t Jesus believe that he loved him? Peter repeated the question to himself: Do I really love him? But what does it mean to love Jesus? How can I pretend to love him? How can I believe that Jesus needs my love? He looked into the Lord’s eyes. It was as if the Lord’s expression was giving the right shape to the raw material of what he wanted to say. Peter repeated, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” And once again, in the same tone, Jesus said to him, “Tend my sheep.”

Jesus looked out toward the open lake, and Peter did the same. The sun had already risen, and the rippling water sparkled under its warm light. Peter was admiring the view when he heard Jesus say his name again and, turning quickly, saw that he was already looking at him. “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” (Jn 21:17). This time, Peter found an explanation for this threefold repetition of the question: I denied him three times, so he asks me three times if I love him. Does he not believe me? Can I still say anything about myself or about Jesus after I swore three times that I didn’t know him? But if he does not believe me, if he cannot believe me anymore, why tell me to feed his flock?

With tears in his eyes, with a voice like that of a child who is about to break out sobbing, Simon said so loudly that he almost scared himself, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you!” And once again, once and for all, before he had even finished answering, Peter saw with certainty that Jesus believed in his love, that he had believed in this from the first answer, that he had always believed it, since their first encounter on this same shore. Only now, only at this moment, after living with him for three years, after seeing him suffer and after he had died following Peter’s denial and abandonment, only now was Peter discovering that Jesus needed his love, that Jesus, the Son of God who had conquered death, was thirsty for his love. “Feed my sheep”, Jesus repeated, and Peter understood that this task was connected to the question that the Lord had asked him. Peter had only one mission left in life: that of loving Jesus Christ, of responding to his thirst for love, and of responding to this as the sinner that he was, as miserable as he was. It was as if Jesus was telling him, “You can deny me a thousand times, you can deny me your whole life, but never forget to love me, never deprive me of your love!”

A gentle breeze started blowing the scent of the lake toward them. The coals in the fire Jesus had lit began glowing again. The other disciples were happy, as if Jesus had spoken with each one of them. Jesus lightly touched Simon’s arm and said, “Follow me!” But all Peter could hear was, “Do you love me?”

"Simon Called Peter: In the Footsteps of a Man Following God," by Dom Mauro Giuseppe Lepori

Saturday, June 27, 2015

June 28, 2015: 13th Sunday Ordinary Time B

June 28, 2015: 13th Sunday Ordinary Time B

Click to hear Audio Homily
Have you ever walked in another person’s shoes? Someone commented that before you can walk in another person’s shoes, you must first remove your own. There was a nun in charge of a convent who was informed that there was a young woman at the entrance who desired to enter the convent. The nun overheard the young woman say that she didn’t graduate high school and that she was from a poor family. She glanced over at the young woman and noticed her somewhat neglected appearance. The nun’s better judgment told her to dismiss her and go about her business. But something inside told her to give the young woman the benefit of the doubt. The nun could not have known that Jesus had been preparing this young woman since her birth to enter that religious order. The nun could not have known that some years later that young disheveled looking woman would be declared a Saint of the Church and become the order’s spiritual co-founder.

If we relied on common sense alone, we would err on the side of being insensitive to what others are going through. Because something may be easy for us, we may never realize what a costly effort it may be for someone else. Many in the crowd in today’s Gospel did not notice a woman who was desperately seeking to touch Jesus. No one knew, except Jesus, that she had been suffering for 12 years from an illness and had exhausted all human possibilities of healing. Whereas people in the crowd were bumping into Jesus as they walked along, this woman was consciously attempting to have physical contact with Jesus. When she finally succeeded in touching Jesus, she experienced a dramatic healing. She serves as a model for how we should approach Jesus. Do we order our day with sincere desire to encounter Jesus? Are we coming to church out of obligation, or are we consciously making the effort to meet him in the Eucharist? Do we come to Jesus determined to touch him personally, with a lively awareness of the grace and power that can flow forth from him?  Jesus seeks a personal encounter with each of us. We should seek it too.

When the woman suffering from hemorrhage encountered Jesus, he was sensitive and courteous to the frightened woman. He made her feel as if she was the only person in the world. His touch healed her body; his words healed her spirit; his love healed her heart. We can experience a similar healing in the Eucharist and during Reconciliation.

We must also remember that we encounter the living Christ in one another. How often do we merely bump against one another, not realizing the presence of Jesus in others? Amid our preoccupations of the day, we are only half-conscious of his presence in our midst. Perhaps we dismiss the encounter as purely accidental or bothersome.

Faith comes to fulfillment only in a personal encounter with Jesus. To help me not dismiss the persons that God places in my path, I pray a prayer offered by St. Faustina. She was the disheveled and poor young woman who was almost dismissed by the mother superior because of her appearance. It is a beautiful prayer of asking God to help us be merciful as He is merciful with us. (Now listen prayerfully to her words.)

