Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Mother Knows Best

I was trying to update my computer and it told me I had to restart it so I did and that blue screen came up that said "Updating 1 of 21" ahhhhh! 10 minutes later I'm sitting staring at this page that still was updating 1 of 21 and I decided instead of going crazy by just sitting there I would pray today's entry in the total consecration to Mary.  Heavy and beautiful words as always.  When I finished the litanies my computer was sitting at 6 of 21.  I decided this gave me an opportunity to pray my rosary so I set my computer over on my desk, shut my light off and laid back on my bed.  I prayed the first decade and then I opened my eyes before starting the second so I wouldn't doze off before finishing and my room was covered in blue light. 

I guess that slow loading was a gift after all.  The blueness of everything kept me focused on the rosary because I heard Mary looked pretty spiffy in blue.  There came a revelation from this too though. 

If you follow my blog at all you know that my Marian devotion is new, really new.  I've been praying my rosary every day for about three months and I'm really starting to get to know her and to know her is to love her.  She has been slowly showing me how much she cares for me and in this long computer update I learned something new.

This blue light covered everything in my room; without it I would've been completely blind to what everything was. Could I see everything perfectly? No but much better than otherwise.  Mary is like that blue light.  Without it we can be sitting in the dark not knowing what's going on, not knowing what God wants of us.  Is that because their is something wrong with us? No of course not, but God chose to use Mary to bring His Son to us and I don't know why that would stop at the Resurrection.  At Christmas Jesus comes to us through Mary, because He loves us and He uses her gentleness and simplicity to come without bringing fear upon us.  At the wedding feast Mary again is the one who brings Christ to us when He begins his public ministry.  At the Crucifixion Mary does not fight with the fact that her Son has to die to save us.  She willed for that sacrifice when she said yes to the Angel at the Annunciation.  Today Mary still brings her Son to us, not because we can't pray otherwise, not because we think she's God no no no it is because He loves her and she is our Mother.  The Lord Jesus still comes to us through the loving hands of His Mother. 

We are not meant to be alone, we are communal beings and in that we very much need to be in communion with our Mother.  I've gotten very close to her Immaculate heart in the last few months and do you know what you can find in the heart of Mary?  Her Son.  Her will is united with His in heaven.  It just so happens we have the gift of having Mary as our Mother and friend to lead us to Love, to her Son.  She has been guiding me for a very long time and it is just recently that I have begun to notice and thank her.  She's even using those pesky happenings of impatience in me. 

I didn't know why I needed Mom but I think that's the wrong question.  It's kinda like asking why do we have to go to Mass on Sunday.  I always correct my CCD students when they ask that with a quick, "Why do we get to go to Mass on Sunday?"  The same thing goes for Mom; it's not why we need her, but how did we get so lucky to have her.  That reason my dear brothers and sisters is because Jesus loves us. 

Albeit is easier said than done to grow a relationship with Our Lady I think I have realized one of the reasons it was so difficult at first for me to love her:

We live in community in the truest sense of the word at the seminary and every seminarian wants to be a part of everything his brothers are doing, and they always want to help.  For instance, I'm playing poker with some guys, not gambling don't worry ;), and there is a seminarian walking down the hall and he comes to look over my shoulder at my hand, no big deal.  However he starts to give me advice on what to do with this hand and I start holding my cards close to my chest.  I let him know I don't want his advice I can handle it on my own.  I could handle it on my own, either I win the hand or I don't.  If I don't, maybe his advice would've helped.  Even if his advice would've been the same as what I already planned on doing it doesn't hurt to get that second opinion.  I think with our lives we keep our hands close to our chest because we are afraid of someone telling us what to do but with Mary, she truly does know best because she is in perfect union with our Lord in heaven.  Maybe her advice in our lives wouldn't be different than the path we are already taking but it can't hurt to allow that second opinion, especially because Mary is a poker legend in the spiritual life. 

