Saturday, January 31, 2015

From Judaism to married Catholic priest

Marty Heisey/Staff
Rev. Paul Schenk, a priest who converted from Judaism at Annie Bailey's Pub in Lancaster.
Posted: Thursday, January 29, 2015 5:00 pm | Updated: 5:04 pm, Thu Jan 29, 2015.

The Rev. Paul Schenck is a married Catholic priest.

You may think that's a poorly written sentence that should read "…a former Catholic priest who is now married." But, no, Schenck, of York, really is a married Catholic priest, one of about 200 in the nation and another 200 worldwide. He and his wife, Becky, have been married 37 years and have nine children, including "one in heaven."

And that's not all. Schenck, 57, was raised Jewish, converted to Christianity at age 16 and was a Protestant pastor for about 20 years before becoming Catholic in 2004.

And there's more. Schenck served one month in prison and 18 months in home detention for leafleting and offering support to women and their companions at abortion clinics before the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in his favor in the 1997 case of Schenck v. Pro-Choice Network of Western New York.

Ordained in the Catholic Church in 2010, Schenk has served as director of respect life activities and continuing education for clergy in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Harrisburg since 2008 and chairs the Washington, D.C., National Pro-Life Center, an ecumenical mission at the Supreme Court, which he founded in 2004.

Wednesday evening, he spoke about his unusual faith journey at Theology on Tap, at Annie Bailey's Irish Pub on East King Street. About 35 people attended and were so spellbound that they didn't seem to move a muscle, except perhaps to widen their eyes or cover their mouths when they dropped open in shock and disbelief.

Ethan Demme, 32, of East Lampeter Township and a member of San Juan Bautista Catholic Church, South Duke Street, introduced Schenck at the social event for young adults, sponsored by the diocese and held about eight times a year on the second floor of the pub.

"It's a very compelling story," Demme said after Schenck spoke. "I really want to talk to him because I had a very similar journey."

Schenck's journey began in Western New York, where he was raised. There he attended Hebrew school for six years, learning Babylonian Aramaic. When he was in ninth grade, two classmates — one a son of a United Methodist minister and the other who became the first female minister ordained in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America — introduced him to Christianity.

“I listened to them very closely," Schenck said. "I grew up in a home where Jesus was respected. I was told Jesus was a great rabbi that Christians mistakenly turned into a God."

He began reading the New Testament, which he found very familiar, with names such as Isaiah, Solomon and David and references to circumcision and bar mitzvahs.

"There was nothing non-Jewish about it," he said.

Schenck used the Yiddish word mishmash to describe his family, explaining that his mother was baptized a Catholic and raised an Episcopalian before marrying the son of Jewish refugees and converting to Judaism to please her husband's father. The priest, whose twin brother is a UMC pastor in Chicago, confirmed his mother and baptized his father in the Catholic Church before they died.

Schenck graduated in 1979 from Elim Bible Institute, in Lima, N.Y. He then attended the Institute of Jewish Studies at the State University of New York because he wanted to study the Old Testament in Hebrew. He graduated from Luther Rice Seminary in 1982.

By then, he and his wife, who married at 19, had six children and lived in a garage apartment without enough heat.

"We were in desperate straits, but we didn't know it. We were enormously happy. Our family life and ministry fulfilled us. Our children were our treasures and still are."

In 1984, Schenck read "The Jewish People and Jesus Christ after Auschwitz," by Jakob Jocz, a third-generation Jewish Christian from Ukraine and a professor at Wycliffe College at the University of Toronto. The two met and became colleagues, collaborating on a series of articles for the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia.

When Jocz died three years later, he left his entire library — four floors in a Victorian townhouse, to Schenck. In a journal on Judaica, Schenck found an article about a fragment in Hebrew found in Syria before the fourth century believed to be a Haggadah, a Jewish text of the order of the Passover Seder, but which on further study was found to be the oldest known Christian Eucharistic liturgy.

"I was convinced that the Church of the Apostles, the Hebrew speaking church of Jerusalem, was liturgical and Eucharistic," Schenck said. "That led me to conclude that the earliest church was Catholic."

Although Schenck was a Protestant clergyman, he said he felt Catholic. When he learned that Pope John Paul II would grant pastoral provisions to married Anglican priests, allowing them to become Catholic priests, he joined a Reformed Episcopal Church, a member of the worldwide Anglican communion.

"I have tremendous respect and admiration for my brother unmarried priests," Schenck said, "because they voluntarily surrender what is a right that every Christian man has — a wife and a family. They do that for the love of Christ and his church. And I think that's heroic."

Friday, January 30, 2015

Complaining Christians or Charitable Christians - Your Choice

From Catholic Answers:

The Church, like a nation, must defend herself and her faith. She must fight for the truth and for the salvation of souls. This demands doing battle, for which reason we call ourselves the Church Militant. Like a nation, however, the Church also encounters a danger: that the fighting spirit of the Church Militant turn against her. The danger is not of fighting—but of only fighting, and fighting in the wrong way. The danger is that the Church become not the New Jerusalem, but the New Sparta. And Sparta was known for only one thing: fighting. Ruthlessly, effectively, heroically at times, but only fighting. Sparta produced no great artwork, poetry, plays, or philosophy. It produced only war.

In short, the risk is to cease being the Church Militant and to become instead the “Church Belligerent.” This term describes not so much a specific group of people as a certain attitude, mindset, or approach. It indicates the necessary fighting spirit of the Church Militant severed from the principle of charity. And it constitutes a hazard—not for those who think that the past forty years have been a catechetical and liturgical success, not for those who see no need to evangelize, not for those waiting for the Church to be updated. Rather, it poses a threat precisely to those—to us—who take the demands of the Church Militant seriously, who see the crisis in society and within the Church, who recognize the catechetical and liturgical fallout of almost four decades, and who desire to enter into the battle for souls.