Help me, O Lord, that my eyes may be merciful, so that I may never suspect or judge from appearances, but look for what is beautiful in my neighbors’ souls and come to their rescue.
Help me, O Lord, 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, O Lord, that my heart may be merciful so that I myself may feel all the sufferings of my neighbor.

Friday, June 26, 2015

June 26, 2015 Friday: 12th Week in Ordinary Time

June 26, 2015 Friday: 12th Week in Ordinary Time

Mt 8: 1-4
When Jesus had come down from the mountain, great crowds followed him; and there was a leper who came to him and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, if you choose, you can make me clean.” He stretched out his hand and touched him, saying, “I do choose. Be made clean!” Immediately his leprosy was

Movements of God’s Spirit
Jesus did what?! He touched a leper? Is he crazy? Ignatius, too, says crazy stuff, like sometimes it might be good to pray for actual poverty. It is probably important to admit, as Paul says, that these things do appear to be “foolishness,” but are we also willing to go a step further and let God show us why Jesus might invite us to do “foolish” things? Paul says “the Spirit working within us can do more than we can ask or even imagine,” so it stands to reason that, at some point in a sincere faith walk, we are going to do things that others will think is crazy. What “crazy” things might God be calling me to consider? Maybe to risk advancement at work to spend more time with family? Or to invite ridicule by reaching out to someone that others see as a loser? —Fr. Tim Hipskind, S.J.

May God bless us with discomfort at easy answers, half-truths, and superficial relationships, so that we may live deep within our hearts. May God bless us with anger at injustice, oppression, and exploitation of people, so that we may work for justice, freedom, and peace. May God bless us with tears to shed for those who suffer from pain, rejection, hunger, and war, so that we may reach out our hands to comfort them and turn their pain into joy. And may God bless us with enough foolishness to believe that we can make a difference in this world, so that we can do what others claim cannot be done, to bring justice and kindness to all our children and to the poor.


Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Trust: A Journey through the Diary of St. Faustina - Talk 2, June 24, 2015

Trust: A Journey into the Diary of St. Faustina
Talk 2: June 24, 2015
(Next Class: July 8, 2015 / No class on July 1)
(Please turn to the Diary #163)
"O Lord. I want to be completely transformed into Your mercy and to be Your living reflection. 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 appearances, but look for what is beautiful in my neighbors’ souls and come to their rescue.
Help me, O Lord, 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, O Lord, that my feet may be merciful, so that I may hurry to assist my neighbor, overcoming my own fatigue and weariness (...)
Help me, O Lord, that my heart may be merciful so that I myself may feel all the sufferings of my neighbor. (...)
May Your mercy, O Lord, rest upon me" (Diary 163).

I want you to think back for a moment to when you were in high school.
  1. Do you remember your high school job?
  2. Do you remember your first dance?
  3. Do you remember what you wanted to be after high school?
  4. Did you ever consider being a nun or a priest?

This past Sunday, our seminarian Matthew shared his vocation journey beginning with his visits to the church with his grandmother when he was just 6 years old. His grandmother instructed her young grandson to pay attention to what the priest was doing at the altar. He felt the call then in some faint, mysterious way. When he began high school, he tried to push away that feeling, as he was planning to think about which college and perhaps deepen his relationship with the girl he was dating. But, things began to unravel. Things didn’t go as he planned. That’s when he was angry at God. After a period of wrestling and arguing with God, Matthew surrendered and accepted the will of God.

Vocation: A call from God and our response of love
Do you remember the time when you had a definite plan for your life, but the plan began to unravel? In today’s class, we’re going to explore the the concept of vocation as a call from God and as our response to that call. We will review in the Diary of St. Faustina, her call to a religious life was heard at a young age. Numerous obstacles stood in her way, including her family and circumstances such as poverty. But those obstacles became instruments  of fulfilling God’s plan.

Many people use the word vocation (from the Latin vocare, meaning "to call") in reference to the call to be a priest, sister, or brother. However, the Catholic understanding of vocation is much broader: every baptized person has a vocation--a call--to love and serve God. How you choose to live out that vocation is what each person must discern. Each vocation begins with God’s love for the person. It is a life of love in a concrete, particular form that comes from God. This love involves first God’s total gift of Himself to the person, and in response to that love, the person’s total gift of self to Him. Jesus tells us, “You did not choose me, but I chose you” (Jn 15:16).