I know a lot of good and holy Catholics who have strong love for our Lord and they try their best to do what it is that He wants of them.  It's admirable, I very much look up to those holy people but if you are one of those holy people, and yet you don't know Mary all that well, Jesus gave you her and vice versa as a gift, not a burden.  Accept that gift and let her accept you because in that, fruit will grow. 

I want to leave you with a song that we seminarians love to sing after Night Prayer called "Lady of Confidence" and its not just because it is a short hymn; it's cuz its awesome.

It goes like this:

"Lady of Confidence, Mother of all, teach me and lead me into His thirst, so I may come to know God's only Son.  Lady of Confidence, Mother of all."

Take some time and talk to her even if it's as simple as the first prayer I offered up in September: 

"Mary, I don't know you but I think I'd like to." 

God bless all of you this week.  Know of my prayers for you and my continued petitioning of Momma Mary to keep you close. 

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Making New Friends

I have a lot of love in my heart today.  The Lord has used the love of his Mother to open the eyes of my heart so to speak and let me tell you, there is a lot of beauty to see all around us.  I often forget to notice the many gifts that I receive every day.  Normally the reason I miss it is because I’m very selfish.  Whenever something goes right, it didn’t go right enough, or there is something more that I think I deserve when in all actuality if I would just look I’d see that I should be very well content and even overwhelmed with love. 

Some may say that I am a bit of a social butterfly.  One of my favorite things about going home is serving at Mass and then talking with people afterwards, even in just telling them to make it a great week.  I love interactions with people and in a special way I love making new friends.  It’s a gift and one of my most enjoyed encounters when learning more about a person and a relationship growing that brings both parties closer to heaven.  When I joined the seminary I was so excited to meet new people.  I was leaving Illinois going out of state to a school where I only knew two guys going in.  New professors, new priest examples, new friendships to grow.  About 3 weeks into seminary my first year, I realized that I wouldn’t really make new friends from that time on until the next year.  Reason I say that is because out here we become family fast which is a much different and much deeper type of relationship.  I take great joy in that.  Last year and again this year, same thing, new men come in and within a few weeks its family.  How lucky am I to be surrounded by 46 brothers who have my back at all times, even if we don’t always agree on everything.  However come to the thick of the semester, my heart starts to yearn to branch out, to reach out to more people.  Last year I didn’t even know this was a reason why loneliness started to creep up on me.  I reached out to old friends from back home and the majority of them had changed…or maybe just maybe I had changed. 

In the short time that I’ve been in the seminary I’ve learned a few things very well.  One of them is that the Lord sent me here to become a better man, and in that He has given me the opportunity to grow in discernment of my vocation.  He also has shown me that I am not alone.  I talk about the importance of realizing that you aren’t alone a lot but I’ll be honest, the reason I come to that phrase so often is because I do have bouts of feeling alone.  This semester has not been to different when it comes to not having the opportunity to reach out and meet more of the Church however I now have the pleasure of teaching CCD on Wednesdays.  God bless those kids for having to listen to me ramble off my stories.  There is one other difference this semester too though.  I’ve made a lot of new friends.  I’ve also had many relationships become deeper where I can rely more on them.  These friends I’m making, these relationships I’m deepening…they are with the saints. 

I’ve always had an affinity for reading about the saints, especially the martyrs.  There is nothing that gets me more jacked up than reading the lives of men and women who gave it all because they love Jesus.  I don’t know many seminarians who haven’t thought about how cool it would be to be martyred while participating in the mission of the Church.  Every guy has his own vision of it but we all have it.  That may sound morbid to non-seminarians but let’s be honest; there is no greater love then to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.  I also like to read about the strong women of the Church.  They seem to have some of the clearest messages because they lived their lives with a level of transparency that many of us struggle to do today.  I rarely took my mind out of their stories to actually ask their intercession however.  This year that has changed and I think the Lord realized I needed the back up.  I know this is already a long post but I’d like to tell you about some of my new friends who have been teaching me a few things this semester.

My friend Mary, she has been taking every aspect of my life and talking to me about it.  She’s started to take the most confusing parts of my life and unscramble them.  When she's around I see so clear what I am supposed to do, and she also helps me to truly feel how much God loves me. 