…Those who constantly challenge and criticize cannot be taught. They may be able to pick apart goofy catechesis and spot liturgical abuse from a mile away. But they cannot learn, because they never stop questioning, criticizing, picking things apart. The criticism results in a cynicism borne (ironically) of a zeal for truth. If we refuse to trust anyone, then we set ourselves up as our own personal magisterium. And we have a name for that: Protestantism.

Further, the constant criticizing quickly becomes just complaining. And there is plenty to complain about. So we sit around and swap anecdotes about how bad Mass is at that parish, and how bad that school is, and what bishop so-and-so did or didn’t do…and so on. We may be dead right on every point. But so what? At the end of the complaining, have we become holier? Have we grown in the interior life? And what attitude have we fostered in those around us?

Some of our greatest saints saw similar, and worse, crises. Yet they did not leave us an example of complaining. The hallmark of Christians is charity, not churlishness. The pagans were moved by the Christians: “See how they love one another”—not “See how they complain to one another.”

Thursday, January 29, 2015

The Sunday Word

Time to take a look at the Word of the Lord for the Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time. 

The first reading for this Sunday is from Deuteronomy and finds the Israelites begging Moses for a prophet and the Lord responding favorably. There's a stern warning for the prophet, however, lest the prophet speak in the Lord's name anything the Lord had not given him to speak. This becomes background for Sunday's Gospel where Jesus, hailed as a prophet, exorcises a man with an unclean spirit.

In the day's second reading, St. Paul writes the Corinthians that he wants them to be free from anxieties. Who wouldn't want to be free from anxieties? Paul addresses some anxieties shared by spouses. What he says may sound strange until you recall that he was writing expecting Christ to return in glory at any moment.

Both the first reading and the Gospel raise questions about whom we listen to and whom we trust. Remembering that the prophet is one who teaches and heals with the authority of God:

• To whose prophetic word do we listen?
• What anxieties come between us and our faith in the Lord?
• From what "unclean spirits" might we want Jesus to free us?

Serious questions to ponder...

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

2015 March for Life

More pictures of our participation in the annual March for Life in Washington, D.C.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Marianist Monday

Listening to God requires a deliberate choice to shut out the chaos around you and focus your thoughts. Is God someone you can hear? The Bible says He is, and the Bible is one of the main tools through which He speaks.

We live in a world of noise. Almost everywhere we go, we find sounds competing with our minds, keeping us from letting our thoughts get below the surface level. Hearing God's voice means not listening to the noise of the world around us. It's not easy, but it can be done. Do you desire God's will for your life above every other desire? If you do, you can trust that He will direct your path. Listen to His message, and be quick to obey.

When you listen to God and obey Him, you will discover a life that is full and rich with purpose, confident you are following the Lord's plan.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

The Sunday Word

Why do you think God chose you? This is a great question. Yes, it's ultimately because God loves you and wants to know you. But is there anything in you or about you that made God want to love 

you? Perhaps it's your IQ. Your mom always said you were smart. Maybe it's your keen sense of style. God thought you could make God look good. Or maybe it was the fact that you're a type-A go-getter, and God wants a high-functioning, action-oriented winner on His team.

Did God call you to Christ through his word and draw you to the waters of baptism, marking you as his own and placing every promise of the cross upon your life, because God saw something awesome in you? No. God called you to Christ for the same reason he called those original 12 disciples: because you make an excellent object lesson on the depths of God's grace and the scope of God's power.

- You, with your rebellious heart.

- You, with your secret struggles.

- You, with your lack of faith and your long list of faults.

- You, who knows deep down that you are unworthy to tie God's shoes let alone be called God's child.

God chose you so that the world might look at you and see that God is indescribably merciful and incredibly powerful.

That said, the question that you may be asking at this point is, "So what?" We can proclaim the truth that God has chosen us completely out of mercy all day long (and we should) but what's the action step? How does this truth get lived out in our lives?

The answer is found in the actions of the disciples. What do we see them doing the moment after Jesus comes and taps them on the shoulder? What do we see them doing when a rabbi comes and makes it clear that he wants them?

They dropped everything and followed. They dropped their nets. James and John left their dad! Why? Because when something you don't deserve but desperately want comes knocking at your door, you don't tell it to wait five minutes. You answer that door as fast as you can.

We're all disciples. We've each been given something we don't deserve but desperately need: an encounter with Christ. And our task each day is to see this life with Jesus as an undeserved invitation. It's an undeserved invitation to drop our plans and follow him wherever he leads, knowing and trusting that wherever he takes us is better and more beautiful than whatever else we had planned.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

The 2015 March for Life In Photos

The 2015 March for Life In Photos 

View image on TwitterPro-life demonstrators from around the world crowded the National Mall on Thursday during the 42nd annual March for Life.

Flags and signs from Brazil, the Netherlands, Italy and the Caribbean mingled with banners from across the 50 states as activists marched from the Washington Monument to the Supreme Court. Here are some more photos:


Friday, January 23, 2015

Marianist high schools were there!

View image on Twitter

(Vatican Radio) Scores of thousands of people in the United States – some estimates put the number of participants at a half-million – converged on the nation’s capital, Washington, DC on Thursday, to participate in the annual March for Life, held each year on the anniversary of the 1973 Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision that made procured abortion legal in all fifty states.