Our Vocation to Love
Thus our vocation is all about love. From this understanding of vocation, how would you answer this question: What will God think of you if you were originally called to a religious life, but because of life’s circumstances you lived it out as a single woman? Will you be considered any less before the eyes of God because you did not fulfill that call? More broadly, at the end of your life by what criteria will you be judged of your personal call? In the Diary, St. Faustina wrote down the words of Jesus to her, “I desire that you be entirely transformed into love and that you burn ardently as a pure victim of love…” Whichever the state of life that we live out on this earth, the desire of Jesus for each of us is to be loving and merciful as is He. St. John of the Cross said, “In the evening of life, we will be judged on love alone.”

The Call of St. Faustina
Unusually drawn to spiritual pursuits, at the age of five, Helena (Faustina) joyfully awoke and told her family about a wonderful dream she’d had. Mary, the Mother of God, had held her hand and strolled with her through a beautiful garden. When she was seven, something new took place. One evening at Vesper (evening prayer), during the Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament at the parish church (St. Casmir), Helena “heard” Jesus in a new way. He spoke to her soul, and the little girl, who was already attuned to spiritual communication, heard what the Lord had to say. In the Diary, St. Faustina writes, “I experienced the definite call of God, the grace of a vocation to the religious life… It was in the seventh year of my life that, for the first time, I heard God’s voice in my soul; that is, an invitation to a more perfect life. But I did not always obey the call of grace. I did  not know anyone who might have explained these things to me.” (Diary 7)

The response to the call to “a more perfect life” was already taking place in the young Helena. She was helpful and obedient to her parents as much as she could. Her father was very strict, and she shielded her brothers and sisters from her father’s switch when a punishment was coming their way. And neighbors often remarked that it didn’t seem as though Helena truly belonged to a family which had so many ornery children. “She was different,” everyone said.  Occasionally, Helena would also set up a “store” to sell little home made dolls and trinkets to other children. Nothing cost more than a Polish penny or two. When the store closed at the end of the day, however, Helena gave away her proceeds to help the “poor” children.

At the age of nine, she  received her First Communion. On the way from the church,  Helena was walking home by herself. She seemed to be in her own world, overflowing with joy. Several neighbor women stopped her and one asked, “Why aren’t you going back with the other children?” Helena replied, “I’m going with Jesus.” Along the way, when Helena met one of the First Communion classmates, Helena stopped her and asked, “Are you happy about today?” Her friend replied, “Of course, look what a pretty dress I’m wearing.” Helena, who was wearing the one not-so-pretty dress that was also shared by her sisters said, “I am happy because Jesus has come to me.”

Reflection Question: If you jog back your memory to your childhood, was there a time when you were touched by God or perhaps invited by God to a “more perfect life”? I’m not just talking about religious vocation here. I’m talking about the station of your life. It is rare that we get a direct call from God like St. Faustina. Do you agree with St. Faustina that you did not obey the calls of grace?

The Obstacles to Her Call: Parents, Education, Poverty
Over the years, Helena had become a favorite child of both of her parents. She was pretty, even-tempered, and extraordinarily helpful and obedient. She would help around the house with the chores in the kitchen, milking the cows, and taking care of her siblings. Her parents already knew that they would always want Helena close to them. She was too precious to ever give up. She began her primary education when she was 12 years old, due to the closing of the schools in Poland during the Russian occupation. She was only able to complete three trimesters. In the spring of 1919, all the older students were notified that they had to leave the school, in order for the younger students to begin..

By the age of 14 (1921), her growing attraction to God was an undeniable reality to her. Yet her sisters, brothers, and parents lived in a different reality--necessities of farming, keeping house, and feeding a family. At the age 16, Helena began working outside the home to earn money in order to support herself and the family.  However, when her prayer life had grown to such an extent that work and sleep became difficult, she left her job as a housekeeper. She went to her parents to ask for permission to leave home and enter a convent; they said no citing financial difficulty as their reason.

The Turning Point
As her parents continued to reject her requests to enter religious life, she abandoned her spiritual life to an extent. Helena began to live a worldly life--buying fashionable clothes, attending dances and parties--all in an attempt to ignore the call she felt deep inside. In July of 1924, she and her sister Josephine attended a dance in the park behind the Cathedral of St. Stanislaus in Lodz. During the dance, she suddenly saw Jesus at her side. He was racked with pain, stripped of His clothing, and covered with wounds. He spoke to her: “How long shall I put up with you, and how long will you keep putting Me off? (Diary 9) This encounter with Jesus was the turning point in her life. She ran to the cathedral, threw herself on the floor before the altar, and begged the Lord to be good enough to let her know what she should do next. Then she heard these words: Go at once to Warsaw; you will enter a convent there (Diary 10).

She got up from prayer, went to her house and confessed to her sister what had happened. She asked her sister to say goodbye to her parents on her behalf. When asked about her provision for the trip, Helena answered, “What I am wearing is enough. Jesus will take care of all my needs.”

