Living Faith

Discussion in 'Inspirational Stories' started by darrell, Jul 9, 2009.

  1. darrell

    darrell New Member

    I’m editing the last 50 pages of my book, and then it’s done! Praise God! I noticed it’s been a little slow here lately; so thought I’d share Part 6 of the book with my friends in this forum. Terry might find it particularly interesting with your experience in the Catholic Charismatic Renewal. Everyone, feel free to share any feedback. I’ll post it a chapter at a time, so you can let me know your thoughts after each post.


    Part VI: Living Faith

    After getting Liane and the kids off to school this morning, I took my Rosary and went for a walk. It’s August, monsoon season here in Arizona, and it was already hot and muggy at eight in the morning – not pleasant for walking. But that’s life; we’ve got to keep on walking, even when it’s not any fun. As I began to pray and considered how to proceed with my story, I reflected on our progress so far; we’ve covered a lot of territory.

    I prayed the first Hail Mary for the virtue of faith. In the first two parts of this book, I shared with you how as a young man I rejected the faith I’d been taught to believe, and how for over twenty years, I went my own way and lived a very secular life; how the birth of our son touched my heart, and of my struggle to make sense of his death; how this led me to begin searching for the truth; and how I eventually came to embrace the one true God who is love and to give my life to Him.

    In the following three parts, you walked with me these past seven years since Johnny’s death. I revealed my realization that giving my life to God required that I reject the idol that I had worshipped for so long – bike racing. Now, there’s nothing wrong with cycling, or any other sport, as long as they’re kept in the proper perspective; but for me, bike racing had become an idol, because it had become more important than anything else. What’s truly amazing is how easy it was for me to give it up! For the better part of fifteen years, the bike had consumed my life, but I gave it to God just like that! Only by the grace of God…

    The time previously spent training and racing left a big hole in my life – I had a lot of time on my hands, and I filled it seeking a deeper relationship with God. We examined what it means to be a Christian: the believer seeks to know God... We talked about the ways of coming to know God: through the Holy Spirit speaking to our hearts when we pray, when we read the sacred scriptures, and when we worship together as a community; we also recognize God in the little everyday signs He gives us when we seek to follow Him, and when we see the difference He makes in the lives of others.

    Together, we prayed the Rosary, and I shared how meditating on the Sorrowful Mysteries helped me at a time when I was in great pain. By reflecting on Jesus’ sacrifice, I was able to make sense of my personal anguish and of everything wrong I saw in the world. In offering my grief to Jesus on the cross, I was able to find the strength to go on.

    We reflected on the great Communion of Saints that we are all of us a part of. We’re all of us God’s children, part of a great big family; none of us are alone; God has given us to each other to help each other climb the mountain of holiness. After all, how can we learn to love, to give of ourselves to others, unless we’re a part of each other’s lives? That’s what this life is all about: sanctification – to become saints, to be made holy. That’s the work we’re meant to do in this life.

    This morning, as I prayed that first Hail Mary for the virtue of faith, I realized that I had indeed come to believe – God had given me faith. I’ve never seen the Lord in a great light, nor have I experienced an illumination of conscience. I’ve never seen Jesus in an after-death experience, but He has given me countless little graces and signs. And as I walked and prayed this morning, I looked up at the sky and saw a cloud in the shape of an upside-down cross. Immediately I thought of Saint Peter, the rugged fisherman with a good heart, the Disciple to whom the Father revealed that Jesus is the Christ, the leader of the early Church who was crucified upside-down. Now that cross-shaped cloud was just a cloud, but God gives us signs through nature; the Supernatural directs the natural. It was the timing: a cross – the symbol of our faith – appeared in the sky just as I’m praying for faith. An unbeliever can dismiss it as coincidence, but the believer knows that when it comes to God, there are no coincidences. There are some who have seen and believe, but most of us must walk by faith; for as Jesus told my Confirmation Saint, Thomas the Apostle, “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe.” That’s faith.

