Thursday, September 26, 2013

Lightside of the moon (Light Part 2)

I’ve tried 3 different times to write about Our Lady and every time it just didn’t seem like it made enough sense, or even was worthy of posting so I didn’t but I’ve been reading a lot about our Mother recently and I believe I have finally found a context that will be cohesive and conclusive and that my dear brothers and sisters is the context of Christ.  As you may have noticed this is Part 2 of a 2 part little series on light.  If you haven’t read the first one it’s not necessary that you do but I strongly recommend reading it first.  It can be found below.
Yes I am a nerd, and yes I did misquote the title of a Pink Floyd song for the title. Since I got that little confession out of the way I think we should talk about Our Lady in the context of her Son.  Jesus was the purpose of her life, as it should be ours as well but with her there is something special.  I’m going to be honest with you my Marian devotion has been lack luster for most of my life.  I don’t want to admit it but I feel as if a lot of Catholics have lost the beauty of Our Lady.  I will venture to say after this past month that it is necessary that the Church faithful find her, and not only find her but love her.  A few weeks ago I had a very close friend of mine ask me if I prayed my rosary every day.  I beat around the bush, “I try to pray it every day.”  Hardly.  I had gotten into the habit of missing it or forgetting to do it throughout the day.  I was numb to the fact that it was hurting me.  To be honest had my friend not mention it to me I’d still be missing it for the most part; I’d still be lost. 

I’m not lost anymore though, at least not as lost.  I spoke about in part 1 about how Christ is the Light that guides us home but I think sometimes it takes something softer than the brightness of the Son to reel us into His love.  This is where Mary comes in, in my life, as well as the life of the Church.  Before I go further I would like to bring forth the image that Fulton Sheen has brought to my attention, of our Lady as the Moon that reflects the brightness of the Sun.  Before you read further just take a moment to meditate on that image.

If you would like to share any of your thoughts or things that have come to you through meditation please feel free to share it with me; I would love to hear it.

I will give you an example from my own life.  When I began this year I had made a resolution to carry with me three characteristics that had, in truth, carried me for the summer.  These three ideals are humility, enthusiasm, and love.  They seem simple and vague enough that I could find places in my life in the seminary that I could tell myself that I was living them but when you scrutinize your actions it’s also very easy to see one’s faults.  I love Jesus and I wanted desperately to love my brothers, to be humble, and over all to be enthusiastic.  For the first week I did that.  By looking to Jesus in the Eucharist I was able to fulfill my resolution but things started to get tough, and I started to lose sight of the brightness of our Lord even though I was spending a lot of time in His presence.  Other things began to flood my mind but it was in the simple pray of the rosary that I once again took notice of our Lord’s warming light.  It was in the silence of our loving Mother that I was able to see God ever so clearly.  Besides the fact that she was and is a sinless example of how to love like Jesus, and how to love Jesus, she also happens to be with Jesus.  I could just see her saying, “Son, let me handle this one” speaking about needing to come to me in a place I least expected it, in simplicity.  God and I have always had a pretty upfront relationship.  I am clear with Him and He is clear with me.  I’m used to coming to deep prayer in big ways, whether it be in a deep entering into a holy hour or in fasting for another person but I’d let myself get preoccupied with other things, albeit I was still going through the motions of those prayers.  Our Lady came to me through my friend, who in gentleness and simplicity asked me a pretty straight forward question.  Do you pray the rosary every day?  I didn’t but because this friend asked me I wanted to start.  I went to our Lady and told her, I don’t know you well but I think I’d like to.  She answered with a quiet response, “Do whatever he tells you.”  My dear brothers and sisters, sometimes we the need gentle point of view of our Mother to show us the obvious things.  Since I’ve begun running to Mary in the rosary every morning and offering up prayers for the people I love to our Lady daily I have also been seeing more clearly the love of our Lord.  The gentle gleam of our Lady’s love reflects the bright light of the Son so that we may seek where her light is coming from.  She comes in the night, in the simple and unlikely places in our lives that we may be brought to a deeper sense of His sacrifice for us, that we may see that we are loved, and that we may truly be led home. 

The Light will guide you home (Light Part 1)

The Light will guide you home.

Many people don’t know this but growing up I always wanted to be an astronaut.  I spent many an hour prior to 7th grade pondering about how one day I was going to go to space.  Obviously the Lord has called me to something a little different.  I still hope to go to the great beyond, but I think more about the everlasting one these days.  Yes I am a nerd, and yes I did misquote a Coldplay song in the title.  Reason for the little preface is I had a pretty good prayer session last night.

As many of you know I live in Nebraska and in our town there aren’t many lights so the stars are breathtaking.  It stands as the one thing that Seward Nebraska has over Rockford.  In the past I’ve loved walking around the campus out by our pond and praying by the starlight and this year I’ve been doing it even more.  There is something about the silence of night that makes the voice of God that much louder.  Last night I was laying on the wall by our Mary statue out in the court yard praying and I was overwhelmed by the love of God shown to me in the beauty of the night sky.  I was 4 decades through my rosary when someone in the gym flipped on the lights so in an instant the stars were no longer the cause of the light in the court yard.  Not only were they not the cause of the light, all but three of the stars had disappeared from my vision.

Of course I finished my rosary but that last decade was the hardest.  I was so distracted by the light from the gym.  It was almost blinding.  Not blinding in the sense of my eyes only but also spiritually.  Every day as Christians we, in a perfect understanding, would be searching to know, love, and serve God so that we can live with Him forever.  I start off every day by doing that but some days it seems within about 30 seconds I have something to take care of and my focus is quickly drawn away from our Lord. 

I was thinking about the title of the Light to describe God and I recommend taking some time to ponder on that.  I thought back to different times in my life.  I remember going to a Steubenville Conference with a bunch of people that I love.  Up in Minnesota that weekend the Light was so warm and bright.  I couldn’t look away; it was like a mosquito to a lamp.  Then I remember my first semester at Boylan High School and I was so caught up with my new friends and classes and the sheer pride that comes with being a Titan that I didn’t take the time to realize the Light had led me there, and was still trying to lead me.  But whaaaat?  If the Light of our Lord is so bright and warming it can draw me in for a whole weekend how can I go so long without noticing it? 

I think it has a lot to do with how close we get to the lesser lights.  Last night I could’ve walked out back and I wouldn’t have been able to see the gym lights, and the stars would’ve been just as bright previously and yet I didn’t move.  So laziness kept me from that light, but what about in other instances?  Well my freshman year had I looked for the Lord guiding me I would’ve seen Him clear as day, and I am pretty comfortable saying I would’ve been infinitely more joyous; I didn’t want to take the risk of shutting my other lights off.  I didn’t want to trust that the Lord would provide me with the Light and warmth when I gave up my own feeble attempts.  I’ve come to the conclusion the Lord isn’t going to strong arm Himself into my life; that’s not what he wants.  He wants us to open ourselves to His love and to freely love Him in return.  Freely.  Which means we’ve got to make the effort.  He’s waiting, and when we are finally willing to follow the true Light we won’t have to worry about the darkness. 

We all have, or will have a dark day here or there where the earthly lights will blind us from our Lord but it’s in our best interest to do everything we can to stay close to the one who loves us fully.  Take some time, right now, and find a quiet spot and just ask the Lord to shine brightly for you.  Let Him know how desperately you yearn for the true warmth and guidance.  He’s going to surprise you.  Obviously my dear brothers and sisters we will go through times where it seems that the Light isn’t shining for you but maybe, just maybe, the Lord is asking you to open your eyes just a little wider.  Let Him lead you.  Let the Light guide you home to Our Heavenly Father.

Brothers and sisters, I thank you for taking the time to read this but as you may have noticed, it is only part 1.  In part 2 we will consider the one who most perfectly reflects the light.


Part 2 can be found at:

Wednesday, September 11, 2013


“Lord I come, I confess, bowing here, I find my rest. 

Without You, I fall apart.  

You’re the one that guides my heart.”

I have a hard time accepting the help of others.  I have a hard time accepting correction from others.  I have a hard time accepting advice from others.  I have a hard time accepting love from others.  I have a hard time accepting lessons from others.  I am a prideful man. 

These things do not stop at the border of my spiritual life.  Many people think that because I am a seminarian I have everything figured out but my dear brothers and sisters I have to be honest with you, I have less figured out than most.  The Lord has used my pride to teach me a lesson though.  Abandon. 

If I have a project I will do anything, anything, to prove that my way is right.  For example, I am the baby of the family and I decided that I was going to get rid of the swing set in my back yard at home.  This swing set was a beast though, heavy duty wooden swing set put together with bolts that have long since rusted making the swing set even harder to get apart.  I started this project at about 2 in the afternoon, my mom was due back from work at about 330 and I figured I’d be done by then.  I wasn’t .  I didn’t bring any tools with me to take this swing set apart, I was going to man handle it.  My plan was going to tear it apart piece by piece because danggit I am Big Bad Blood and this sucker is going down.  However, as I said it still wasn’t all the way taken down when my mom got home.  She saw me in the yard and came back to see what I was up to.  I was struggling, covered in dirt, soaking in sweat, my hands were sore and red from breaking boards.  She asked me if I wanted to get a hammer for the nails and the wrench for the bolts.  Nahhh, I’ll pass.  After 5 more minutes of her watching me struggle she asked me again if I wanted her to bring me some tools.  No Mom, it’s really okay I got this.  10 more minutes and I’m getting visibly frustrated, at this point she brings the tools from the garage and tosses them on the ground near me.  I still didn’t use them.  I had this mentality that I needed to finish this project with the plan I had originally come up with.  It didn’t work.  I was tired, angry, and defeated.  At that point I picked up the tools and my mom noticed so she came back outside and she helped me take it apart.  It took about 10 minutes once I gave up on my plan and trusted in another’s.

My spiritual life is the same way.  I will sit in the chapel for hours upon hours in a month with no true prayer before I will admit to the Lord that I can’t pray.  I’ve had that experience many a time where I will do everything I can think of to improve my spiritual life and there is no improvement or visible growth.  Then when I get frustrated I will go into the chapel and plop down in my pew and let out a deep sigh.  At that point I let the Lord in on my secret, Lord I don’t even know what I’m doing.  I need you.  The Lord constantly gives me hints to what will make life, especially my spiritual life, easier not much unlike my mother with the tools and it takes me being broken to recognize that the Lord knows best. 

All of us have aspects of our lives that we have a hard time accepting help with and I ask you to take some time with the Lord and ask him to show you what you need to let go of.

This could apply to you in many different ways, for instance, when I was in high school I had sins that I seemed to commit over and over and I would go to confession but never gave those to the Lord.  I would tell myself that, hey I got a handle on this no worries.  I didn’t have a handle on them; I needed to give them completely to the Lord in order for those to be purified.

When you ask the Lord to show you what you need to give up, be ready for him to break you in order to get you comfortable enough with giving things to Him.  This summer I learned many things and that got me in the right frame of mind to pray this prayer when I got to the seminary, “Lord, this year is Yours.  Make of me what You want me to be.  I give You every aspect of my life. Use it.”

I warn you, when you pray this, be ready for Him to take your thoughts and plans and turn them on their head.  God is so big and when you let Him flex that God muscle He is going to flex you. 

It wasn’t to long ago that I had a dear friend bring to my attention that I needed to learn to love our Mother Mary more than I have in the past.  I’ll be honest, quickly I shut my heart and began to run in the opposite direction because the Lord was asking me to take a part of my life and admit that it could be better, as well as admit that others can teach me how to love more.  I tried my way of shutting off all advice from the people I care about because I know how to pray.  That didn’t work.  I had to abandon myself and learn from those around me, and ultimately, learn from our Lord how to love in a more pure way.  Do I understand the plan in which the Lord showed me that I needed to love Mary more? Not really.  Do I understand that the Lord showed me that I needed to love Mary more? Yes.  To be honest, that is all that matters.  Since I have given up my will for the Lord’s in this matter I have had the strength to say my rosary first thing every morning and I found an image of the Immaculate heart of Mary that I have put above my bed.  Every time I go to bed and every time I get up I remember that I am loved by Mary as well as her Son.  The Lord isn’t asking us to analyze His plans; He’s asking us to abandon ourselves to them.  This is a lesson that the Lord is teaching me in a menagerie of ways as of late.  Pray for me that I may abandon my life daily to our Lord through the hands of our Mother Mary, and I promise to pray for you that you may give everything, your plans, your sins, your questions to the God and Father who loves us.

“Lord, I need you.”

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Lift High the Cross

The Lord gives us many crosses to bear.  Our crosses are specifically ours.  They are a certain weight, a certain color, and they bring with them their own certain pains.  As intimidating as this might seem these crosses are given to us for the sole sake of carrying something heavy.  They are given to us to teach us, to strengthen us, to share in us the glory of the resurrection.

I don’t know what your crosses are.  They very well could be completely different than mine.  That doesn’t change the fact that we are in community in the fact we are bearing these difficulties together.  While thinking and praying about my weakest moments I realized that one thing always happens amidst those moments; I feel alone.   Feeling alone in and of itself is a cross and when other struggles get stacked on top of it, it can become unbearable. 

You are not alone.

Do not be afraid.

These two phrases are used over and over and over, especially in Catholic circles. Read them again though. 

You are not alone. 

In our weakest moments, the reason we feel we can’t overcome certain struggles is because we can’t overcome any struggles alone.  We need the love of God the Father, we need the strength of God the Son, and we need the inspiration of God the Holy Spirit.  My dear brothers and sisters, they are always there, always loving you, always strengthening you, always inspiring you.  When you think that you are completely alone ask the Lord to give you peace.  Come to him in the Eucharist.  Return to union through reconciliation.  Most of all though…

Do not be afraid.

As strong men and women we never want to admit that we are weak.   Through this bravado we also don’t want to admit that we are afraid.  Afraid that we will go through life falling because of the same struggles day in and day out until the day we die with no triumphs.   Afraid that we are going to be judged, especially by those that love us.  Afraid that we are not moving in the right direction.    Afraid that we will never know, let alone fulfill God’s plan for us. 

Do not be afraid.

There must be a reason Scripture as well as the greats such as Blessed John Paul II said it so much.   It’s because we all are afraid.  Some days are better than others but we all have moments of despair.  Trust in the Lord.  He wins. He always wins.  If you let him.  It takes time.  It takes sacrifice.  But it is worth it. It is worth it.  

I’m not just blowing smoke, but truly do I also struggle with these same difficulties.  When the tough gets going…I get ready to get going in the other direction.  I have to remember that if I am walking with my cross, I must be going in the right direction.  This direction is going to make you die to self but it is also going to allow you to rise. 

I’ve found in my own life I am good at pawning off my struggles for a time, but they always come back.  When they do come back they are usually heavier and I am more aggravated.  I was having one of those days after becoming impatient with some of my dear brothers so I texted one of my seminarian brothers on the East coast.  He gave me great comfort and I ask you reading this to find men and women you can relate to.  Share with them your burdens, your fears, and your loneliness and I know that that will lighten your load.  I leave you with the words I was told by him in hopes that it gives you new hope and a new strength.

“The cross is a daily suffering that we must pick up.  The important thing is to not look at the past and add those struggles to the current weight of the cross.  Carry what you have that day and the next day pick up the cross given you then.   God will provide the strength necessary for that to happen.  He won’t abandon if you ask for his grace.  He wants us to carry our cross and carry it to him. “

My dear brothers and sisters, we are pilgrims on a journey home.  Let us lift our crosses in Christian unity and head to Calvary, that through these loving actions we may see the face of God.