In Warsaw, Guided by Trust
When she arrived at the Warsaw train station, she was overcome with fear. It was getting dark and she had nowhere to stay. She prayed to the Blessed Mother, “Mary, lead me, guide me.” Immediately she heard Blessed Mother tell her interiorly to get a ride out of the city to a nearby village to stay for the night. The following morning, not knowing what to do next, she entered the first church she came across, St. James Church. While praying there, she received a divine direction, “Go to that priest [Fr. James Dabrowski] and tell him everything. He will tell you what to do next.” When Helena had explained her situation to Fr. Dabrowski, he directed her to the home of Mrs. Aldona Lipszyc, a solid woman of faith whom he knew well. While staying at her house, Mrs. Lipszyc directed Helena to various convents. However, one after another, Helena was met with refusal. Perhaps the reasons were her somewhat neglected appearance, her lack of education, her extreme poverty, and her present occupation as maid. They would refuse her by saying, “We do not accept maids here.”

Accepting or Rejecting Our Vocation
Have you hired someone to work for you? (Perhaps a handyman, plumber) What criteria did you use to accept or refuse hiring? (Perhaps reputation in the community, word of mouth) What criteria do you think a bishop relies on to accept or refuse a young man desiring ? What criteria do you think a mother superior of a convent relies on to accept or refuse a young woman who knocks on her convent door? She certainly can’t accept everyone who knocks on the door, even if the candidate is convinced of her own vocation. How about a young man who is madly in love with a young woman who kneels down and proposes for marriage? How does she determine his true motivation and intention? It’s difficult  to know the true intention or the motivation of a person.

In St. Faustina’s day, dowry was a necessary criteria for being accepted  or rejected by a religious order. That practice may seem too worldly, seeing that only the well-to-do could enter religious life. Many religious orders waived the dowry but still required enough down payment for the religious habit. Did those convents that rejected St. Faustina obstruct God’s will? Or by rejecting her, did those convents serve as instruments to fulfill His will?

Rarely in life are all of our motivations pure, selfless and worthy in regard to the things that we do or try to do.  We can have some “less-than-adequate” motivations somewhere in the back of our mind. A bishop, a mother superior, or a young woman who has received a proposal have to weigh many factors before the person is accepted. Can this young man promise and fulfill his obedience to the bishop? Does this young young woman have any past emotional wounds that would be obstacle to her living a religious life in the convent? Does this young man truly love me enough to marry me and be faithful to me?

What did the many obstacles mean to Helena? Was it God’s way of saying to her that she wasn’t called? Or was it God’s way of preparing her for His timing?  

Congregation of Our Lady of Mercy
After many rejections, Helena was heart broken, and she called to the Lord Jesus, “Help me. Don’t leave me alone.” (Put something here about dowry) One day Helena came to the convent of the Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy. She knocked and told the portress that she would like to enter the convent. Unbeknownst to Helena, Mother Michael, the Mother Superior, was observing her from the doorway and, also unimpressed by her appearance, intended to send her away immediately after she had heard her petition for entrance. However,  she decided it would be more charitable to ask the girl a few questions before sending her away. In the course of conversation, Mother Michael noticed that despite that the girl could not afford the dowry typically required of a candidate, she had a pleasing smile, a likeable countenance, much simplicity, and sincerity. Mother Michael asked Helena to go to the Lord of the house and ask whether or not He would accept her. Helena understood that she was to go to the chapel and appeal to the Lord in prayer for an answer. “Immediately, I heard this voice,” Helena later wrote of this moment: “I do accept; you are in My Heart.” (Diary 14) Helena then told the mother superior of Lord’s response. Mother Michael said, “If the Lord has accepted, then I also will accept. Mother Michael also explained to Helena that she would have to find the funds for a wardrobe, even if the convent graciously dispensed with the dowry requirement.

Acceptance into the Convent
It would take Helena a year of work as a maid to earn enough money for the wardrobe. During that year, Helena faced two other challenges. Her employer, Mrs. Lipszyc believed that such a good girl like Helena should be married and not be locked up in a convent. So she began finding suitors for Helena. The other challenge was her parents who sent Helena’s sister to Warsaw to dissuade Helena from entering. After overcoming these obstacles, Helena finally entered the convent on the eve of the Feast of Our Lady of the Angels, August 1, 1925. Several years later, she wrote of this moment in her Diary, “I felt immensely happy; it seemed to me that I had stepped into the life of Paradise. A single prayer was bursting forth from my heart, one of thanksgiving.” (Diary 17)

A few weeks after her entrance, she felt a strong desire to leave and find another, more strict order that dedicated more time to prayer. However, Jesus appeared to her again, tortured and wounded and said to her, “It is you who will cause me this pain if you leave this convent. It is to this place that I called you and nowhere else, and [it is here] I have prepared many graces for you” (Diary 19).

-Fr. Paul Yi

June 24, 2015 Wednesday: Nativity of John the Baptist

June 24, 2015 Wednesday: Nativity of John the Baptist

Now the time came for Elizabeth to give birth, and she bore a son. Her neighbors and relatives heard that the Lord had shown his great mercy to her, and they rejoiced with her. (Lk 1: 57)

The Hand of the Lord is with You
In celebrating the Nativity of John the Baptist, we celebrate multiple miracles. We celebrate the miracle of birth. As I learned in a profound way when each of my three children came into the world, birth—giving life—is a miracle. The miracle of John’s birth was all the more noteworthy because he was born to aged, childless parents and his birth paralleled the miraculous birth of Christ. We celebrate the miracle of God’s love and the power faith. Despite being rendered speechless for doubting the Archangel Gabriel’s announcement of John’s birth, Zechariah was saved by his faith and obedience to God. In return, Zechariah was given the gift of prophecy and foretold the future ministry of John. John’s faith made him a prophet who paved the way for Jesus, whom he later baptized. We celebrate the miracle of building the Kingdom. The births of John and Jesus prompt us to ask, What, then, is my unique mission? Who am I becoming? The lives of John and Jesus prompt us to have faith that the hand of the Lord is with us. Let us pray on this special day that we may grow strong enough in spirit to serve as builders of God’s Kingdom on earth. —Jeremy Langford

Lord, increase our faith to grasp the awesome truth that your hand is upon us -- no less than it was upon John and Jesus. We boldly move forward this day to serve as builders of God’s Kingdom on earth.


Tuesday, June 23, 2015

June 23, 2015 Tuesday: 12th Week in Ordinary Time

June 23, 2015 Tuesday: 12th Week in Ordinary Time

In everything do to others as you would have them do to you; for this is the law and the prophets. Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the road is easy that leads to destruction, and there are many who take it. For the gate is narrow and the road is hard that leads to life, and there are few who find it. (Matt 7:6, 12-14)

The Narrow Gate of Forgiveness
"You hurt me. You hurt a lot of people but God forgives you, and I forgive you." The daughter of Ethel Lance, one of the victims of the Charleston Church tragedy, spoke these words to the man who hatefully took the lives of nine churchgoers last week. Her merciful response reflects how the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston has reacted to this devastating loss. Through their forgiving responses, the church community in Charleston serves as a tremendous example for all women and men of goodwill. The road down the Christian life is narrow and difficult. In the face of pain and suffering, our faith calls us to choose the more loving, merciful response. Taking the narrow path means choosing love when it is easier to hate, forgiving in the midst of anger, and showing mercy when we most desire revenge. Today, ask God to reveal to you the moments in your recent past when you have chosen the narrow path and times when you've avoided it. Join me in praying for all those who mourn the lives taken in this tragedy. —Aaron Pierre, S.J.,

Almighty and all-merciful God, give me the strength of spirit to name my sins and the courage to feel shame for them. Let me feel confounded that my sins have not destroyed me as others’ have. Teach me to weep for the hurt and harm I have sinfully inflicted on others. Please. Lord, I really want to live aware of how I have let this terrible evil root itself in my life and in my life world.


Monday, June 22, 2015

June 22, 2015 Monday: 12th Week in Ordinary Time

June 22, 2015 Monday: 12th Week in Ordinary Time

"Stop judging, that you may not be judged." (Matt 7:1)

It is helpful to bear several things in mind: (1) our knowledge of ourselves and of others is always limited; (2) there is always some good to be found in everything; (3) recognizing this good is good for ourselves and for others; St. Therese of Lisieux says “We should always judge others with love, for often what seems to us to be negligence, is an heroic deed in God's sight.” (CS 107) And again:

"Yes, I know when I show charity to others, it is simply Jesus acting in me, and the more closely I am united to Him, the more dearly I love my Sisters. If I wish to increase this love in my heart, and the devil tries to bring before me the defects of a Sister, I hasten to look for her virtues, her good motives; I call to mind that though I may have seen her fall once, no doubt she has gained many victories over herself, which in her humility she conceals. It is even possible that what seems to me a fault, may very likely, on account of her good intention, be an act of virtue. I have no difficulty in persuading myself of this, because I have had the same experience." (MsC, 12v/13r)

Regarding the second and third point, the possibility of seeing good in things, and the value of doing so, St. Therese says, speaking about circumstances generally, “I always see the bright side of things. There are people who always take everything from the most painful point of view. I do just the opposite. If I am faced with pure suffering; when heaven is so black that there is no bright spot to be seen anywhere, I then make that itself a source of joy” (DE 215/27.5). And about persons, “There is nothing sweeter than to think well of one’s neighbor,” (CS 25) and “Charity. consists in disregarding the faults of our neighbor, not being astonished at the sight of their weakness, but in being edified by the smallest acts of virtue we see them practice.”