Delivering the Homily at a vigil Mass on Wednesday evening in the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, the Archbishop of Boston and Chairman of the US Bishops’ Committee on Pro-life Activities, Cardinal Sean O’Malley called on all people dedicated to the cause of life to renew their commitment to serve the weakest and most vulnerable – to making the Gospel credible by witnessing the joy it brings to those who confess and live the Good News. “What must characterize the pro-life movement,” said Cardinal O’Malley, “is a special love for the poor, the marginalized, the suffering, and especially human life that is in danger of being discarded.”

Cardinal O'Malley went on to say, “We must work tirelessly to change the unjust laws, but we must work even harder to change hearts, to build a civilization of love.”

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Marianist Founder's Vision

Our founder Blessed William Joseph Chaminade (1761-1850) lived during the years of the French Revolution. In his ministry following the upheavals of the revolution, he encountered an ignorance of religious faith, indifference, abandonment of Christian life, and the structural ruin of the Church. Under the guidance of the Holy Spirit he realized that new institutions and new methods were necessary to revive the religious spirit of his native France.

Blessed Chaminade always sought inspiration in Mary, at whose sanctuary of Our Lady of the Pillar in Saragossa, Spain, he prayed while in exile during the Revolution. He saw Mary as the one who received the word of the Lord and pondered it in her heart, the woman who gave Christ to the world, the Mother who cooperates with the Holy Spirit in the formation of believers. Mary embodied all the attitudes of the Gospel. Chaminade committed himself to assisting Mary in the mission of bringing persons to become more like her son Jesus. With this vision of Mary’s role, he sought to re-Christianize France.

Central to Chaminade’s means was the development of community life in the spirit of the Gospel and the practice of the early Church. Such a community could be a witness of a people of saints, showing that the Gospel still could be lived in all times and places. A Christian community could attract others to follow Christ. Thus, Chaminade founded communities of lay men and women as a means of re-Christianizing France.

Prayer of Dedication to Mary

Together with our Blessed Founder
and the many holy Marianists who have gone before us,
let us renew our dedication to Mary and her Mission.

we embrace the religious life in your name.
All that we have, all that we are,
we dedicate to continuing your mission
of bringing Jesus into our world.
Holy Mother,
stay with us this day
and teach us to
“Do whatever he tells us.” Amen.
Today if the Feast Day of Blessed William Joseph Chaminade
Pray for vocations!

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Pray for the Unborn

We travel to Washington, D.C. today to begin our witness to life. Many will follow us tomorrow to witness with us. May God bless our efforts as we pray together,

Our Lady of Guadalupe,
we turn to you who are the protectress of unborn children
and ask that you intercede for us,
so that we may more firmly resolve 
to join you in protecting all human life.
Let our prayers be united to your perpetual motherly intercession 
on behalf of those whose lives are threatened, 
be they in the womb of their mother, 
on the bed of infirmity, or in the latter years of their life.

May our prayers also be coupled with peaceful action 
which witnesses to the goodness and dignity of all human life, 
so that our firmness of purpose may give courage 
to those who are fearful and bring light to those who are blinded by sin.

Encourage those who will be involved in the March for Life;
help them to walk closely with God and to give voice to the cry of the oppressed,
in order to remind out nation of its commitment to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness for all people.

O Virgin Mother of God, present our petitions to your Son and ask Him to bless us with abundant life. 


Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Tuesday Tunes

"There are two kinds of people: those who think they can and those who think they can't, and they're both right"                                                          
                                                                                                                                            (Henry Ford)

+ + + + 

Faith requires that we be willing to surrender ourselves to God and his will, trusting that God will keep his promises. Abraham's story tells us that faith is less of a leap than it is a single step in a God-ordained direction. If we think we can take that step, then we need to recognize that it won't be easy.

If we think we can't take the step of faith, then we need to lean in and listen to God even more closely. We won't know for sure, however, until we take the first step!

Monday, January 19, 2015

Marianist Monday

We're at our best when walking with Jesus
/uploads/MS-call to discipleship.jpg
If there's anything the Emmaus Road story teaches us, it's that the disciples of Jesus are at their best when they keep walking with him. Discipleship is never a drive-by or fly-by process, in which we can look for instant results and ignore the people and places we whiz by every day. Disciples of Jesus recognize that their lives are a journey of following Jesus and learning from him but also looking for him in the faces of strangers who join them on the way. Disciples are willing to follow Jesus despite the dangers and potential pitfalls, and they offer hospitality to others who may not yet recognize him. Disciples also know that they can't walk the journey alone. Jesus sent his disciples out two by two, and it was two who traveled together on the road that day. Discipleship is a long-haul process, and we need each other along the way.

We begin our journey with Jesus when we're dipped in the waters of baptism. We also need nourishment along the way, which the breaking of bread in the Eucharist offers us all through Christ's gracious sacrifice. No matter where we live and move in the world, we're to remember that it's Jesus who leads us, provides for us and walks beside us.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

The Sunday Word

Having the right teacher certainly helps.
If you want to learn a new skill, say, surfing, for instance, you could buy a surfboard, read a surfing how-to-book, watch a surfing instructional video, and then give it a go on the rolling surf of 2-to 4-footers by yourself. 

Trouble is — you’ll likely be wiping out more often than not.

Eventually you might learn surfing through trial and error. You’ll get the thrill, but miss out on the skill. If you’re not overly careful, you’ll probably pick up a few bad habits, too.

There is a shortcut to learning new skills — find a competent teacher. Find a master — someone who has the know-how, and then go to that major player to learn.

Andrew the apostle wanted to learn about God, so he started following the hair-shirted Baptist and became a willing student. Later on, when the authentic item showed up in our story today, when the Christ himself came walking by, Andrew ditched John the Baptist, grabbed his brother Peter by his tunic lapels and said, “I’ve found the Messiah!” Together the brothers went off on the greatest adventure ever — an adventure about which stories are still told.

Peter and Andrew did pretty much the same thing. They knew what they wanted to learn, so they went to where the master lived.

All the better that Jesus invited them to join him “where he was staying.” It’s a good start for any novice to get an invitation to hang with the greatest teacher of them all, and to have the chance to learn the skills that change lives. Andrew seizes the opportunity and pulls Peter along for the ride.

It’s clear in the story today that those brothers know what they want. They want God. They want the Messiah. They know with whom they wish to apprentice — the Rabbi Jesus, the Messiah. They found the teacher who’ll give them unsurpassed instruction. There’s no point in learning from the second best when the best is available.

There’s an old saying, “When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.”

Peter and Andrew were ready. Which raises the question: Are we ready? Are we willing to go where Jesus lives and to learn?

Saint Anthony the Great

Saint Anthony the Great is known as the Father of monasticism, and the long ascetical sermon in The Life of St Anthony by St Athanasius, could be called the first monastic Rule.

He was born in Egypt in the village of Coma, near the desert of the Thebaid, in the year 251. His parents were pious Christians of illustrious lineage. Anthony was a serious child and was respectful and obedient to his parents. He loved to attend church services, and he listened to the Holy Scripture so attentively, that he remembered what he heard all his life.

When St Anthony was about twenty years old, he lost his parents, but he was responsible for the care of his younger sister. Going to church about six months later, the youth reflected on how the faithful,in the Acts of the Apostles, sold their possessions and gave the proceeds for the needy.

Then he entered the church and heard the Gospel passage where Christ speaks to the rich young man: “If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give it to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come follow Me."  Anthony felt that these words applied to him. Therefore, he sold the property that he received after the death of his parents, then distributed the money to the poor, and left his sister in the care of pious virgins in a convent.

Leaving his parent's home, St Anthony began his ascetical life in a hut not far from his village. By working with his hands, he was able to earn his livelihood and also alms for the poor. Sometimes, the holy youth also visited other ascetics living in the area, and from each he sought direction and benefit. He turned to one particular ascetic for guidance in the spiritual life.

In this period of his life St Anthony endured terrible temptations from the devil. But the saint extinguished that fire by meditating on Christ, thereby overcoming the devil.

Realizing that the devil would undoubtedly attack him in another manner, St Anthony prayed and intensified his efforts. Anthony prayed that the Lord would show him the path of salvation. And he was granted a vision.

St Anthony tried to accustom himself to a stricter way of life. But the devil would not cease his tricks, and trying to scare the monk, he appeared under the guise of monstrous phantoms. The saint however protected himself with the Life-Creating Cross. Finally the Enemy appeared to him in the guise of a frightful looking black child, and hypocritically declaring himself beaten, he thought he could tempt the saint into vanity and pride. The saint, however, vanquished the Enemy with prayer.

St Anthony spent eighty-five years in the solitary desert. Shortly before his death, he told the brethren that soon he would be taken from them. He instructed them to preserve the Faith in its purity, to avoid any association with heretics, and not to be negligent in their monastic struggles. “Strive to be united first with the Lord, and then with the saints, so that after death they may receive you as familiar friends into the everlasting dwellings.”

“These things are insignificant compared with Anthony’s virtues,” writes St Athanasius, “but judge from them what the man of God Anthony was like. From his youth until his old age, he kept his zeal for asceticism, he did not give in to the desire for costly foods because of his age, nor did he alter his clothing because of the infirmity of his body. He did not even wash his feet with water. He remained very healthy, and he could see well because his eyes were sound and undimmed. Not one of his teeth fell out, but near the gums they had become worn due to his advanced age. He remained strong in his hands and feet.... He was spoken of everywhere, and was admired by everyone, and was sought even by those who had not seen him, which is evidence of his virtue and of a soul dear to God.”

In the year 544 the relics of St Anthony the Great were transferred to Alexandria, and after the conquest of Egypt by the Saracens in the seventh century, they were transferred to Constantinople. The holy relics were transferred from Constantinople in the tenth-eleventh centuries to a diocese outside Vienna. In the fifteenth century they were brought to Arles (in France), to the church of St Julian.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Pope to canonize Junipero Serra

From Catholic News Agency:

In a surprise addition to his fall 2015 trip to the U.S., Pope Francis is planning to canonize the founder of California’s first missions, Bl. Junipero Serra.

“In September, God willing, I will canonize Junipero Serra in the United States,” declared Pope Francis aboard Sri Lankan Air Flight UL4111 on the way to Manila.

Bl. Serra, a Franciscan priest, lived in what is now California in the 1700s. A Spanish-born missionary, he founded the first nine of 21 eventual missions in California. He worked tirelessly with the Native Americans, and is said to have baptized more than 6,000 people, and confirmed 5,000.

“He was the evangelizer of the west in the United States,” Pope Francis beamed.

Bl. Serra’s canonization will be the latest in a systematic action from Pope Francis to give a boost to evangelization efforts throughout the world.

Yesterday, he gave Sri Lanka its first saint in the Indian-born Joseph Vaz, who lived from 1651 to 1711. Pope Francis applauded Vaz for his tireless missionary work and his ability to evangelize in difficult terrain.