My other friend John Paul, he’s been my sounding board.  I love the Church and especially everyone in it but sometimes I feel like I don’t do enough.  He always answers with hey man, just keep loving.  I ask him how and he just smiles.  That’s it.  A lil ol’ smile and yet it’s never been so clear.

Whenever I’m mad I start reading some old letters I got from Paul.  He’s like a big brother.  He calls me out when I’m not following God’s will, but he’s also not afraid to pat me on the back when I’m going in the right direction.  The best advice he has given me is probably ‘rejoice in the Lord always.’  What else could be better than that?

I have a bunch of friends I could tell you about but all of them have been pretty open with me about how they want to be your friends too.  Whatever it is that’s on your heart, there is somebody out there who understands completely.  If you don’t know who it could be, shoot me a message and maybe we can search and meet em’ together.  God bless all of you.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Hearts on Fire

Our hearts were made to be full of love.  Our hearts were made to love fully. 

As it says in the beginning of Genesis 1:26, “Then God said: Let us make men in our image, after our likeness.”  It would reason to seem that our hearts would too be made in the image and likeness of the heart of He who made us.  I don’t know about you (but I’m feeling 22…just kidding) but my heart is far from perfect.  It doesn’t exude charity at all times and it definitely doesn’t make sacrifices as the heart of our Lord does daily.  It should though. 

In the last few months I have come to the conclusion in prayer that my vocation first and foremost is “the universal call to holiness”, however as a Catholic I have heard this phrase over and over and I think it doesn’t carry with it the weight that our true calling carries.  I was thinking what phrase would exude my true understanding of this universal call and I think, “we have a call to be beaten down daily for the love of the cross, that our will may be perfectly united in the sacrificial love of GOD who died for each and every one of us,” has a much better ring to it.  That’s how I feel anyway.  Whenever I struggle and I bring that to the suffering of Christ crucified my heart ignites with love.  However, when I start to question why I am struggling, AKA bring about contempt for said suffering, my heart starts to cool.  The coldness of Christian’s hearts, I believe, is one of, if not the worst plague that can hit the Church.  As sad as it is for me to admit, I have been a part of that plague and I think if push came to shove most of you reading this would have to admit your own struggle with being a part of the cold heart’s club.  Daily I get up and I ask Mary to let my heart beat in unison with her Son’s.  Some days it does and I can look around and have no problem in proclaiming that today is the day the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it; other days however, it seems it is easier to say this is the day the Lord has made, when is Friday?  

In answer to this struggle the Lord has been posing the question to me lately, why do I do the things that I do?  I’ve been applying that question to every aspect of my life and I’ve come up with a few answers that are good and holy and other answers that are grounded in laziness and pride.

The lesson the Lord has taught me through my asking this question, is that my actions must always be for a purpose, and a good purpose at that.  I’m a cradle Catholic, I pray, that’s what I do.  Why though?  I have forced myself to dig deep and ask, what is the purpose of my going to the Lord?  Is it obligation?  Is it tradition?  Yes and yes but even more than that, it is because I was made for perfect love, to be loved perfectly and to love perfectly.  That is why I pray.   That is why I fast.  That is why I get out of bed in the morning.  Before I go to bed I do an examination of conscience and I ask of every happening of that day, did I do that out of love?  Sometimes I receive great joy that the Lord helped me to love in that time but other times I can see that I didn’t do said action for love’s sake but for something more selfish.  In that I learn how to improve daily, to be a “better version” of myself tomorrow than today. 

It’s getting to the point in the semester where I can either, lose sight of the goal and let my heart cool, or I can tighten up on my attitude, that the goal may be the shining light that guides my path and warms my heart.  The choice is mine; God loves me enough to give me that choice.  The choice is yours too; I warn you though, it is much harder to be you when you extinguish the flame that lights your heart.  Don’t be afraid to analyze your daily actions for why you do them.  The answer should be that we do everything for the greater glory of God. 

At the end of this semester, this year, my seminary studies, my life I hope to be able to pray 2 Timothy 4:7 with my whole heart.

“I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.”

My dear brothers and sisters, when the going gets tough get jacked because it’s another opportunity to give everything.  There is no greater feeling than being poured out as a libation.  When the Lord was emptied He gave the most.  Let us be empty that we may fill the world with love.   

Friday, November 1, 2013

All Saint's/Soul's Day

All Saint’s Day…The day we celebrate all the Saints, and all the saints.  As a priest reminded us this morning, God willing we are in heaven someday this is going to be our feast day.  Maybe some of us will make it on the calendar but either way today is a big day for our fallen brothers and sisters who are looking on God’s face.  I told Father after Mass that his homily made me long for death, and it wasn’t out of boredom this time.  It was because I long for heaven.  To see God’s face, to be in perfect union with him…that’s worth everything.  It’s worth every sacrifice, every struggle, every confusion of this life to have that eternity. 

I think sometimes we can lose sight of that goal.  I’m studying to be a priest and when I’m struggling with a brother seminarian or with my classes I look to the future where I will, God willing, be serving the people of God as a Father.  It truly is a beautiful thing to mediate on.  Maybe it’s married life for you, or to be a sister but either way looking to a found and fulfilled vocation would excite anyone.  Not often however do I mediate upon heaven when things are falling apart.  I don’t know why because it would seem looking to the brightest end of the tunnel would bring the most peace.  Today I’ve spent the day baking and listening to Praise and Worship music.  Every song sings about how good God is and dang right He is but He’s not just good.  He’s perfect.  He loves me.  My biggest desire is to someday hear Him say, “Well done my good and faithful servant.”  I get goosebumps thinking about my loving Heavenly Father speaking those words.  Seriously though. Think about it. Ahhhhhhh! GOD IS SO BIG!  I don’t know what you are going through right now but I can imagine some of you are having a hard time.  I want you to know that I’m praying for you.  It’s all worth it.  Even in the most difficult times remember that you are loved.  As I’ve said before let that love guide you; don’t be afraid to take a moment to think about the glorious destination though.  When we live our lives with Christ as the center, our eternity will have Christ as the center. 

All Soul’s Day.  This day we remember and pray for the holy souls in purgatory.  I spoke of the joy in being in heaven and celebrating the face of God but for most of us we will first be purified.  The idea of purgatory has two levels for me.  Firstly, there is great excitement in reaching purgatory for that means that you will be in heaven with God after you are purified of sin.  However there is one aspect that has brought a bit of sadness to me.  Sometimes in the intercessions it is mentioned to pray for all the souls in purgatory especially those who have no one to pray for them.  There are souls in purgatory that have no one to pray for them.  This was even mentioned by the main character in the movie Gravity.  She said she didn’t want to die because she would have no one to pray for her.  I petition you to remember the souls tomorrow and every day.  If you have time in the next couple days make a visit to a local cemetery and say some prayers for the souls in purgatory.  It carries with it a plenary indulgence for a soul in purgatory.  What this means is that you could be responsible for a soul being released from purgatory and entering heaven.  I can imagine that new saint would be very grateful and would pray for you in return.  That’s a pretty sweet deal. 
In a special way though please remember the priests of your diocese who have passed away.  I don’t pray for the priests I know here on earth nearly enough but I have greatly neglected those who have gone before us.  Our priests deserve the love and support of their spiritual children but I think we take them for granted.  I could write an entire post on the many things priests do for us but for the sake of meditation just take a few examples.  Our spiritual father’s listen to our problems and carry that weight much like our earthly parents would.  They sacrifice for us that we may grow closer to God.  They unify us as a family and show us how to be brothers and sisters, sons and daughters.  The priests in my life have been some of the greatest leaders spiritually and in every other aspect of life as well.  Tomorrow when we are praying for the holy souls in purgatory, our family members and friends who have left this earth let us not forget our spiritual fathers.  I hope in however many years when I am on my way to see God there is someone shooting up a prayer for me.   God bless all of you.