Regarding the first point, the limitation of our knowledge, which never extends to a person's responsibility before God: “Even when there doesn't seem to be any excuse, we always have the possibility of saying: 'this person is obviously wrong, but she does not know it.'” (CS 107)


Saturday, June 20, 2015

June 21, 2015: 12th Sunday in Ordinary Time B (Father's Day)

June 21, 2015: 12th Sunday in Ordinary Time B (Father's Day)

Click to hear Audio Homily
One father was wondering what to give to his son, Adam, as he was preparing to leave for college. He wanted to provide his son a roadmap knowing that college life can be confusing and turbulent at times. So he decided to jot down few words of counsel on paper and put it in a 3-ring binder. After the father and mother helped him move into his dorm, the father presented Adam with the bound pages. A few days later, Adam called back and said,  "Dad, the book is one of the best gifts I've ever received.  I'm going to add to it and someday give it to my son."  These are some of the advices that were in that binder: Look people in the eye; Say "thank you" a lot; Live beneath your means; Admit your mistakes; Give yourself a year and read the Bible cover to cover; Never underestimate the power of forgiveness; Instead of using the word problem, try substituting the word opportunity; Don’t be afraid to say, ‘I’m sorry’; Call your mother.

So what prompted the dad to provide the book of bits of wisdom and advice to his son? Perhaps he realized the importance his responsibility for teaching and guiding his child. At baptism of his child, a father accepts the responsibility to train the child in the practice faith and to keep God’s commandments as Christ taught. 

Our earthly fathers are a reflection of our Heavenly Father. Our Heavenly Father has given us everything we need for this life. The greatest gift is the gift of His Son Jesus who has showed us how to love. Heavenly Father knows that we need a roadmap on this journey of life in order to reach His House called Heaven. He knows that we will face storms and turbulence as the disciples in today’s gospel experienced in the Sea of Galilee. Facing tragedy, or life storms of any kind, can be extremely difficult. But in the midst of storms of despair, suffering, confusion, fear, worry, you can find the hope and courage to go on when you put your trust in Jesus. We may want quick fixes and resolutions during storms of life, and we may forget to hold on to our faith. However as that father said to Adam, when we trust Jesus, we’ll be able to see a problem as an opportunity and we will be able to ride out the storm.
-Fr. Paul Yi

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Trust: A Journey through the Diary of St. Faustina - Talk 1, June 17, 2015

Trust: A Journey into the Diary of St. Faustina
Talk 1: June 17, 2015
Ascension Catholic Church, Donaldsonville, LA

O Jesus, eternal God, I thank You for Your countless graces and blessings. Let every beat of my heart be a new hymn of thanksgiving to You, O God. Let every drop of my blood circulate for You, Lord. My soul is one hymn in adoration of Your mercy. I love You, God, for Yourself alone. (Diary 1794)
Let us also invite Blessed Mother to assist us: Hail Mary...
St Faustina Helena Kowalska.jpg
Welcome / Why are you here?
Welcome. First, I want to get a sense of where everyone is from. Please share your first name and the town you’re from?
Second, what drew you to this class. Can, any of you share your reason why you decided to come to the class?
Thank you everyone for answering the invitation from St. Faustina and Jesus to be here today. The Holy Spirit inspired you to invest time to deepen your trust in God and open yourselves to His Mercy.
During this class, I want you to pay attention to your desires. St. Catherine of Siena, another saint who has written down her own experiences with God in a diary (The Dialogue), said:
"The human heart is always drawn by love." (Dialogue 26)
  • Perhaps the real reason why you are here is because you are drawn by love, the love Jesus has for you.
"Love follows knowledge." (Dialogue 1) "One who knows more, loves more." (Dialogue 66)
  • Love does not occur in a vacuum. Love is between two persons. The more we know the person, our love for them grows deeper. God has brought us into being out of love. It’s difficult for us to picture that love. Ask any mom or dad how much they are in love with their newborn infant, and likely they can’t put into words their immense love. The newborn infant senses that she is loved in someway, but yet does not know the full scope of that love. We are like that infant in relation to God. We sense in some way we are loved, but yet do not know the full scope of that love. St. Faustina in her Diary frequently uses the image of an ocean to describe God’s mercy and His love. Many of you will be going to the beach this summer. Just picture yourself sitting on the shore. As you gaze out into the ocean, you cannot see the end beyond the horizon. Just imagine that that’s God’s love for you.
"We trust and believe in what we love."  (Dialogue 8)
  • The more we begin to be aware of God’s love, we begin to trust and believe more in Him. All of us would love to spend more than a month on vacation on the beach. But we can’t; we have to go back. We often say after getting back from the vacation, “We’re back to the real world.”
  • What is that “real world” like? If we look back over our lives, there were times when we felt as though we were alone, unloved, or even abandoned. Sometimes those experiences seem to convince us that that’s the “real world.” Those were the times when we may have felt that there was no one to trust and nothing to believe in.
  • God is inviting all of humanity, present and future, to put their trust and belief in Him who is surrounding their lives with love, like the ocean surrounding all of our continents.
  • We look to the lives of the saints and to persons in our lives to grow in our knowledge and love of Jesus. Helena Kowalska, a very simple, humble woman, was chosen by  Jesus, in a special way, to help the world understand what it is like to grow in love with Him, to grow in trust in Him. Not everyone receives these special revelations directly from Jesus. In her journey of trust in Jesus, we will see our own journey. Jesus is hoping that you will also trust Him as He guides you through your own life.  

Initial Questions:
- How many of you know something about the message of Divine Mercy and the connection to St. Faustina’s Diary?
- How many of you have read at least some portion of the Diary of St. Faustina?
- How many of you actually read her diary cover to cover? Did some of you have difficulty reading through the diary?
- How many of you keep a daily journal? (I asked this this past weekend during homily)

Our own journals
I have before me a box full of notebooks. These notebooks are journals that I kept during six years of seminary. Ask any man if they keep a daily journal, their answer would be ‘no.’ After I die, if someone was to pick up one of these books, what would they learn about me? Would they find it interesting? Should I burn it, since it contains very private and personal thoughts? There are passages in there where I questioned my calling to priesthood. How many of you would burn your journals before you die than to take the chance of someone reading your journal?

Diary of Sr. Faustina
Sr. Faustina felt the same way when she was asked to keep a journal. In 1934 (Sr. Faustina was 29 yrs. old and 4 years prior to her death), her spiritual director, Fr.  Michal Sopocko, told her to keep notes of her experiences. Sr. Faustina was trying to explain to Fr. Sopocko during communal confession time all that she was experiencing during her prayer times. Other sisters were getting annoyed at her excessively long confession. So he told her to only accuse herself of herself of her sins in confession and to write down all her spiritual experiences in a notebook, which she was to give to him to read. (Side note: I remember the experience of going to confession at a Marian shrine several months prior to deciding to enter seminary.  I was pouring out my heart to the priest about the promptings and doubts that I was feeling inside about entering seminary. He patiently explained to me about how God calls weak, sinful men to be fishers of men. When I got out of the confessional, I saw the angry glance of the people waiting in the line. I was in the confessional for 45 minutes!)

Initially, Sr. Faustina thought that the task of writing down her experiences was beyond her. She only had 3 semesters of primary schooling, so writing was difficult for her. She was also aware that no words could express her experiences. During the course of 4 years (1934-1938), she filled six handwritten notebooks (over 700 pages!). Her first notebook, she actually burned.

Not long after she began writing her Diary, St. Faustina's confessor, Fr. Michael Sopocko, went away for a month-long pilgrimage to the Holy Land.

During that time, a brilliant angel visited St. Faustina. The angel told her, “You are writing nonsense and only exposing yourself and others to great tribulations. What have you got from this mercy? Why are you wasting time on writing about illusions? Burn it all, and you will be calmer and happier!” At the time of Fr. Sopocko’s absence there was no one to advise Sr. Faustina, so when the vision of the angel recurred she did what the supposed angel had told her to do. When Fr. Sopocko came back and said it was time he looked at the Diary so he could judge the progress she was making, St. Faustina said she had burned it. Father asked her why, and she told him an angel told him to do it. At that moment, she realized it wasn't an angel; it was the devil in bright clothing.

Determined to overcome this setback, Fr. Sopocko told St. Faustina to start writing all over again. He told her to write whatever she could remember. She did that, and Fr. Sopocko in his witness says that she left out of the second version very much of what was in the first version, especially about her childhood. That's why in the first part of the Diary you have such a mixture of material and you cannot follow it chronologically.

In her diary Sr. Faustina wrote of the stirrings of her soul, and also of her relationship with the supernatural world: meetings with Jesus, Mary, saints, angels, or souls in purgatory. Though she began to take notes, with her spiritual director’s instruction in mind, in time the purpose of the notes began to change. Jesus Himself explained this to her when she once saw Him leaning over her when she was writing. Christ asked: “My daughter, what are you writing?” (Diary, 1693). Sr. Faustina replied that she was writing about Him, of His presence in the Blessed Sacrament, of His inconceivable love and mercy toward people. Then Christ said to her: “Secretary of My most profound mystery, know that yours is an exclusive intimacy with Me. Your task is to write down everything that I make known to you about My mercy, for the benefit of those who, by reading these things will be comforted in their souls and will have the courage to approach Me. I therefore want you to devote all your free moments to writing” (Diary, 1693)

So before us, in this thick Diary of Sr. Faustina, is an account of intimate relationship between Sr. Faustina and Jesus. This account is not written down for her sake, but for all of us. Many have commented, however, that it seems too daunting to read through the Diary. What we need is a map to help guide us through the Diary. In this and the next series of classes, we will outline this map. We will cover the history of Poland, biography of her life, the structure of the Diary, themes and messages of her Diary.

Do you remember the first time you attempted to read the whole Bible? How many of you tried to read starting with the Book of Genesis but gave up? The best advice someone ever gave me about reading the Bible was to read the Gospel of Mark and to try to focus on encountering Jesus. The best advice I can give you on reading the Diary is to get a good biography of St. Faustina. I can recommend four: The Life of Faustina Kowalska: The Authorized Biography (by Sister Sophia Michalenko, Servant Books), Faustina, Saint for Our Times: A Personal Look at Her Life, Spirituality, and Legacy (by Rev. George W. Kosicki, Marian Press), Trust: In Saint Faustina’s Footsteps (by Grzegorz Gorny & Janusz Rosikon, Ignatius Press), Faustina: Apostle of Divine Mercy (by Catherine M. Odell, Our Sunday Visitor).

Biography of St. Faustina
First, a personal note. Recently, I was invited by a parishioner of St. Catherine of Siena Church to attend her mother’s surprise 85th birthday party. At the entrance, I was handed a commemorative cup with a brief fun facts about 1930, the year in which the parishioner’s mother was born. It said:
1930 was the first year of the Great Depression.
Average cost of the new house, $7,145
Average wages per year, $1,970
Cost of a gallon of gas, 10 cents
Average cost for house rent, $15/month
The US suffered the worst ever drought, causing hardship in farming communities which led to the Dust Bowl.
How many of you here were born around that time? Do you remember some of the hardships of that time?

It helps to understand what it was like around the time when St. Faustina lived. So let’s set some chronology of St. Faustina’s life and the world around her.

Chronology of St. Faustina
St Faustina House Childhood.jpg- She was born on August, 25, 1905 to Stanislaus and Marianna Kowalski. Small village of Glogowiec, Poland near Lodz. She was baptized two days later as "Helena" in the parish church of St. Casimir. Helena was the third of 10 children of a poor farmer and carpenter. She was born in the house her father had built. His father was then a 37 yr. old and her mother was 30 yrs. old. They had 14-acres of land and two cows. At that time, a death of a cow raised the spectre of famine for the whole family.
- Helena knew what it was to live simply in a small cottage, doing chores around the house and working on the farm. She and her sisters took turns attending Mass on Sundays, sharing one good dress they owned.
- Helena was born in a country that did not exist. At that time, Poland was partitioned by Prussia, Austria, and Russia. She was born in a village that did not figure on any detailed map of the Russian Empire, a village to which there was no paved road and whose inhabitants for the most part were illiterate.
- Religion was central to the Kowalski family. Stanislaus sang out his daily prayers early in the morning before work. While his daughter was young, he taught her short prayers and how to read the lives of saints and missionaries. Helen was a gifted storyteller. She fascinated other children by repeating the stories to them. Her mother’s tender compassion and dedication to her husband and family also influenced the young girl.
Europe Map 1900s.jpg- Three occupying countries--Prussia, Austria, and Russia--knew that the Catholic Church was the mainstay of Polish identity. In order to weaken them, they suppressed religious orders in Poland. Historians of Europe have shown that wherever convents and monasteries were suppressed, social ties began to break down, religiousness crumbled, and cultural life deteriorated. But repression by the authorities did not destroy religious life, which began to develop secretly. A phenomenon of Polish Catholicism was religious orders without habits, which carried out underground evangelization.
- Pope John Paul II said that it was to precisely this poor girl, a girl from nowhere, that God had entrusted the mission of announcing to the whole world the most important message of the twentieth century. God’s way is not our way. If we wanted to spread the message all throughout the world,  we would have chosen a major cities like Paris, London, New York or another of the world’s important cities instead. And we would have chosen a child from an aristocratic or at least educated family.  St. Paul, in his First Letter to the Corinthians, wrote: “God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise, God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong, God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no flesh might boast in the presence of God” (1 Cor: 27-29)

-Fr. Paul Yi