Here’s more about Blessed Junipero—who may be familiar to many for the countless Serra Clubs scattered around the world, fostering vocations:

When Father Junípero Serra founded California’s first mission in 1769, he was 56 years old and asthmatic, with a chronic sore on his leg that troubled him for the rest of his life, and he suffered frequently from other illnesses, as well. He stood just 5 feet, 2 inches, and, as a journalist later wrote, “He certainly didn’t look like the man who would one day be known as the Apostle of California.” Yet he endured the hardships of the frontier and pressed forward with remarkable determination to fulfill his purpose: to convert the Native Americans of California to Christianity.

. . In pursuit of that goal, Father Serra walked thousands of miles between San Diego and Monterey and even Mexico City. He traveled the seas, also; and by the time he died August 28, 1784, in Carmel he had founded nine missions, introduced agriculture and irrigation techniques, and the Spanish language. He had battled governors, bureaucrats and military commanders to secure a system of laws to protect the California Indians from at least some of the injustices inflicted by the Spanish soldiers whose practices often were in conflict with Father Serra’s.

. . Father Serra had been a philosophy professor and distinguished preacher at the Convent of San Francisco in Mallorca, the Spanish island where he was born in 1713. He was 36 years old when he reached the port of Vera Cruz, Mexico, on December 8, 1749, and walked to Mexico City. ( It was during that journey of 24 days that an insect bite caused the sore on his leg that sometimes became so painful he had difficulty walking. ) He spent 17 years in missionary work in the Sierra Gorda in the present area of North-Central Mexico. In 1767 he became president of the 14 missions in Baja California, originally founded by the Jesuits, then turned over to the Franciscans.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Outcast to cast in

Today’s reading from Saint Mark gives us an opportunity to think about a different type of  conversion. Call it the turning-point moment when Jesus touched a man with leprosy and everything in that man’s life changed. He who had been separated from his family, community, temple and friends by disease, who was considered unclean and made an outcast because of the wasting away of his flesh, now was made whole and enabled to join the mainstream again. He went from outcast to cast in, from sickness to health, from unclean to clean, from brokenness to wholeness.

There was neither analog nor digital technology in that day, but that didn’t stop this man from broadcasting what Jesus had done for him. He “proclaimed it freely” and “spread the word,” the Scripture says.

The Scripture reading does not say that this man experienced conversion in the religious sense of the word, which is how we often use it. But in some ways, that makes this a good text from which to think about religious conversion, for it has more in common with other types of conversion than we might at first think. In the Bible, the Hebrew word for conversion is shub, which means “to turn” or “to return,” and the Greek word is metanoia, which means “to turn around.” In the case of this man Jesus healed, there was clearly a return, in that he could now go back to his family and community, but there was also a turning around. As defined by The Dictionary of Bible and Religion, “To be converted means to have the direction of one’s life shifted, so that it no longer points toward self, but points toward God.” And that’s exactly what happened to this man. He stepped off the “woe is me” path and onto the “Jesus is great” road.

The conversions we usually hear about, whether of a religious nature or of some other type, are often accompanied, at least initially, by excitement, zest, intensity, an eagerness to tell others about it and efforts to make significant changes in one’s life. And often, the converted person looks back at the time of the conversion as a significant turning point.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

A prayer

It was one of those weekends, Lord,
and it looks like it's going to be
- one of those weeks!

Too much work to do,
too many meetings,
too many things to finish!
actually some One inside me,
is saying,
Take a deep breath,
take three or four deep breaths,
Now sit back, relax and...

Be silent.

Be still.

Wait before your God.

Say nothing.

Ask nothing.

Be still.

Let your God look upon you.

That is all.

God knows.

God understands.

God loves you with an enormous love.

God only wants to look upon you with love.




Let your God love you...

- Edwina Gateley

This prayer won't help much if all you do is read it.
It works best as instructions for how to do it...

Monday, January 12, 2015

Marianist Monday

Hey! – How many times have you heard that if you really want to improve your prayer life you have to start making a Holy Hour? It’s advice that I both get and have received. There is rarely ever an explanation as to why. Why a Holy Hour?

It's not magic! It is common sense and you probably know the answer already. What is the purpose of prayer? Is it in order to get things? Well, not alone. We pray for the same reason we tweet, text, email, call, and "hang out" with our friends. It's how you get to know somebody. When you want to get married you discover that desire by spending time with that person. You come to know them and what's important to them. When time is short due to a busy schedule we make time for them. They knew through this that you loved them, you knew it, and so did everyone else. “Sorry, I’m spending time with my ladyfriend today.”

Holy Hours are not much different. You're spending quality time with God. It's not a quick text message, “God, get me through this test,” or “God, get me through this and I swear I won’t do it again.” Who wants to be the friend that only makes contact when you need something and makes that contact at all time minimum at that?

Wasting time with God is anything but a waste of time. That is what we do with the ones we love. It also gives us the opportunity to just be quiet and listen. This type of prayer does not mean that all our prayers will be answered in the way we want them but carrying on this conversation with God may help us understand how God has decided to answer our prayer.

For some people an hour is way too difficult. So, start with a holy half hour. Start with a holy 15 minutes!

On Mondays our high schools sponsor adoration from after school to early evening. You can do it! You have done it to have some time with the one you love. Now do it with God.

You may not notice a difference after a day, a week, or maybe even a month. But one day everything will be different and you will look back and wonder at how things have changed.

But you have to start.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

The Baptism of the Lord

Today we celebrate the “Baptism of the Lord,” and it gives us an opportunity to remember this event and reflect on its impact. It’s a perfect example of how meaning shapes memory.

So what do you remember about the day? John the baptizer appears in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. 
People from the city of Jerusalem and all Judea flock to him, and are baptized in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. After years of living with a filthy buildup of sin and unrighteousness, the people of the region are relieved to be washed clean and made right with God.

This feels very good to them. John’s providing a much-needed spiritual service, and you wouldn’t be surprised to hear the people saying, T.G.F.J. — Thank God For John. But then John switches gears and reveals that he’s not simply in the purification business. He proclaims, “The one who is more powerful than I is coming after me … I have baptized you with water; but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”

When we look at the actual events that occurred at the Jordan, we see a variety of emotions. There’s gratitude for the gift of forgiveness. Surprise and shock at the sight of the baptizer’s camel’s hair clothing and diet of locusts and wild honey. Certainly some confusion about the identity of the powerful one who’s coming after John. So the actual experience of John’s ministry is a jumble of emotions, not a carefully crafted stained-glass picture of pure joy and happiness.

All of this changes when Jesus comes on the scene, because meaning has a powerful effect on memory. Mark tells us that Jesus comes from Nazareth of Galilee and is baptized by John in the Jordan, and just as he is coming up out of the water, he sees the heavens torn apart and the Holy Spirit descends on him like a dove. And a voice from heaven says, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.”

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Dance for the Pope

CPDRC Dancing Inmates or the CPDRC dancers is a collective of prison inmates in Cebu Provincial Detention and Rehabilitation Center (CPDRC), a maximum security prison in Cebu, in Cebu Province, Philippines where the prisoners perform dance routines as part of their daily exercise and rehabilitation, and many of their performances are filmed and released online, making them a popular feature among fans and veritable online celebrities.

Byron F. Garcia, the official security advisor to the Cebu government, is credited for starting a program of choreographed exercise routines for the inmates. He was appointed head of the prison by his sister Gwendolyn Garcia, governor of Cebu Province. The prison is best known for its rendition of Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” video.

The prison management has also released a video explaining the concept behind the prison management at CPDRC. Byron Garcia had originally wanted to introduce a program at Cebu Provincial Detention and Rehabilitation Center (CPDRC) where inmates would exercise for an hour each day. He also claims in a British documentary that his inspiration came while watching the movie The Shawshank Redemption in particular the scene where the sounds of Mozart‘s Figaro flood the prison yard. Garcia initially introduced an exercise program where the prisoners marched in unison, starting out with marching to the beat of a drum, but moved on to dancing to pop music; he began with one of his favourite songs, Pink Floyd‘s “Another Brick in the Wall“. He chose camp music such as “In the Navy” and “Y.M.C.A.” by The Village People, so macho prisoners would not be offended at being asked to dance.

Garcia’s first upload of prisoner choreography was the Algorithm March, with 967 inmates, but only generated 400 views in its first eight months. The next upload, Thriller, however, enjoyed a massive response. The prison now even has its own official choreographer teachers, like Vince Rosales and Gwen Laydor. Some prisoners are chosen more prominently for more sophisticated routines while the general prison population (sometimes up to 1,500 inmates) participate with simpler more accessible routines.

Well, now they’re getting ready to perform for the pope, who will be visiting next the Philippines week. Video below.

Friday, January 9, 2015

A New Year's Prayer

Only a few days into the new year, Lord,
but my heart's already filled
with all the blessings and the burdens
a heart is meant to hold...

• So here are my sorrows, Lord,
lifted up in prayer,
for your comfort and your healing...

• And here are my joys, Lord,
lifted up in prayer
together with my thanks and praise...

• And here are my needs, Lord,
lifted up in prayer:
please help me make it through this day...

• And here, Lord, my family and my friends,
lifted up in prayer,
for your face to shine upon them...

• And here's my world, Lord,
lifted up in prayer
for you to bless with grace and peace...

Only a few days into the new year, Lord,
and my heart's already filled
with burdens and with blessings:
so I lift my prayer to you
in whom I place my trust
and find my help and hope...


- H/T A Concord Pastor Comments

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Epiphany - “Where is the newborn king of the Jews?”

Before we take down the lights, and sweep up the pine needles, and cash in those gift cards, and visit the exchange counter at Macy’s…the church gives us one more Christmas blast. This feast: Epiphany.

The word means “manifestation” — it is God becoming manifest to the world through his son Jesus Christ.

Every year on this feast, we encounter a story that really defines Christianity – the story of pilgrims on a journey. We meet the magi—outsiders, Gentiles, coming in search of the king.

The story of the magi is one of the more mysterious in the New Testament. The gospel doesn’t tell us how many of them there were; one early Christian tradition actually told of 12 astronomers making their way to Judea, presumably paralleling the 12 tribes of Israel and, of course, the 12 apostles. But somehow – probably because of the number of gifts mentioned – the number over the centuries dwindled to three. Matthew’s gospel is the only one that even mentions them. We really don’t know much more about them, except that they were searching for Jesus.

As I like to tell people: their visit to Herod is the last time in recorded history that a group of men stopped somewhere to ask directions.

But that searching, I think, is what their story is all about. Like so many of us, they are on a quest. The magi come into history asking a simple question—but it may be one of the most important.

“Where is the newborn king of the Jews?”

It is a question seekers are asking even today. Where is Christ? In a world so often shrouded in despair, where is hope?

As the magi discovered, Christ may not be where you expect.

Today, you will find him, for example, in the very land that tradition tells us was home to the magi – Persia, or as we know it, Iran and Iraq.

In Iraq, you will find Christ. You will find him in the quiet and courageous ministry of the Dominican Sisters of St. Catherine of Siena, who fled their convent in Mosul in the middle of the night last August, as ISIS was approaching. Today, living out of nothing more than a tent, they patiently and prayerfully serve hundreds of refugees in Erbil, Iraq – providing medical care, finding homes for the homeless, teaching the children, giving hope to the hopeless.

You will find Christ in the countless Iraqi Christians who hold fast to their faith in the face of suffering and hardship.

Where is the newborn king of the Jews? You will find him in Los Angeles, in the ministry of Fr. Gregory Boyle, the Jesuit founder of Homeboy Industries, where he is teaching gang members how to bake, and clean, and cook, and balance a budget and run a business.

Where is the newborn king of the Jews? You will find him in the work of Leah Lebresco – a young woman, a Yale graduate, who was an avowed atheist, and proud of it, but who two years ago by the grace of God was baptized a Catholic and has just written a book about, of all things, prayer.

Where is the newborn king of the Jews?

You will find him wherever the hungry are being fed, wherever the grieving are being consoled, wherever the forgotten are being remembered in his name.

You will find him here, at this altar, in something as small as a crumb of bread.

You will find him—as the magi did—anyplace where light dispels the darkness.

All these days after Christmas, we may think all the presents have been unwrapped and it’s time to get on with our lives. But think again. This day brings us something more.

Epiphany is the feast of gifts—but there is more than gold, frankincense and myrrh.

There is the gift of God’s son, Jesus Christ—as a writer friend of mine put it, “the present of his presence.”

And there is the enduring gift of faith.

The magi left gifts with Jesus, but I don’t think they went home empty-handed themselves. They carried their encounter with Christ in their hearts. So should we. We shouldn’t let the spirit of this season get tossed to the curb with the Christmas tree.

These weeks, we have celebrated Christ coming into our world and into our lives. The challenge before us is keep that reality alive—to keep the star shining. The incarnation didn’t end 2,000 years ago. It goes on, every day, in every one of us. We are called to be Christ to one another.

“Where is the newborn king of the Jews?”
Look around. And look within.

And let this gospel today stand as a reminder of what we have been given —and more importantly, of what we need to do.

The magi were among the first to seek Jesus.

They aren’t the last.

As we begin this new year, pray that those who are seeking Christ today may find him, somehow, in each of us.

H/T - The Deacon's Bench

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Year of Consecrated Life

Prayer for the Year of Consecrated Life
O God, throughout the ages 
you have called women and men 
to pursue lives of perfect charity 
through the evangelical counsels of 
poverty, chastity, and obedience.

During this Year of Consecrated Life, 
we give you thanks for these 
courageous witnesses of Faith 
and models of inspiration.

Their pursuit of holy lives 
teaches us to make a more perfect offer­ing of ourselves to you. 
Continue to enrich your Church 
by calling forth sons and daugh­ters who, 
having found the pearl of great price, 
treasure the Kingdom of Heaven above all things.

Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with
 you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Tuesday Tunes

In the final days of our celebration of Christmas, the Mormon Tabernacle Choir shares this modern take on the age-old question "What Shall We Give?" to the babe in the manger, to Christ the King of Kings.

Christmas is not only a time of remembering what gifts we should give in Christ's name to those we love. It is also a time of remembering the gift God gave in our names and for our sakes - the gift of Christ. What are some of God's gifts that come to us through the Christmas story?

The first Christmas gift is the gift of Jesus, the light of the world.

The first Christmas gift given is the gift from God. His present is Jesus, the light of the world. Jesus is the light that shines in the darkness of our lives. For the light of the world, the gift of the Father of Lights, is Jesus.

Our Christmas decorations of lights, whether they be LED lights on our tree or candles on our table, remind us of the gift of the Creator - the light of the world. The incarnation of God in a baby is the Gospel's affirmation of the invasion into human darkness of the light of the world.
This video shows that, practically every single time, the best gifts do not come from the store. The best gifts in life really come from the heart; that of service to others, willingly, because you want to, not because you have to.

 And, that is what our Savior did during His mission; when he was living on earth. We can all learn so much, there is no such thing as learning everything about anything, in this life. What do you think?!

Monday, January 5, 2015

Epiphany Customs

It is traditional to bless your house for the Epiphany.

Over the doorway to the home would be written the Epiphany Inscription:
20 + C + M + B + 15

The letters have two meanings. They are the initials of the traditional names of the Three Magi: Caspar, Melchior and Balthasar. They also abbreviate the Latin words Christus mansionem benedicat. May Christ bless the house.

The letters recall the day on which the inscription is made, as well as the purpose of blessing.
The crosses represent the protection of the Blood of Christ, whose Name we invoke, and also the holiness of the Three Magi sanctified by their adoration of the Infant Christ.

The inscription is made above the front door, so that all who enter and depart this year may enjoy God's blessing.

The inscription is made of chalk, a product of clay, which recalls the human nature taken by the Word of God in the womb of the Virgin Mary, by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

The Epiphany of the Lord

The Magi. 

Today we're talking about the Magi, also known as the "three kings" from the "orient," according to the well-known Christmas carol.

Although most nativity scenes show the Magi crowded into the stable of Jesus' birth -- along with the shepherds, animals, an angel, Mary, Joseph and the baby -- the Magi were almost certainly later visitors, coming perhaps as long as years after Jesus' birth. By then, Joseph had no doubt found better lodging for his family, which is probably why Matthew says the wise men entered "the house" to find Jesus. But whatever the time and place, these Gentile visitors from the East "knelt down and paid him homage." In older vocabulary, they "adored" him. They finished what they came to do.

But Leonardo da Vinci didn't. Over the centuries, various painters have portrayed this visit, but one of the most famous -- despite its being unfinished -- is da Vinci's Adoration of the Magi, seen here on this post. The artist had been commissioned in 1480 to paint this 8-by-9-foot work for the main altar of the monastery of San Donato a Scopeto, near Florence. He was 29 at the time, and he worked on it for quite a while, getting the piece to its brown ink and yellow ocher groundwork stage. But then he moved to Milan and left it behind, never to work on it again. Eventually the assignment was given to another artist who provided the requested painting to the monastery in 1496. Da Vinci's unfinished work still exists and is on display in the Uffizi Gallery in Florence. Though uncompleted, it is recognized in the art world as one of his most important works.

Believe this: When God calls us to a task, He gives us His help to finish it. One sign of God is that we are led to work that we did not intend to do. Another sign of God is that we are trusted to seek God's help to take the task to completion.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

The Holy Name of Jesus

“Glorious name, gracious name, name of love and of power! Through you sins are forgiven, through you enemies are vanquished, through you the sick are freed from their illness, through you those suffering in trials are made strong and cheerful. You bring honor to those who believe, you teach those who preach, you give strength to the toiler, you sustain the weary”
                                                                                                                   --St. Bernardine of Siena

Formalized devotion to the Holy Name is the fruit of the work of St. Bernardine of Siena, (1380-1444), the Franciscan who reformed his Order and preached fiery sermons all over Italy. An excerpt from one of his sermons:

"When a fire is lit to clear a field, it burns off all the dry and useless weeds and thorns. When the sun rises and darkness is dispelled, robbers, night-prowlers and burglars hide away. So when Paul's voice was raised to preach the Gospel to the nations, like a great clap of thunder in the sky, his preaching was a blazing fire carrying all before it. It was the sun rising in full glory. Infidelity was consumed by it, false beliefs fled away, and the truth appeared like a great candle lighting the whole world with its brilliant flame.

By word of mouth, by letters, by miracles, and by the example of his own life, Saint Paul bore the Name of Jesus wherever he went. He praised the Name of Jesus "at all times," but never more than when "bearing witness to his faith."

Thursday, January 1, 2015

“the world is charged with the grandeur of God.”

About a century ago, the Jesuit poet and priest Gerard Manley Hopkins wrote a poem that begins: “The world is charged with the grandeur of God.”

It’s a beautiful statement of the miraculous – and it’s more surprising because Hopkins himself suffered from depression. His life was a struggle, full of difficulties and disappointments. It was not always easy for him to see God’s goodness in the world around him.

It can be that way, at times, for all of us.

But there is no better time to look for God’s grandeur, and to discover it, than now. The beginning of a new year.

You see that in all the news stories today that mention the first baby born in the new year.

But you could also see it last night, in the hundreds of thousands of people who huddled together in Times Square, shivering in the cold, waiting for that ball to drop, and waiting for history to be made, and waiting for a new number to be added to the calendar.

It’s there in every horn that was blown, every explosion of confetti. It’s loud and crazy – but it is our way of saying “We are alive. Despite all that has happened to us, and all that we have done wrong, and all that has gone right…we are starting a new year. We are beginning something new.”

And I would add: we are able to do that because “the world is charged with the grandeur of God.”

We need to be reminded of that, I think. It’s easy to miss – especially given the troubled times we live in. It seems, so often, hopeless.

But then we look at the feast we celebrate today, and find hope.

Mary was a woman who herself understood what it was like to live in an uncertain and frightening time. The Mother of God was forced, days after giving birth, to become a refugee, to save the life of her child. Yet she never abandoned hope. She never lost trust in God.

Her trust in God, and her faith in the future, is one reason why we honor Mary today, the first day of the new year.

But consider another reason, too: in this early moment, the brand new year – like the Blessed Mother – is spotless.

The future is a clean page, an empty calendar, waiting to be written on. Everything is pure. Everything is possible. And that is Mary. She is Possibility. She is Creation begun anew – the New Eve. With Mary, and the birth of her son, the coming of God as man, we get a fresh start.

It begins this day with a reminder of how it began 20 centuries ago, when the grandeur of God was made known in the unlikeliest of places, a manger.

The gospel reading today speaks of the first people to discover it: the shepherds who hurried to the stable. As Luke tells us, they left from that encounter with Jesus to “make known the message that had been told them about this child.”

With that, they became – in fact — the first evangelists.

It was those anonymous shepherds, men who probably couldn’t even read or write, who were the very first to tell the good news. Luke tells us that soon others were also hearing the news – and that they were “amazed” at what they were told.

We’re still being amazed.

And Mary? In today’s reading, she doesn’t utter a word. She “kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart.”

Others spread the word. But she is the one who gave us The Word.

This is traditionally a day of beginnings – when resolutions are made. That treadmill you got for Christmas will get a work out – for a week or two. So will the diet…and the promise to stop smoking…and the vow you made to finally clean out the garage.

It all sounds good for a few days. But it’s soon forgotten, or neglected.

But don’t forget or neglect this beautiful reality: God’s grandeur is with us, and among us. The world IS “charged with the grandeur of God.” It is there in the Eucharist we are about to receive. It is there in the bright light of every winter morning – and the bright hope that is promised to us with the birth of the savior.

If you’re going to make resolutions, resolve to live this year in that hope.

And my hope for you, and my prayer for you, for this year is the same one we heard in the first reading. It dates to the time of Moses…but was popularized by one of the great deacons of the church, Francis of Assisi.

It is my prayer…

That the Lord bless you and keep you.

That the Lord let his face shine upon you and be gracious to you.

And that the Lord look upon you kindly and give you peace.

Happy new year.