    We pray the second Hail Mary for the virtue of hope. Six years ago, when I first came to believe, my faith gave me hope; but my hope was not in this life, it lay somewhere in the future, to the time after my death when I would be happy with God forever in the next life. Now, however, my every day is filled with hope. Now I understand there’s a meaning and a purpose to this life. Life is not sport, and it’s not one big party; life is not a beach. We’re all of us given a mission in this life, and every day is a gift, an opportunity to fulfill that mission. Again I’m reminded of Father Jim’s words at Johnny’s funeral mass: “He’s doing God’s work now.” And here in this life, that’s what we’re meant to do: God’s work.

    This brings us to the third Hail Mary which we pray for the virtue of charity. Up to this point, my story has been about coming to find faith, and in the ways we come to know God. But this is just the beginning of our journey as Christians. Remember, the believer seeks to know God and do His will; to believe means to act; living faith works through charity.



    ♦ ♦ ♦

    I’m aware that some Christians mistakenly think that we Catholics believe we earn our way to Heaven by doing good works. This is NOT what the Church teaches; the Catholic Church very clearly teaches that our salvation comes from God alone, through the passion, death and resurrection of Our Lord Jesus Christ. All Christians believe this. If we believe that Jesus died on the cross for our sins, we are promised everlasting life. We are saved by grace, and the Apostle Paul goes on to tell the Ephesians that we are saved through faith, and our faith is a gift from God. Since we are saved by faith and not by works, does this mean that we don’t need works? No, it doesn’t mean that at all. We are not saved by works, but rather our works are a product of our faith.

    A Pharisee invited him to dine with him, and he entered the Pharisee's house and reclined at table. Now there was a sinful woman in the city who learned that he was at table in the house of the Pharisee. Bringing an alabaster flask of ointment, she stood behind him at his feet weeping and began to bathe his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them, and anointed them with the ointment. When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this he said to himself, "If this man were a prophet, he would know who and what sort of woman this is who is touching him, that she is a sinner." Jesus said to him in reply, "Simon, I have something to say to you." "Tell me, teacher," he said. “Two people were in debt to a certain creditor; one owed five hundred days' wages and the other owed fifty. Since they were unable to repay the debt, he forgave it for both. Which of them will love him more?" Simon said in reply, "The one, I suppose, whose larger debt was forgiven." He said to him, "You have judged rightly." Then he turned to the woman and said to Simon, "Do you see this woman? When I entered your house, you did not give me water for my feet, but she has bathed them with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You did not give me a kiss, but she has not ceased kissing my feet since the time I entered. You did not anoint my head with oil, but she anointed my feet with ointment. So I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven; hence, she has shown great love. But the one to whom little is forgiven, loves little." He said to her, "Your sins are forgiven." The others at table said to themselves, "Who is this who even forgives sins?" But he said to the woman, "Your faith has saved you; go in peace."
    --Luke 7: 36-50


    The sinful woman’s works – the washing and anointing of Jesus’ feet – were the result of her faith. She showed great love. If we have faith, we will have great love. Jesus tells us that if we love Him, we will keep the Commandments; He tells us that if we believe in Him, we will do the works that He does. “Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever believes in me will do the works that I do…” (John 14: 12).

    ♦ ♦ ♦

    One day a few months before little Isabella’s fifth birthday, we were headed up the stairs when she stopped and said, “Carry me!”

    I chuckled and told her, “No, you can walk.”

    “Carry me!” she cried, but I didn’t pick her up.

    It would have been an easy thing for me to do, but if I carry her all the time, she’ll never learn to stand on her own two legs. I could take care of her and coddle her, but if I do everything for her, she’ll never learn to do anything for herself… or anyone else. The Lord didn’t put us here to be served; He calls us to be servants – to do good works. We must walk.

    “He is always using His creatures as instruments to carry on His work in souls.”
    --St. Therese of Lisieux


    ♦ ♦ ♦
    The family and I are off for 3 days of fun and camping on the beach!
     
  2. padraig

    padraig New Member

    Well Darrell, you and yours are probably off enjoying yourselves as you write this, but maybe you'll read this when you get back.

    I love the idea of , 'Living Faith'. Its only as I look back on things that I had lost the faith many, many years before I became an atheist and quit the Church. For my faith was no longer alive and active but was a hallowed out shell. It was only after I came back I realised that a real living faith was something alive, active and full of joy. If God exists and I believe He does this faith should transform us and fill us with joy, changing not only our own lives but those of all around us. My own 'faith' was dead as though I had been hollowed out and eaten by termites.



    15 Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. 16 If one of you says to him, "Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed," but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? 17 In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. 18 But someone will say, "You have faith; I have deeds." Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do. 19 You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder.

    20 You foolish man, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless? 21 Was not our ancestor Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? 22 You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did. 23 And the scripture was fulfilled that says, "Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness,"[5] and he was called God's friend. 24 You see that a person is justified by what he does and not by faith alone. 25 In the same way, was not even Rahab the prostitute considered righteous for what she did when she gave lodging to the spies and sent them off in a different direction?

    26 As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead.
     
  3. Mario

    Mario Powers

    Vavavoom!

    Darrell,

    An exciting, and excellent read. I commend your linkage of faith, mercy, and love by utilization of Luke 7. It is a poignant, powerful, and tender passage. Praise God!

    Safe in the Hearts of Jesus and Mary!
     
  4. darrell

    darrell New Member

    The family and I are back from the beach with lots of damp camping gear to be aired out in the hot, hot Arizona sun (it was 117 in Gila Bend as we were driving home), and lots of sand to be shaken out of everything. Dusty and I were sitting on the beach after some boogie boarding yesterday, and we thanked God for being so good to us. When I checked my email, my Aunt Norma had some awesome news about my cousin Felecia who got sucked into the Jehovah’s Witnesses about eight years ago. The people who got her into it have not been helpful to her, and Felecia has recently begun attending a Catholic Church! I told Norma I am always reminded of the Angel Gabriel’s words to the Virgin Mary, “For nothing will be impossible for God” (Luke 1: 37)!

    Here’s the next chapter:

    ♦ ♦ ♦

    In those first months after our little Johnny was killed, back when I was reaching out, in my heart desperately searching for the truth, many people responded to my cry. One man, another stranger, recommended I find an Alpha course. At the time, I didn’t give his suggestion another thought, but then some months later, after I had begun to believe in God, Liane pointed to a little advertisement for an Alpha course in the Sunday bulletin. Then, a week or two later, Liane handed me a flyer for the Alpha course. That made three times this Alpha thing had been put in front of me, and I wondered if someone wasn’t trying to get my attention. I don’t remember, but I imagine I still wasn’t sure about it, but I called the number to find out more about it. Pat Kruska, the Alpha coordinator at St. Timothy’s, asked me a few questions, and she signed me up.

    Reflecting on that first Monday-night Alpha meeting, about where I was in my walk of conversion at that time, looking back, I see God’s hand, and there’s no doubt in my mind that He led me to that ministry and brought me together with the people there. There’s no doubt in my mind that the Holy Spirit led me to Alpha. I had just come to believe in God, and I had given my life to Him, and I was trying to figure out what that meant for the rest of my life, with all that time I had previously spent cycling, the time spent in my self-absorbed pursuit of personal glory. I had told God I was going to live the rest of my life for Him, and like I had told Father Jim, I just needed to find out how to do that. I had to give Him everything; I couldn’t be a lukewarm. I couldn’t be one of those people that said I believed that Jesus died on the cross for my sins, and then give God one hour on Sundays and then go about my business for the rest of the week without giving God a second thought. I firmly believe that God brought me to Alpha. He never took away my free will, but He was in control the entire time.

    So one Monday evening in January of 2002, less than four months after Johnny had been killed, I showed up at a perfect stranger’s house with no idea of what to expect, with no idea what was going to happen. God was calling me; He was leading me. So I knocked on the door, and this rather average-looking bald guy answered. There were ten people, including the leaders, who showed up that night. We all sat down to dinner and introduced ourselves. We were all asked to briefly tell a little about ourselves and what had brought us there. I said something to the effect that I had been an agnostic for most of my adult life and recently had come to believe in God. At that time, I didn’t say anything about Johnny’s death or my grief. I did that purposely because I didn’t want anyone to think I was there for sympathy, because I wasn’t. I was there to get closer to God. Jesus said, “Seek and you shall find,” and there I was. He brought me together with these wonderful people. Some of them became my closest friends, and we’ve been working together in ministry ever since.

    So every Monday evening for the next ten weeks, we all got together and had dinner. We didn’t talk much about religion or faith; in fact, after that first night, we didn’t talk about God at all during dinner. That annoyed me a bit because that’s what I was there for; God was all I wanted to talk about. Later on, I found out that was by design: the leaders were instructed not to talk about God or religion at dinner in order to not cause anyone to feel pressured and to create an atmosphere of friendship. But that really annoyed me because all I wanted to talk about was God. Now, in retrospect, I realize that taking a personal interest in others is, in an indirect way, talking God. After dinner, we watched a series of videos about the Christian faith. Some of the subjects included: “Who is Jesus?”, “Why Did Jesus Die?”, “Why and How Do I Pray?”, “Who Is the Holy Spirit?” and “What about the Church?” These videos used in the Alpha program presented a series of talks by Nicky Gumbel, a former atheist who had a profound conversion and became an Anglican minister. The Holy Spirit works through these videos. My own initial reaction to the idea that the Holy Spirit would work through recorded messages was to question this, but then it occurred to me that the Holy Spirit can work any way He wants to.

    The people that I met in that first Alpha course were individuals that were making an effort to live their faith, to walk the walk. Week after week they invited strangers into their homes, prepared a meal for them, served them, and did the dishes – at no charge – all because they wanted others to know Jesus the way they knew Jesus. Each week after watching the video, we had dessert, and we talked about that evening’s subject. It was a pretty simple format, and it worked really well. We talked about those videos; but as the weeks went by, the leaders started talking about their own lives, about the people they used to be and how Jesus had touched their hearts, and how He had changed them. That’s the first thing Alpha did for me – it brought me together with these people who were on fire for Jesus. That’s what I needed: to know there were other people out there who believed what I believed, and they were making the effort to live it. As I’m reflecting on this, I think to myself how good God is that so soon after choosing to follow Him, after all those years of going my own selfish way, that He brought me together with these fellow believers. Looking back, I recognize that there was a reason for that because He meant for us to work together.

    At this point, I’d like to tell you about one of these wonderful people, my frined Kevin: he was that average-looking bald guy who greeted me at the door that first Monday night, and the leader of that first Alpha course; he’s my good friend, and we’ve worked together in ministry ever since; he’s also Isabella’s godfather. And he‘s graciously agreed to lay it all on the line and tell you his story.


    I have been a Christian for almost 11 years now. One question I have always feared to be asked is, “Who is Jesus and can you explain him to me?” How do you explain to people a God that loved us so much that he gives us His Son, allows us to beat him within inches of his life, and then hang him on a Cross like a common criminal to die, all for our Salvation?

    How do we come to know this God who loves us that much? We can read scripture, study the Catechism and rely on the Magisterium of the Church to teach us about Jesus and maybe begin to understand Him from a theological standpoint… The most often quoted Bible verse is John 3:16: “For God so loved the world that he gave his Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life.” Quite honestly, as someone formerly un-churched, before my conversion this didn’t mean a whole lot to me…

    I was the average person, un-churched off the street. My mother was Methodist and my father was Catholic, but neither practiced their faith. While friends where in Catechesis, I was out riding my bike. During my high school years, I would see these televangelists on TV, and they seemed to want to introduce me to this angry, judging God who was going to rain down fire and brimstone on me and condemn me to Hell. I wasn’t sure what brimstone was, all I knew was it didn’t sound too fun. So I figured if I’m going to Hell, I might as well have a good time getting there because I had nothing to lose.

    I went to Church a couple of times with a girl friend who wanted me to become a Christian and quickly formed my doctrine that Christians were weak and feeble people who needed to get a life. I wasn’t interested in all that Church stuff, so she left and went off to college, which gave me more reason as to why I didn’t want to be a Christian. People tried to introduce me to Jesus, but it seemed to me it was more about religion than God’s love. If God is love, nobody was getting that point across to me.

    Life began to happen: my girlfriend and I broke up, and then one month later I was laid off from a good job at a large corporation. So I went on two-year binge – life was one big party: drinking, drugs, partying and sex. I began to build a wall around my heart to protect myself, becoming superficial, and I learned to keep my distance and not let anybody in out of fear of being hurt. During this time I was in a serious car accident and my right hip was shattered into seven pieces. While in ICU, through the haze of morphine I remember a priest came to visit me and asked if he could pray with me. I remember praying, “God please just heal me. I promise I will do whatever you want.” I was healed, got back to my life and forgot about the promise I made to God. The accident pushed me over the edge. I became very angry and self-centered and was tired of always losing. I always idolized my older brother, and he was the type of person that always got what he wanted, no matter who he stepped on. I decided I was going to win at all cost. If I lost, I held a grudge and would find a way to get you back. Life became a game to me and I was out to win. At work, if someone put a barrier in front of me, I’d find a way around it. If someone made me look like a fool in front of other people, I’d find a way to get back at them. I was always going to win no matter what; I’d always find a way to get the upper hand, and I’d make sure they paid for it.

    I married a cradle Catholic. We were not married in the Church, and my wife quit taking Communion because of that. I felt that was very disrespectful to me and more justification as to why I didn’t want to be a Christian. She tried to get me to attend church with her, and I wouldn’t. I began to use the Church as a weapon against her. It was all about me. If my family interfered with my plans, I would get angry about it. I was very, very controlling, and I would use anger as a control mechanism to kind of keep everybody in line. Looking back now, I had no clue what love was. I got really good at doing drywall because I’d get angry and put my fist through the wall. I thought religious people were pretty weak individuals. Eventually we had our Marriage blessed; I thought that was the least I could do to get her off my back.

    We lived with Debbie’s parents for a couple of years before we moved to Chandler, and every night they prayed the Rosary together. I stayed in the bedroom because I didn’t want anything to do with them – they were very religious people, very devout Catholics. It made me uncomfortable being around them. We’d always fight about that, and I’d tell Debbie that her Mom and Dad spent “too damn much time in church.” They literally went to mass every morning, and I’d think, “They really need to get a life.”

    In 1986, my Aunt Shirley died, and it was the first time I had to deal with death. Our parents had always kept us away from that. I remember going to the funeral home and going over to the casket and looking at my aunt lying there, and I broke down. I was crying so hysterically I walked out. I thought, “That’s all life was: you lived, you died and that was it.” To look at this person who no longer existed was devastating to me. To know I was going to face that some day… Just like that my existence was just gone… To see a person that I knew in a casket and to know that was the end of existence, it was like panic set in.

    One day my eight-year-old daughter asked my wife, “Why doesn’t Daddy go to church with us?” My wife suggested that she ask me; so she did. I started going to church as I felt it was important for the kids, but not for me. Debbie would say “Oh that was a really neat homily.” And I’d look at her like, “What the heck are you talking about?” We were the last ones in and the first ones out, and I fought it every step of the way. However, being in church, the Grace of the Eucharist was flowing out on me. When the priest would consecrate the Eucharist and elevate it, I could see it from way in the back where I was seated, and a chill would run down my spine. Something special had happened and I knew it.

    My mother-in-law got sick with pancreatic cancer in 1995, and I remember her facing that with faith. That was the first time I saw anyone who had faith enough to go through that type of pain and suffering The doctor told us the pain would be pretty intense – of all the types of cancer, this was probably one of the most painful. During the nine months or so she was supposed to be in intense pain, she was just taking Tylenol with codeine. To watch this woman’s faith and to watch her laugh as she was facing death, it kind of caught my attention.

    A couple years later, we were back in Massachusetts, and I remember sitting down with my uncle – he was in his eighties – and we began to talk about whether or not I had ever been baptized. There was something special about this uncle, and I never knew it at the time, but looking back now after my conversion I understand he was full of the Holy Spirit. He was just full of the Holy Spirit. My uncle looked at me and said, “You aren’t baptized?” And I said, “No, I’m not baptized.” My uncle thought that my grandmother, Meh-Mey, might have taken me and had me baptized, but he wasn’t sure. Looking back, I think my mother-in-law and my uncle praying for me in Heaven was part of my conversion.

    One Sunday morning in 1998, I was reading my morning paper. My routine on weekends was to get a cup of coffee and go in the other room – the kids were still pretty young at that point. Everybody knew not to bother me because I would start barking, “Get out of here! I’m trying to read the paper!” I literally would start yelling. Debbie came in and laid this paper on the table and said, “I think you should read this.” Looking back now, it was quite brave of her to do that. The funny part is, I didn’t even bark at her. I just kind of looked at it – I wasn’t going to pick it up with her standing there… So I waited until she left and then picked it up and started reading it… It was a medical description of Christ’s suffering.

    I began to cry… At this point in my life to weep was unheard of because my heart was solid rock. I began to realize what it was He did. Throughout my life, people have tried to tell me about religion, but no one got to the point of how much Jesus loved us. For the first time I began to understand that even though God was God, He came in human form, and His suffering was no different from any other human being who suffered under the same conditions. It humanized this God that was out of reach to me. It made Him real to me. It was no longer this spiritual aspect of this God in the world that I didn’t have time for, I didn’t know and couldn’t know, and I couldn’t see – it brought it into human terms for me. To think in terms of any human being that would do that for somebody, let alone a God who created us, it opened my eyes. Who people say He is, and if he suffered and died like this, then there has to be something about this; there has to be something real about this God that I can’t see.

    About a month later, Debbie told me she was going on a “Parent Retreat.” At that time, my daughter Nicole had begun going to Seton Catholic High School and at the first parent meeting – the only meeting we went to – they needed people to set up a stage, and because I’m pretty handy, Debbie figured that would be something I could do. I think in hindsight she was really, really hoping somebody would get through to me! She had pretty much had it at that point. I remember walking into this room and thinking, “These people are flipping weird!” I could not comprehend why people wanted to help other people, and why they seemed to be so joyful – their joyfulness to me seemed to be so fake. But I remember looking around at the people in that room and just shaking my head. I believed Christians were weak, feeble people, and being an athlete in high school – I played basketball, I played tennis, all my life I’ve been active in sports – I remember walking into this room and none of these people looked athletic. Therefore, in my mind that was the typical Christian: some egg head, some brain. When we got out I looked at Debbie and asked, “Is this the kind of people we’re going to be around on this retreat.” And she said, “Kevin, don’t go. I’m going on this retreat whether you go or not. Don’t go.”

    Two things were going through my mind: number one, “I’m not staying here and taking care of these kids”; number two, “What is she up to?” I didn’t know what she was up to. By that time in our marriage, things were pretty bad. My control issues, we we’re fighting quite a bit. She was spending more and more time at the church, and I was thinking in the back of my mind, “Has she got a boyfriend? What’s the deal? What’s going on here?” When she mentioned she was going away with these people on retreat, I didn’t know what a retreat was, and I’m thinking to myself, “She’s up to something.” So I told her I was going, but I had no intention of participating. I figured I could go off hiking or take my four-wheel drive and go four wheeling.

    Debbie gave me this blue peace of paper that Pat Kruska [the retreat leader] had sent out to everyone going on retreat, and on this blue peace of paper it said, “Pray for an open heart.” And I was thinking to myself, “Why would I pray for an open heart?” The strange part is, I kind of did start praying. I wasn’t the kind of person who prayed a whole lot unless I got on an airplane and figured I better cover my bases in case the plane goes down – you know, situations where death may be involved… But I did kind of pray for an open heart.

    We packed one bag because I thought I’m going up on a retreat with my wife. As we were driving, we really weren’t talking much, and you could cut the tension with a knife. I was getting more and more anxiety as we got closer. We stopped for dinner in Wickenburg and didn’t say two words to each other. I was getting more and more angry as we were driving, and I was thinking to myself, “I’m blowing this weekend to go on this retreat.” I started ripping on the retreat, and Debbie said, “Kevin, I told you not to come. You’re going to ruin this for me, and I don’t want you to ruin this retreat for me.”

    We get to the retreat house, and I’m looking at the house and thinking, “What is this?” Some of the teens who were helping to facilitate the retreat were helping with the bags, and this one young man looked kind of puzzled because we only had one bag. And he asked, “Where’s your bag?” He said, “Men to the left and women to the right.” As soon as he said that, Debbie took off straight to the women’s bedroom; she knew if I got my hands on her we were out of there. I was expecting to sleep with my wife – I thought this was going to be a couple’s type of retreat. Little did I know that the first thing that was going to happen was that we were going to be separated. Debbie stayed away from me that whole first night because she knew that if I got close enough to her where I could whisper to her, we were out of there.

    This one man named Joe came over to me and kind of naturally gravitated toward me. I had no idea why. He tried to talk to me a little bit, and I talked to him a little bit. That night, we passed the candle, and I stayed way back in the corner of the room. I stayed out of everybody’s view and just wanted to be left alone. When the candle got to me, I said my name and that I was there because my wife made me come, which wasn’t true. I said I wasn’t baptized and I didn’t plan on being baptized; I didn’t have time for that stuff. I wasn’t a Catholic and I wasn’t a Christian. I really didn’t know what I wanted to get out of the retreat, and kind of under my breath, “If anything, maybe to be baptized.” Little did I know that was cracking the door for God to get in.

    That first night we got our prayer partner; they drew names and my prayer partner was this older man, he’d just had cataract surgery. I’m looking at this old man, and I’m thinking, “You got to be kidding me. You’re hooking me up with this old guy to talk with all weekend.”

    Sleeping that night was absolutely miserable because men snore. My plan was to see what Debbie was up to, and as soon as I was comfortable that she wasn’t up to something, I was going to go off hiking and four wheeling. God knew exactly what he was doing – it rained all through the night. After breakfast the next morning, they began to go through a series of parables, and then there was a little bit of witnessing. I was sitting back in the corner as far as I could get, and Debbie was right next to me, and then all of a sudden as they were beginning the next parable – Pat was sitting almost directly across from me – I didn’t know her, hadn’t ever seen her before – I didn’t know what to expect from this retreat – all of a sudden Pat popped up out of her chair (which if you know Pat is kind of a miracle as arthritic as she is), and she said, “We had something else planned this morning, but we’re going to deviate from it a little bit. God is telling me to tell Kevin something, and I need to tell him.” And I’m thinking to myself, “Awe crap! Here we go.” I’m thinking what am I going to do here? And I think we’ll let this little old lady say what she’s got to say, and then I’m out of here!

    She pointed her finger at me and said, “God is telling me to tell you something, and I don’t know what it is, but whatever it is, you better listen. It might not make sense to you now, but somewhere down the line it might.” Then she turned and looked around the room, and she asked, “Where have we as a community failed to get this man baptized?” Then she turned to Debbie: “Where have you as a wife failed to get this man baptized?” Then she looked at me and asked, “Why aren’t you baptized?”

    Pat began to tell the story of a man: the first two or three things that she said about this man were things that happened in my life. As she continued, I began looking around the room wondering who was giving her this information – she was telling me my life story! For the next fifteen or twenty minutes, she went on about this man, and everything she said paralleled my life. She talked about this man having an affair, and I was thinking I came close to that a few years back. Debbie told me that the whole time she had a knot in her stomach the size of a grapefruit because she knew that God was talking to me through Pat. And I’m listening to everything Pat said, and line for line for line, this man’s story is my life story. When we were done, we took a little break, and Debbie went back to the women’s bedroom – and Pat had been really stern – and the other women were with Debbie – and I came charging back into the women’s dorm and I pointed my finger at her and I said, “I did not have an affair!”
    That was the only thing I disputed.

    Later, I talked about this with my prayer partner. I said, “That was really strange. She just laid out my life story.” He said, “I did notice some of the things she said were things we talked about Friday night.” And I said, “Even to the point I’ve got three kids. I have three kids.” He said, “I didn’t know that.”

    We had a break that afternoon, and I went back to my bunk to lie down. I thought,”God, I think you gave me a sign this morning. If you did, could you give me another?” