Sunday, October 30, 2016

Oct. 30, 2016: 31st Sunday of Ordinary Time C

Oct. 30, 2016: 31st Sunday Ordinary C
Click to hear Audio Homily

Do you remember the time when you longed to experience the presence of Jesus? Perhaps you were going through a significant change in your life and you were uncertain of the future. Or perhaps, even after trying out everything that the world had to offer, you felt that something was missing in your life? St. Augustine was an intelligent man who tried everything in order to fill the void in his life--relationships, philosophies, finer things in life. At the age of 32, when he was vacationing with a friend, he heard a voice of a child singing a song, the words of which were, “Pick it up and read it. Pick it up and read it.” Realizing that this song might be a command from God to open and read the Scriptures, he located a Bible, picked it up, opened it and read the first passage he saw. The passage was from the Letter of Paul to the Romans. Augustine read:
“Not in carousing and drunkenness, not in sexual excess and lust, not in quarreling and jealousy. Rather, put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the desires of the flesh.” (Romans 13: 13-14) Reading this passage, Augustine felt as if his heart were flooded with light. He turned totally from his life of sin and requested to enter into Catholic Church. Augustine composed the following prayer recalling that experience:

“Late have I loved you...You were within me, but I was outside, and it was there that I searched for you. In my unloveliness I plunged into the lovely things which you created. You were with me, but I was far from you...You called, you shouted, and you broke through my deafness.”

We may believe that we have to search for God in order to be in his presence, but actually it’s the otherway around as learned in today’s Gospel. Zacchaeus, a tax collector despised by the town folk, was drawn to get a glimpse of Jesus. Because he was physically short, he had to climb a tree to see him. Upon reaching the tree, Jesus shouted out, “Zacchaeus, come down quickly, for today I must stay at your house.” Jesus sought out Zacchaeus--not the other way around. That encounter changed Zacchaeus to turn around his life of selfishness and sins to live a new life of charity and generosity.

Often we see ourselves as small, and we are unable to view Jesus because of our blindness and sins. Failure to live out our calling diminishes us and distorts our vision. In order to bring Christ into focus in our lives, we have to “climb up” to see our failures and repent. Then we must commit to a new of living with Christ as our focal point.

The Good News is that Jesus seeks us out and comes to us right where we are. Jesus is the Good Shepherd who will even leave behind the 99 to go in search of the one lost sheep. He seeks us out not because we’re so good but because he’s so good. He loves us not because we deserve it but because we desperately need it. He is attracted to our weakness, brokenness, and sin. Like Zacchaeus and St. Augustine, when we trust in God’s love enough to admit our failings, we can receive his gift of mercy. Jesus told St. Faustina, “The greater the sinner, the greater the right he has to My mercy.”

Like Jesus we are called to love the sinners and to look beyond their sin to their goodness. When we do this we enable them to “walk taller” and perhaps help them see a glimpse of Jesus. Sometimes this may mean that we will have to risk and be willing to trust in the Lord.

What special efforts will I make in the coming week to put Jesus into clearer focus in my life? In what way can I overlook the sin of others and also be humble enough to admit our faults to others?

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Oct. 23, 2016: 30th Sunday Ordinary C

Oct. 23, 2016: 30th Sunday Ordinary C

Click to hear Audio Homily

Have you ever heard of the saying, “Be patient with me. God is not finished with me yet!” It takes humility to acknowledge that we are not masterpieces, yet. True humility helps us to see ourselves as we really are in God's eyes and it helps us to seek God's help and mercy. When someone is humble, he is able to relate to himself and others with kindness and respect. On the other hand, pride hinders us from seeking forgiveness and being charitable to others. It isn’t that God cannot or will not forgive the sin of pride but that the proud person will not ask for God’s forgiveness because they are confident that they do not need it. Pride is one vice from which no one is immune, and it is one vice which everyone hates when he sees it in someone else. The irony is that most of us Christians never imagine that we are guilty ourselves. If there is one sin that Jesus condemned the most, it is the sin of pride. If humility allows us to pray to God honestly and sincerely heart-to-heart, pride, on the other hand, makes the person deaf to God’s compassionate voice.

In today’s Gospel Jesus tells a parable of two two men praying to show us how prayer and humility are inextricably linked. Two men were praying in the holy temple--a highly respected church-goer called a Pharisee and a tax-collector, a profession generally despised because it symbolized dishonesty, lying, and cheating. The Pharisee went to the temple not really to pray but to inform God how good he was and how God should be thankful that there are men like him on earth. As we say colloquially, he was “full of himself.” His pride inspired him to look down upon others. The tax collector, on the other hand, felt unworthy even to look towards heaven, a place he felt that he could never reach. He beat his breast as a sign of regret and confessed that he was a sinner. His only hope for salvation was the infinite mercy of God.

The humility exemplified by the tax collector at prayer, in contrast to the Pharisee (who represents you and me), is grounded in an awareness of his own need for God’s mercy and grace and his willingness to receive! The passage immediately following this parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector is the beautiful scene in which Jesus welcomes and blesses the children and then tells his disciples: “Truly I tell you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it.” Consistently throughout the Gospel of Luke Jesus reminds us that God is eager to give us the kingdom. Indeed, it is in our midst! But it can only be embraced, not seized!

The reality is that we cannot brag about our love for God because we fail Him daily. But we can brag about His love for us because He never fails. God has given us our entire lifetime here on earth to be transformed into His likeness. When we look at ourselves now, we are far from what we once were, but not yet what we are going to be. All of us are sinners who are loved. At times we can be the biggest hypocrite ever and sometimes we backslide, stumble, stray onto the wrong path, and fall. Yet the good news is that God is working in us to slowly straighten us out. And since no one is above reproach and everyone is under construction, we need to be patient with others whom we find lacking in graces and avoid being prideful and self-righteous.

Oct. 22, 2016: St. John Paul II

Oct. 22, 2016: St. John Paul II St. John Paul II entrusted to our generation two symbols to remind us of our faith: THE CROSS A large wooden Cross, known as the WYD Cross, was given to the young people of the world by Pope John Paul II at the end of the Year of Redemption in 1984. Pope John Paul II gave it to the young people as a symbol of Christ’s love. When handing off the cross to the youth center, Pope John Paul II said: “My dear young people, at the conclusion of this Holy Year, I entrust to you the sign of this Jubilee Year: the Cross of Christ! Carry it throughout the world as a symbol of Christ’s love for humanity, and announce to everyone that only in the death and resurrection of Christ can we find salvation and redemption.” (Rome, 22 April 1984) Since Pope John Paul II first presented the World Youth Day Cross, it has traveled the world to Europe, the Americas, Asia, Africa, and Australia. It has been at every World Youth Day. THE ICON OF OUR LADY In 2003, Pope John Paul II decided to give another symbol of faith to the youth of the world, so they could take it around the world along with the Cross. This second symbol was an Icon of Our Lady, Salus Populi Romanix. This symbol is a copy of a venerated icon found in the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore in Rome, Italy. When handing this symbol off to the youth, Pope John Paul II declared: “From now on it will accompany the World Youth Days, together with the Cross. Behold, your Mother! It will be a sign of Mary’s motherly presence close to young people who are called, like the Apostle John, to welcome her into their lives.” (Angelus, 18th World Youth Day, 13 April 2003)

Friday, October 21, 2016

Life of St. Faustina, Dramatic Performance at Baton Rouge and Paincourtville, Louisiana (Oct. 29 & 30)

St. Faustina's Life, Dramatic performance Oct. 29 at St. Elizabeth Church (Paintcourtville), 7PM Oct. 30 at Sacred Heart Catholic Church (Baton Rouge), 4PM
St. Elizabeth Church (Paincourtville) and Sacred Heart Catholic Church (Baton Rouge) will host Faust ina, Messen ger o f M ercy , a one woman dramatic performance on the life of St. Faustina Kowalska and the message of Divine Mercy given to her by Jesus. The play recounts the life of this humble Polish girl as she struggles to understand and obey the commands of Jesus given in the visions she received. The deeply moving story is compelling and spiritually uplifting theater that anyone devoted to the Divine Mercy will want to see. For Oct. 29 at St. Elizabeth admission is a free-will offering. For additional information, contact St. Elizabeth and St. Jules office at 225-473-8569 or office@sesjchurch.com or visit http://sesjchurch.com 119 Hwy 403, Paincourtville, LA 70391 For Oct. 30 at Sacred Heart, admission is $10. Seating is limited to 300.For more information, please call Clare Coulon at Sacred Heart church office (387-6671). http://www.sacredheartbr.com 2250 Main StreetBaton Rouge, LA 70802 Trailer of the Play

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Oct. 16, 2016: 29th Sunday Ordinary C

Oct. 16, 2016: 29th Sunday Ordinary C
Click to hear Audio Homily

Recently I saw a Youtube of a man trying to illustrate why we need to be persistent in prayer. His props were a Gatorade bottle filled with black liquid with top on and a kitchen sink. He said that when we encounter dark or challenging times, we tend to stop prayer prematurely, thinking that God is not listening or answering. At those times, we just feel bad, and no matter how much we pray, the dark cloud just doesn’t seem to lift. But, he said stopping prayer is like keeping the lid on the bottle. He then placed the bottle underneath a faucet and unscrewed the lid. Starting to pray, he said, is like taking the top off the bottle and turning on the faucet to let fresh water fill the bottle. As he did that, the dark liquid was slowly displaced by clear water. It took awhile, for the water in the bottle to turn totally clear, just as trying times do not go away quickly. The point was clear--our prayer needs to be persistent even during the time when we may feel the prayer is not getting answered. Persistent prayer transforms us from within. Prayer doesn’t change God, it changes the way we view the situation.

Jesus tells the parable of persistent widow to teach the disciples the power of persevering in their prayer life. He wanted them to realize that all prayer is answered and they must not get discouraged and quit. The judge in the parable was an unjust one, expecting the widow to pay a bribe for a favorable judgment. She was poor and defenseless, and the only weapon she had was persistence. In the end, fearing his loss of reputation, the judge was worn down and the persistent widow won her case. If an evil judge can be worn down by the persistence of a defenseless widow, how much more will a person who persists in prayer be heard and answered by such a loving God as ours.

There are occasions, however, when persistent prayer is difficult. A man told a story of how he, a baptized and confirmed Catholic, always believed in God as a great problem solver. That image of God was shattered when his freshman-year roommate at college was killed in an automobile accident. During the funeral service, he could not contain his anger at God; he decided right there and then, not to believe in a God who would act so cruelly, allowing his best friend to die. For a while, he enjoyed not going to church on Sundays and abandoning prayer. But one of his freshman classmates, a devout Christian, began to trouble his conscience. One day he approached her and told her how angry he was at God and that he no longer went to church. He said to her, “You’re a believer, explain why God allowed our classmate to die.” “Well,” she replied softly, “I’ve been thanking God for our friend’s life.” That answer took his breath away. Rather than arguing about suffering, she was telling him that there were other ways to relate to God, ways other than as the great problem solver. Her response implied that one can live with the question of suffering and still believe in God--much as a child can trust a parent even when he doesn’t fully understand all of the parent’s ways. He began to pray again. Gradually, through prayer, he began to understand God as the one who is with us in our suffering, a God who takes a personal interest in our lives, even if we don’t feel that all our problems are solved. The prayer didn’t bring the friend back or stopped other bad things from happening. The prayer changed his image of God and how he related to God.

It can be wearisome, it can be discouraging, to be the disciples of Jesus in a hostile world, a world filled with heartache and heartbreak and suffering, all the afflictions and ailments that come with living in a fallen world, plus the added tribulations that come with bearing the name of Christ and bearing our cross. It’s not easy to be a Christian. It calls for endurance. That’s the situation in which we find ourselves every day.

In the verses leading up to our Gospel text today, Jesus told his disciples, “The days will come when you will long to see one of the days of the Son of Man, but you will not see it.” In other words, Jesus is saying to his disciples: ‘After I leave you and ascend into heaven, it will not be easy for you. As my followers, you will endure suffering and persecution. You will look back and recall how nice it was during those golden days when your Master was walking with you and doing all those acts of blessing. So now you need to be ready for when the going gets tough.’

We are looking for our Lord’s return. And Christ will return on the Last Day, on the Day of Judgment. Then he will restore all things the way they should be. Justice will be meted out. The church is suffering now, but on that day–that day will be a day of vindication and victory for all who have trusted in Christ.

So do not despair in the midst of hardships. Rather, keep your faith in God’s mercy and kindness and care. Keep on turning to him in prayer, even when it feels as if he’s not listening and you would be tempted to despair. Especially then. “Call on me in the day of trouble,” the Lord says. “I will deliver you, and you will glorify me.” This is God’s promise to his people, and he is persistently faithful to his promises. A short prayer from the heart is more powerful than a long one comprised of words with no feeling. God speaks to us through love, so love is the language He understands.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Medjugorje Pilgrimage: May 31 - June 7, 2017



Medjugorje Pilgrimage: May 31 - June 7, 2017
Spiritual Director: Fr. Joseph Vu, Ascension Catholic Church, Donaldsonville
Be there for Mirjana’s Apparition on June 2
Round trip from New Orleans (other airports available)

Register Online at:
www.catholicjourneys.com/vu2017
(800) 715-6670
office@catholicjourneys.com

For More Information Contact:
Sandra Mistretta
225-921-6210

-----Tour Features-----
Round trip airfare from New Orleans
(Airport Taxes & Fuel Charges Included)
Accommodations in Private Pensione in Medjugorje
(twin-bedded rooms with private facilities)
Breakfast and dinner daily
Transfers between airport & lodgings by Private Coach
Multi-lingual Tour Guide
Tips for the Guide, Bus Driver and House
Welcome Packet / Document Portfolio
Daily Mass and all spiritual activities coordinated with Fr. Joseph Vu

Space is Limited on Direct Flights!
Price Subject to Availability at the time of booking and receipt of Full Payment!

Tour # MJ17 0531-VU
Tour Price: $2,495 from New Orleans
Based on double occupancy

Price INCLUDES Airport Taxes Single Rooms available for $160 Supplement
Prices available from other cities Opt Travel Insurance Available

SAVE additional $200 per person when you
Register and Pay-in-Full by November 15

-----Proposed Itinerary-----
Day 1 - Depart USA
Board your overnight flight from New Orleans with meals served on board.

Day 2 - Arrive Medjugorje
Transfer to your connecting flight to Dubrovnik or Split where you will be greeted by your tour guide and driver. Board your private motorcoach, for your
2.5 hour drive to the village of Medjugorje. This guide will be with you throughout your stay in Me- djugorje. Once there, you will have dinner and be introduced to your host family in who’s modern and comfortable guest house you will be staying for the next seven nights.

Days 3 to 7 - Medjugorje
Experience the beauty and peace of this simple vil- lage. During your stay in Medjugorje you will have the opportunity to share faith with thousands of pil- grims from all over the world. Your local guide will accompany you throughout the week. Here are some of the activities you will be sharing with your fellow pilgrims: Each morning at 10am you assemble at St James Church for the English-language Mass (Feast days and Sundays English Mass is at Noon). Follow the same path up Apparition Hill where the young visionaries first encountered Our Lady. Each evening at 6pm you will join the villagers and pil- grims to pray the rosary, and then stay for Croa- tian Mass immediately following. The apparition takes place at 6:40pm. Don’t miss the Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament on Saturday, and the Veneration of the Cross in the Church on Fridays. Each evening during Croatian Mass, there is the Blessing of the Sick and blessing of the religious items you have with you. Your guide will arrange meetings with the visionaries as they are available. You will have the opportunity to climb Krizevac Mountain, where in 1933 the villagers built a 30' high cross on the 1900th anniversary of Jesus’ cru- cifixion. and pray at “Blue Cross”, which is a place of great healings and graces- a very special place at the base of Apparition Hill.

Day 8 - Medjugorje - USA
After an early breakfast and heartfelt farewells, you will leave by motorcoach for Dubrovnik Airport for your return flights home.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Oct. 12, 2016 Wednesday: 28th Week in Ordinary Time C

Oct. 12, 2016 Wednesday: 28th Week in Ordinary Time C

POPE FRANCIS: THE HOLY SPIRIT IS ESSENTIAL FOR CATHOLICS

Without the Holy Spirit a person risks being just an "armchair Christian" who recites "a cold morality" without actually living out the Gospel, Pope Francis said at his morning Mass today.

Do not keep the Holy Spirit a prisoner, locked inside your heart; rather let him "push" and "move" you to boldly bring Jesus to others and to be able to be patient under pressure, the Pope said during the Mass in the chapel of the Domus Sanctae Marthae.

There are still many Christians today who are unaware of how the Holy Spirit "moves the church", the Pope said. "He's the one who works in the Church, in our hearts, he is the one who makes each Christian" unique, but united together as one family of God, he said.

It's the Holy Spirit who "opens the doors and invites us to bear witness to Jesus", as well as inspiring people to pray and to see God as father, liberating individuals from feeling like an "orphan", which is what the devil would like to see, he said.

However, Christians risk reducing the faith to a code of ethics when they do not live out the mission of the Holy Spirit, the Pope said. Christians, he said, can't limit themselves just to following the Ten Commandments "and nothing more", which leads to "casuistry and a cold morality", he said.

The Christian life "isn't ethics. It is an encounter with Jesus Christ," he said. And it's the Holy Spirit who "brings me to this encounter with Jesus Christ".

The Pope's homily looked at the day's first reading from the Acts of the Apostles (19:1-8), in which St Paul meets a group of disciples who were baptised by St John the Baptist and had never heard of the Holy Sprit. After Paul baptises them in Jesus' name and lays his hands on them, they are filled with the Holy Spirit and receive his gifts.

The Pope asked people to reflect on whether they are keeping the Holy Spirit, which they received at baptism, locked inside their hearts -- like in a "luxury" prison -- where he is not free to incite, inspire and explain Jesus' word to the outside world.

"The Holy Spirit cannot make us 'virtual' Christians who are not virtuous. The Holy Spirit makes real Christians. The Spirit takes life as it is and prophetically reads the signs of the times pushing us forward," he added.

The Pope asked people reflect on how the Holy Spirit dwells in them and to pray for the grace to submit to him.

09 May 2016 | by Catholic News Service

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Oct. 9, 2016: 28th Sunday Ordinary C

Oct. 9, 2016: 28th Sunday Ordinary C
Click to hear Audio Homily

Those of you who do laundry know how difficult it is to remove some stains from white tee shirts. No matter what laundry detergent you use, some stains are so persistent that you can’t remove them. There is something similar to a deep stain that we experience in our lives. The word ‘stigma’ describes well such experiences. Stigma means a mark of disgrace associated with a particular circumstance, quality, or person. We may remember in our lives shame, disgrace, dishonor, humiliation, or bad reputation. How do you remove such stains?

The ten men in the gospel desperately wanted the stigma of leprosy eradicated from their lives. People avoided them and feared them, believing that they would contract the same disease. The pain and stink of their rotting flesh was a great suffering as well as a constant reminder of their shame. But the greatest suffering was their loneliness--being unloved and uncared for, even by their loved ones. When they saw Jesus, they cried out to him, “Jesus, Master, have pity on us.” Another translation of the bible says, “Jesus have mercy on us.”

Why did they ask for mercy first and not healing? These ten lepers knew they were in need of healing, not just physical, but spiritual healing as well. The word mercy literally means ‘sorrowful at heart.’ A merciful person shares in another’s misfortune and suffering as if it were his or her own. And such a person will do everything in his or her power to dispel that misery. They approached Jesus with contrition and faith because they believed that he could release the burden of guilt and suffering and make restoration of body and soul possible. They believed that Jesus was able to pardon them from their sins and release them from suffering of the mind, heart, and body. They believed that Jesus gave mercy to all who asked with faith and contrition. Do we approach Jesus the same way the lepers did, with contrition and faith? Do we strive to show how grateful we are for the mercy we receive from Jesus like the Samaritan leper who returned to Jesus reverently and gave praise to God?

If we do not recognize and appreciate the mercy and help shown to us we will be ungrateful and unkind toward others. Ingratitude is forgetfulness or a poor return for kindness received. Ingratitude easily leads to lack of charity and intolerance towards others, as well as to other vices, such as complaining, grumbling, discontentment, pride, and presumption. How often have we been ungrateful to our parents, teachers, and neighbors?

I recently watched a Youtube video that was a powerful demonstration of gratitude by a group of young people. It was an hour long play called ‘CREDO nella Misericordia’ (I believe in Mercy) about the life of Jesus. The play was performed by young men and women at Krakow World Youth Day to an audience of 20,000 teenagers. What made it a very moving experience for both the performers and the audience was knowing what the performers had overcome in their lives. Each of them were once alcohol or drug addicts whose lives spiraled out of control. They not only inflicted pain on their loved ones but also on themselves. Out of desperation, family members brought them to the Cenacolo rehabilitation community where the community of addicts helped each other recover from their addiction through the power of faith. Each performer on stage was a demonstration of the power of God’s mercy. Their presence on stage was a testimony of lives touched and transformed by Jesus. I could see on their faces the gratitude and the love they had toward Jesus for releasing them from suffering and giving them a new life.

Have we thought about how God has touched us and transformed us throughout our lives? Do we express gratitude to God for his abundant help and mercy towards us? We need to ask Our Lord to fill our hearts with compassion and thanksgiving, and to free us from ingratitude and discontentment. And we need to ask ourselves, “Are we gracious, kind, and merciful towards our neighbor in their time of need and support?”

https://youtu.be/eyo9syN9X5g

(Fast forward to 51 min for the play "Credo")

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Oct. 7, 2016: Our Lady of the Rosary

Oct. 7, 2016: Our Lady of the Rosary

Role of Rosary in the life of Mother Teresa

Mother Teresa’s favorite and most frequent prayer as she practiced union with Our Lady was, without doubt, the Rosary. The Rosary becomes true prayer of the heart when we pray it slowly and deeply, when we seek a deeper level of soul, staying at the level of the heart, wrapped in Our Lady, meditating with her the events of our salvation in Jesus her Son. The particular power of the Rosary as a means of grace, of entering into that sacred space so prized by Mother Teresa, has been underlined by Our Lady herself in virtually all of her apparitions around the world, not to mention her own words to Mother Teresa:

“Take care of them — they are mine. — Bring them to Jesus — carry Jesus to them. — Fear not. Teach them to say the Rosary — the family Rosary and all will be well.…”

Though it is often misunderstood, and therefore poorly prayed, the Rosary is indeed a form of contemplative prayer.

Those who lived with Mother Teresa knew that she held a rosary in her hand constantly, in everything she did and everywhere she went. This was her way not only of holding Our Lady’s hand, but of recalling and reliving her founding everywhere she went. This was her way not only of holding Our Lady’s hand, but of recalling and reliving her founding vision. This vision helps us to understand and, if we so desire, to follow this humble Nobel Prize winner who placed all her confidence in the heart of Mary, and who spent her life as she is surely now spending her eternity, in the Shadow of Our Lady.

Fr. Joseph Langford MC, "Mother Teresa: In the Shadow of Our Lady"

----------------

Testimony on Rosary by Niurka Del Valle Miami, Florida

I Knelt Broken Before Her 

In 1988 I was four months pregnant with my first child when I had a test done to see how high the protein was. The results of this test came back positive, which meant there was a possibility of a birth defect that could range from spinal problems to deformities. This had to be the worst moment of my entire life.

The doctor sent me for other tests that included an amniocentesis that showed the baby’s measurements were good, but it did not confirm any abnormalities. I had to wait four to six weeks for all of the test results, and they were the longest weeks of my life.

One day I was so desperately sad that I walked into a church hoping to speak to a priest for consolation. Until that day, I was not one to visit church often, and I was not one who prayed to the Blessed Mother, or prayed the rosary, even though I had gone to a Catholic school all my life.

As I walked into the empty church with tears in my eyes and the worst pain in my heart, I noticed an image I had never noticed until that day. For some reason, I looked to my left and there was an image of the Virgin Mary as she appeared in the grotto at Lourdes. Not knowing anything about her or her miracles, I knelt in front of her to pray, asking only for the safety and well being of my baby. I stayed there a very long time, praying and crying at the same time. When I looked at her face, a sense of relief came over me and I knew that she would protect my baby.

From that moment, I have promised my devotion to her. I now have a statue of her in front of my house, which was one of my promises, along with teaching my children all about her and her miracles.

My life has changed in a very special way since then. I now know of her miracles, and I love her as much as I love our Lord. She is my inspiration, and there is not a day that goes by that I don’t pray to her and thank her for her blessings.

Needless to say, my prayers were answered, and I had a beautiful, healthy baby girl! I can’t begin to express my gratitude to our Lady of Lourdes for the hope and peace I found the day I knelt broken before her in that empty church. I know there is nothing— no pain or problem— too great that our prayers to our Blessed Mother and the rosary will not answer.

- Patricia Proctor, "101 Inspirational Stories of the Rosary"

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Oct. 5, 2016: St. Faustina Kowalska

Oct. 5, 2016: St. Faustina Kowalska

A few years before her death, Sr. Faustina wrote: “I feel certain that my mission will not come to an end upon my death, but will begin” ( Diary , 281). She was calm. She knew that despite immense obstacles, the devotion to the Divine Mercy would endure and grow. “There will come a time,” she noted, “when this work, which God is demanding so very much, will be as though utterly undone. And then God will act with great power, which will give evidence of its authenticity” ( Diary , 378).

God as Your Helmsman in the Storm

Imagine being a small child on a small boat in the middle of the sea. A storm sets in and you cannot see land in any direction. You are tossed and turned in the waves as they cover the bow with each crash and you wonder how you will survive. Now imagine that your dad is also on the boat with you. He tells you to sit and hold on and that all will be well. He is confident and in charge and shows no fear. The confidence that your father exudes calms you and you trust that he will keep you safe. This is an image of our lives. When we face a crisis we must realize that we are but a child in the midst of the stormy sea in need of our Merciful Lord. It would be foolish for a child to try to take charge of the boat. It would also be foolish for us to try to direct our own lives. We need the steady confidence of Jesus to put our hearts at rest. The Lord must be your Helmsman whenever the waves begin to rise. Do not doubt His ability to handle everything in life (See Diary #1322).

What do you do when the storms of life set in? Do you panic? Do you try to take control and handle things on your own? Or do you turn your eyes to the strength and confidence of our Lord and let Him take control of the situation? Turning to Jesus is not simply a matter of sitting back and doing nothing. Rather, turning to Him in abandon is an act of the greatest trust. That trust, when all seems chaotic and overwhelming, opens the door to His peace and keeps you safe and still no matter what comes your way. Reflect upon the way you handle difficulties in life and make the conscious choice to turn to the Divine Helmsman to direct your life through the storm.

Prayer
Lord, I turn to You in confidence and choose to put my full trust in You. I know that You can handle all things and that Your love and care will keep me safe. Increase my confidence in You, dear Lord, and help my heart to always remain at peace. Jesus, I trust in You.

-John Paul Thomas
Daily Reflections on Divine Mercy: 365 Days with Saint Faustina

Oct. 5, 2016: Blessed Francis Xavier Seelos

Oct. 5, 2016: Blessed Francis Xavier Seelos

Who was this Father Seelos and why should Catholics today read about him? He was a miracle worker, a priest par excellence of the Most High, and although the Church has not officially declared it yet, we dare to say that he was a saint of God. His life should be read today by Catholics, especially American Catholics, because he sanctified our nation with his presence and gave us a model of piety and religious fervor in our busy modern American society.

New Orleans, the scene of Father Seelos’ final combats, and the city honored to have his holy remains in its ground, was not the city of origin of our subject. He was not an American. The priest who died in the cosmopolitan metropolis on the Missisippi was born in a humble stretch of land on the Lech River in Germany’s Bavaria: the beautiful and Catholic town of Füssen.

Füssen is a picturesque little town which lies sixty miles southwest of Munich, the capital of Bavaria. The population at the time of Francis’ birth consisted mainly of farmers, stone masons, cloth makers, and wheat mill owners. The heart of the town was Saint Magnus Monastery. Known as St. Mang’s to the locals, it was a Benedictine monastic foundation which also provided the parish church. Of the fifteen hundred inhabitants of the town, all but twenty were Catholics.

Francis was born into a good Catholic family. His father, Mang, was a hard-working cloth maker, known to be upright and devout. His mother, Frances, was a humble Hausfrau. It was, more importantly, her way to God. Known to have a simple and unashamed piety, she would habitually erupt into spontaneous prayer while carrying out her every-day chores.

And there were Seelos children. Mang and Frances had 12 children in their first twenty years of marriage: Elizabeth, the twins Mariana and Xaveria, Josephine, Ambrose, Francis Xavier, Antonia, Frances, Ulrich, Anna, Adam, and Kunigunda. Mariana, Xaveria, and Ulrich all died in early childhood.

Francis Xavier was born on January 11, 1819. He was baptized the same day, not due to any impending danger of death, but because that was the custom of the time. He was sickly in his youth, but showed signs of intellectual ability and, more importantly, of piety. His mother was an excellent tutor during his early years and formed his mind in both letters and sanctity. Frequently Frau Seelos would read the lives of the Saints to the youth. On one such occasion, the subject was Saint Francis Xavier, the Jesuit apostle of the Indies and the boy’s patron. After hearing the story, Francis declared “I will be a Francis Xavier.”

The Seelos house was a house of religious formation: Morning Mass, the thrice-daily recitation of the Angelus, and family spiritual reading after dinner were part of the daily routine. The rest of the day was filled with work for the parents and older children, and school for the younger ones.

Fast forward to the time spent at New Orleans as a Redemptorist priest

Father Seelos got on a train which brought him to New Orleans on September 26, 1866. Two School Sisters of Notre Dame were on the same train, and the three Religious spent the better part of the trip in holy conversation. The sisters were impressed with their meeting of the Redemptorist, who had always been known for his skill in directing sisters. One thing struck them as strange, however: When the sisters asked Father Seelos how long he was to remain in New Orleans, he told them he would be there only one year and then die of yellow fever.

When he arrived at his new assignment in New Orleans, it was like a gathering of old friends. Father Alexander, the priest who brought Father Seelos to America, Brother Louis Kenning, who was a novice with him, and Father Duffy, one of his own novices, were all assigned to the same monastery. Of the six lay-brothers and seven priests at the monastery, most of them were under Father Seelos’ rule at one time. He finally had his dream fulfilled: For sixteen years he was in various positions of authority in the Congregation; now he was happy to be a subject and not a superior. In the annals of the New Orleans community, Father Seelos’ arrival was recorded thus: “Today 8¼ P.M., Rev. Fath. Francis X Seelos, for… years Superior in our Congregation… arrived here as a simple father… With joy he received the command of his Superior and he seems more as a novice than an old Father, so desirous is he of being led rather than leading. His example confounds us and makes us wish we had been better and humbler and more really Redemptorists.” This is reminiscent of an earlier comment made by his provincial, “He is a Redemptorist body and soul.”

The work in New Orleans was parish work. The community of priests served a trilingual parish which had three different church buildings for the three language groups they served: St. Alphonsus’ (English), Notre Dame (French), and St. Mary’s (German). He was assigned to be the prefect of St. Mary’s, which made him responsible for its liturgical services and ordinary pastoral duties. Once at the new assignment, he took to it with his characteristic diligence. Father Neithart, whose vocation was spared in its infancy by Father Seelos’ direction, and who was under Seelos in the mission band, gives a testimony of his old master’s work in New Orleans:

“The amount of daily labor he performed as chief pastor of Saint Mary’s, prefect of the church, prefect of the brothers, spiritual director of the sisters and of thousands of seculars, was truly astonishing. None of us ever saw him idle for a moment. He never went visiting, never sat talking in the parlor, but was always to be found either in his cell writing or praying, or else in the confessional, in the schools, or on sick calls. Indeed, he literally killed himself with labor, mortifications, and exertions. Nevertheless, he was the most cheerful and humorous of the community.”

The reputation he carried with him as a saintly confessor and a miracle worker followed him to his final destination. He was sought after by Germans, French, Creoles, Negroes, and mulattos. The fact that he spoke German, English and French made him an ideal priest for the tri-lingual parish.

In this city, he cured the daughter of a man who was taking instruction from him. The child cried continuously, except when taken to a Catholic Church. Nobody knew that the man was taking instruction to be a Catholic; because his wife was a fanatical anti-Catholic, he kept the fact a secret. When a Catholic friend of the family took the baby to Father Seelos to be cured, he told the woman that he would baptize the baby first. The woman replied that the parents were not Catholic, so the baby should not be baptized. Father Seelos replied that he was instructing the baby’s father, and soon the mother would be a Catholic too, so he went ahead with the baptism, after which he cured the child. When she found out about his intentions of entering the Church, the man’s wife became furious. But true to the word of Father Seelos, her heart softened and she accepted the true Faith. Soon both husband and wife became Catholics.

Another cure involved a three-year-old girl who had a high fever. The family doctor despaired of being able to help the girl, so they took her to Father Seelos, who prayed over her and wrought a total cure.

There was an air of finality about his stay in New Orleans. Not only did he make known to the sisters mentioned above that he would die of yellow fever in New Orleans, but on several occasions while in the Crescent City, he made it known that he would travel no more, but die and be buried at St. Mary’s. The occasion of his death, he told the sisters, would be yellow fever, and he proved to be accurate in his prophecy. In September of 1867, a yellow fever epidemic was raging in the city. Bouts of the disease had been affecting New Orleanians for years. In 1847, the Redemptorist priest who led the Congregation to New Orleans was killed by the fever. But in September of 1867, the death toll was heavy. From two deaths per day in August, the victims jumped to sixty-seven daily. The clergy and religious of the city are still remembered for their heroic acts of virtue during the crisis. In fact, because of their exertion, they were themselves dying in great numbers. That month — September — Father Seelos started to show signs of fatigue.

The priests kept a list of their sick calls on a slate in the parlor of the rectory. The Fathers checked off the names on the list as they took care of them. They walked to each sick call, until a generous man provided them with a horse-drawn buggy, which helped them keep up their strength. Soon, though, exhaustion caught up with the priests. They started becoming sick themselves. The upper floor of the rectory became like a hospital, as twelve members of the community fell sick with the fever. Father Seelos was soon in that number, confined to his bed.

As he lay sick, two lay-brothers, Brother Gerard and Brother Lawrence both died on September 27. The situation looked bleak for many of the Redemptorists.

The doctor became sure that Father Seelos’ condition was now fatal, but he allowed Father Duffy to break the news to his confrere. “The doctor says you are going to heaven,” said the Irish priest. “Oh, what pleasant news! How thankful I am!” came the reply.

This dialogue happened on October 1. Father Seelos still had three more days left in his final agony. During his dying days he was a veritable prophet, working miracles, giving seemingly inspired counsel and rebuking at least one priest for his bad behavior.

The priest he rebuked was one Father Jacobs, who had been a student of the dying man in Cumberland. Seelos rebuked him for being more social-minded than a priest should be. He told him that if he didn’t change his ways, he would lose his vocation as a Redemptorist. When Jacobs came out of Seelos’ room, he was pale, and tears were coming down his face. Sadly, he didn’t heed the counsel and the prophecy proved true. Years later he was excused from the Congregation.

Others took his counsel better. Brother Lawrence, who spent a great deal of time at the deathbed of Father Seelos, was like a sponge, taking in all the spiritual direction he could. He would often interrupt the dying priest with questions. Once he asked the priest if the angels in heaven rejoiced more on the Feast of the Angels. “That’s for sure,” came the reply.

He edified the assembled religious around his bed when he said, “I never thought it was so sweet to die in the Congregation. I now begin to know what happiness it is to live and die a Redemptorist. Oh, let us love our vocation and strive to persevere in it. Then all will be right with us.” Shortly after that, he begged his brothers’ forgiveness for his imperfections and any scandal he had caused them. At the sound of these words, some of them began to sob aloud. One said, “If a saint speaks so, what will become of us poor devils, when we come to die?”

Doctor Dowler, the community physician, was amazed that the priest could hold on to life. In vain did he try to illicit complaints from the patient. Yellow fever made for a miserable death, yet Father Seelos would not make the slightest complaint.

Soon delirium set in. He would begin the words of Mass, “Introibo ad altare Dei.” Then he would begin a sermon in German, English, or French. He would ask questions, like “Who will give the priests’ retreat this year?” and then wander off to sleep. He made his brothers repress a chuckle when he asked, “Where am I, dead?”

The lay people, who were alarmed at the imminent demise of their precious treasure, were apprised of his condition by the priests. So great was his fame that even the secular daily paper kept track of his decline.

Several times, Brother Louis asked Seelos if he had seen the Blessed Virgin, since it is recorded in the lives of the saints that some had such visits during their last agony. “No” came the first reply on September 29. Asked again on October 2, he answered, “Yes! Once!” On October 4, “Yes! Twice!” This second visit of our Lady seems to have been his last in this life. At 4:30 PM, he was in the throes of death. He had been given the Last Rites and the Papal Blessing, with its plenary indulgence. The priests were holding a crucifix, a picture of our Lady, one of St. Alphonsus, and one of St. Clement Maria Hofbauer alternately up to his face, that he might kiss them as he lay dying. The priests and brothers started singing a hymn to our Lady written by St. Stanislaus Kostka. His countenance brightened when he heard the song to the Mother of God. Before the end of the hymn, with his eyes anchored to the Crucifix, the little man from Füssen yielded up his soul to God.

Father Geisen — the one who summoned the ambulance to the church on a mission — preached the funeral sermon for his dead brother. He did so in English, even though German was the official language of St. Mary’s. Since Germans, French, and Americans, both white and Negro were all present, the language most common to all had to be used. The whole congregation was in tears.

At least one cure happened when Father Seelos was laid in state. A woman named Christine Holle, who had been in bed for a month suffering from pains in her hip and abdomen, painfully made her way to St. Mary’s. She had heard how beautiful he looked in death and thought the miracle worker could cure her now that he was in heaven. She knelt beside his coffin and touched his hand. Instantly and permanently the pain left her. This was just one more fact which supported the opinion of the hundreds gathered for the funeral that the man laid out before them was a saint.

The secular newspapers in New Orleans wrote of his death, as did Catholic papers in Baltimore. A veritable chorus of praise rose up from all who knew him in Pittsburgh, Detroit, and Baltimore. People came forth with their own memories of wonders wrought by the man they were all certain was a saint.

The year 1998 [when this article was originally written] marks the 131st since the death of the servant of God. The cause for his canonization was started in the early 1900’s, but did not go far and eventually died out. In 1966 his cause was re-opened. Pope John Paul II beatified the humble Bavarian on Sunday, April 9, 2000.

-Brother Andre Marie
http://catholicism.org/blessed-seelos.html

Monday, October 3, 2016

Oct. 4, 2016: St. Francis of Assisi

Oct. 4, 2016: St. Francis of Assisi

MEETING THE LEPER  

Francis remembered the first victory of his new heart. All his life long he had panicked when he met a person with leprosy. And then one day on the road below Assisi, he did one of those surprising things that only the power of Jesus’ Spirit could explain. He reached out and touched such a one, the very sight of whom nauseated him. He felt his knees playing tricks on him, and he was afraid he would not make it to the leper standing humbly before him. The odor of rotting flesh attacked his senses as if he were smelling with his eyes and ears as well. Tears began to slide down his cheeks because he thought he wouldn’t be able to do it; and as he began to lose his composure, he had to literally leap at the man before him. Trembling, he threw his arms around the leper’s neck and kissed his cheek.

Then, like the feeling he remembered when he first began to walk, he was happy and confident; he stood erect and calm and loved this man in his arms. He wanted to hold him tighter but that would only be to satisfy himself now; and he was afraid to lose this newfound freedom. He dropped his arms and smiled, and the man’s eyes twinkled back their recognition that Francis had received more than he had given. In the silence of their gazing, neither man dropped his eyes, and Francis marveled that a leper’s eyes were hypnotically beautiful.

THIS NEW DAY  

This new day. This song for beginning again. This harmony within me. This weightlessness I feel. Francis still caught glimpses from time to time of that first release, that beginning-anew feeling that filled his whole being the day he kissed the leper. The pent-up frustrations of his whole youth, the self-pity, the agonizing self-doubt and questioning, the moodiness of his illness—all rushed out of his heart as if a great dam had broken; and the backed-up, brackish waters of a lifetime streamed outdoors to be soaked up by the soil and forgotten forever.

That kiss, that reaching out of the lips directed his heart for the first time toward someone worth loving other than himself. He began that day to breathe out more than to breathe in, to turn outward rather than inward, to do rather than think about doing. He had finally found the courage to leap across that deep chasm that separated him from the other, from loving what he feared would demand more of him than he could give.

In keeping his eyes on the leper, in thinking only of this person before him, he forgot himself, he forgot the chasm beneath him, and he ran straight across the void into the arms of love and happiness. And all his life he struggled to preserve that original insight into love and to act it out daily. Love was looking into the eyes of the other; and forgetting the dark void between you and forgetting that no one can walk in a void, you start boldly across, your arms outstretched to give of yourself and to receive of the other.

In his last words to his brothers, his Testament, he said: “When I was in sin, it appeared too bitter to me to see lepers; and the Lord himself led me among them, and that which seemed bitter to me was changed for me into sweetness of soul and body.” It was all there in those words: the walk to the leper was the Journey; what happened to you then was the Dream come true.

-Fr. Murray Bodo OFM, "Francis: The Journey and the Dream"

Pray the Rosary in October

Pray the Rosary in October

Pope Francis prescribes daily Rosary & Divine Mercy Chaplet as spiritual medicine for heart, soul and whole of life

During the Sunday Angelus Pope Francis prescribed praying the Rosary and Divine Mercy Chaplet daily as efficacious spiritual medicine for the heart, soul and whole of life.

Pope Francis said:

‘I would like, now, for all of you to consider a medicine. But some may think, ‘The Pope is being a pharmacist now?’ It is a special medicine to make the fruit of the Year of Faith that is coming to a close more concrete.  This little box contains the medicine, and some volunteers will distribute it to you as you leave the square. Take it! It’s a rosary with which one can pray also the Chaplet of Divine Mercy, spiritual help for our souls and for spreading love, forgiveness and brotherhood everywhere. Don’t forget to take it. Because it does good, eh?  It does good for the heart, for the soul, for all of life.”

Pope Francis has dedicated his pontificate to Our Lady of Fatima, who has told us through her message to the visionaries of the importance of praying the Rosary daily.

“Pray the Rosary every day in honor of Our Lady of the Rosary to obtain peace in the world . . . for she alone can save it.” (Our Lady, July 13, 1917)
“God has placed peace in her hands, and it is from the Immaculate Heart that men must ask it.” (Jacinta, shortly before her death)
“When you pray the Rosary, say after each mystery: ‘O Jesus, forgive us our sins, save us from the fires of hell, lead all souls to Heaven, especially those who have most need of your mercy.’ “ (June 13, 1917)

http://www.ncregister.com/daily-news/pope-francis-promotes-year-of-faith-spiritual-medicine/

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When Pope Francis Fell in Love With Our Lady

Pope Francis didn’t always have such a deep devotion to Our Lady or to praying the Rosary. Father Jorge Bergoglio was 49 when he fell in love with Our Lady. Two encounters with Mary in the 1980s transformed the future Pope Francis’ devotion to her — witnessing Pope St. John Paul II praying the Rosary and discovering the sacred painting of Our Lady, Undoer of Knots.

To understand why Father Bergoglio’s devotion to Mary underwent a radical transformation, it’s important to know something of the traumatic events that led up to this moment in his life. He had served as the Jesuit provincial during Argentina’s “Dirty War,” when the military and paramilitary death squads conducted state-sponsored terror, resulting in the killing of as many as 49,000 civilians. Left-wing guerrillas also killed 6,000 military, police and civilians. The death squads singled out for execution anyone working with the poor, including priests, religious and catechists.

Father Bergoglio used his position to publicly criticize the violence of the junta and the guerrillas. But more than this, he put his own life at risk by rescuing people from the death squads and helping others to evade arrest, providing them with the means to flee the country. He personally drove through the streets of Buenos Aires with men and women in his car who were being hunted by the regime. It has been estimated that Father Bergoglio saved at least 100 people during the Dirty War.

Pope Francis has admitted that the stress of living through those times resulted in personal problems for him:

“I had to deal with difficult situations, and I made my decisions abruptly and by myself. My authoritarian and quick manner of making decisions led me to have serious problems and to be accused of being ultraconservative.”

Like countless Catholics before him, Father Bergoglio turned to Our Lady in his pain and suffering.

St. John Paul II Taught Jorge Bergoglio How to Pray the Rosary

Two years after the end of the Dirty War, Father Bergoglio witnessed Pope St. John Paul II pray the Rosary. This encounter most probably took place during Pope John Paul’s apostolic visit to Latin America in 1985. Following Pope John Paul’s death, then-Cardinal Bergoglio gave this personal testimony on the impact on his life of seeing the Holy Father praying the Rosary:

“If I remember well, it was 1985. One evening I went to recite the holy Rosary that was being led by the Holy Father. He was in front of everybody, on his knees. The group was numerous; I saw the Holy Father from the back, and, little by little, I got lost in prayer. I was not alone: I was praying in the middle of the people of God to which I and all those there belonged, led by our pastor.

“In the middle of the prayer, I became distracted, looking at the figure of the Pope: his piety, his devotion was a witness. And the time drifted away, and I began to imagine the young priest, the seminarian, the poet, the worker, the child from Wadowice … in the same position in which he knelt at that moment, reciting Ave Maria after Ave Maria. His witness struck me.

“I felt that this man, chosen to lead the Church, was following a path up to his Mother in the sky, a path set out on from his childhood. And I became aware of the density of the words of the Mother of Guadalupe to St. Juan Diego: ‘Don’t be afraid; am I not your mother?’ I understood the presence of Mary in the life of the Pope. That testimony did not get forgotten in an instant. From that time on, I recite the 15 mysteries of the Rosary every day.”

It’s as if, at that moment of inspiration, St. John Paul’s deep devotion to Our Lady was passed on to the man who would succeed him as successor of St. Peter 28 years later.

Cardinal Bergoglio’s insight into the significance of the Rosary to Pope St. John Paul as a “path up to his Mother in the sky” resonates with Pope John Paul’s own description of the Rosary in his apostolic letter on the Rosary, Rosarium Virginis Mariae. Pope John Paul concluded his exhortation to the faithful to pray the Rosary with a Marian prayer composed by Blessed Bartolo Longo, the apostle of the Rosary, that uses the image of the Rosary as a “chain” to heaven:

“O blessed Rosary of Mary, sweet chain which unites us to God, bond of love which unites us to the angels, tower of salvation against the assaults of hell, safe port in our universal shipwreck, we will never abandon you.”

Pope John Paul, like his successor Pope Francis, saw the Rosary as a precious chain of prayers that joins us to heaven.

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Oct. 2, 2016: 27th Sunday in Ordinary Time C

Oct. 2, 2016: 27th Sunday Ordinary C
Click to hear Audio Homily

Most of us are familiar with paying invoices from an electrician, plumber, and lawn contractor. Have you ever received and paid invoices from your children? I read a story of an 8-year old boy named Bradley who one morning came down to breakfast table and handed his mom a piece of paper which read, Mother owes Bradley: $3.00 for running errands, $2:00 dollars for taking out the trash, $2.00 dollars for sweeping the floor, $1:00 dollar for all other extra things he did for the total sum of $8.00. His mother looked at the invoice with a smile. Later when Bradley came to lunch, his mother handed him $8:00 and a folded paper. He quickly put the cash in his pocket and then began to read the piece of paper. It read, Bradley owes Mother: nothing for being good to him, nothing for nursing him through his chicken pox, nothing for shirts and shoes and toys, nothing for his meals and beautiful room. Bradley sat looking at his new invoice without saying a word. After a few minutes, he pulled the $8:00 out of his pocket, and placed them in his mother's hand. After that, Bradley helped his mother out of love. Bradley came to realize that he was, as Jesus puts it in today’s parable, an “unprofitable servant.” In other words, Bradley’s mother has done more for him than he could ever do for her in return.

Our Lord calls us “unprofitable servants.” What does he mean? Did he mean  that our service is of no value?  No, elsewhere in the gospel he said, “Give and gifts will be given to you; a good measure, packed together, shaken down, and overflowing, will be poured into your lap. For the measure with which you measure will in return be measured out to you.” (Luke 6:38) Rather, Jesus meant that we gain no “bonus points” or merit from our service. In our Gospel today, it is important to understand that it is not the servant who is in charge, but the master. So the servant does not choose how he will serve, nor when he serves. And the servant must serve with proper attitude toward serving, namely: no self-pity, no complacency or laziness, and no expectation of recognition or a bonus.

Imagine that you are at the pearly gates and you hand Jesus an invoice that reads: for services rendered, I should be allowed to enter.  The detail of the invoice reads: “You owe me for tithing to your church, for perfect attendance at mass on Sundays, for spending time talking to you in prayer, for being committed to work, for being faithful to my spouse, for being good to my family, and for occasionally helping out my neighbor.” Jesus smiles and hands you a crucifix and a folded paper. The paper reads, “Invoice: for creating you out of nothing, for purchasing your life with my passion on the Cross, for baptising you in order to wipe out Original Sin from your soul and make you an adopted child of My Heavenly Father, for giving you My entire self in the Eucharist at mass, for absolving you of your terrible sins committed against Me and your neighbor, and for giving you entrance to eternal life in Heaven with My Father. Total cost: nothing.”

Mother Teresa understood what the term “unprofitable servant” meant when she said, “When you come face to face with God, you cannot but know that you are nothing, that you have nothing...It is only when you realize your nothingness, your emptiness, that God can fill you with Himself...When you become full of God then you can give God to others.”

We are not salaried employees of Jesus. What we have already received from Him and continue to receive, we cannot repay. Our duty is to use the gifts we have already received in service of others, out of gratitude to God and not expect anything in return. It is also pointless to compare responsibilities of one person against another, thinking we’ve done more than others. At the pearly gates, can you imagine me, a priest, handing Jesus an invoice for an entrance ticket to heaven just because I am a priest? I will be more severely judged because more is expected of me. God has a plan for each one of us as unique individuals, a plan for us to serve Him, and to be sanctified in serving Him, according to the natural human capacities He has given us.

Each of us is called to serve God and others through the supernatural gifts of the Holy Spirit that were placed in us at baptism and confirmation. St. Paul’s encouragement to young Timothy is meant for all of us when he said, “I remind you, to stir into flame the gift of God that you have through the imposition of my hands. For God did not give us a spirit of cowardice but rather of power and love and self-control. So do not be ashamed of your testimony to our Lord...but bear your share of hardship for the gospel with the strength that comes from God.”

We are not all called to be at the pulpit or preaching in the streets, but we are called to be servants of Jesus, day in and day out, in the ordinary experiences of life. Are we ready to give our best to God with generous love and gratitude for all that He has done for us?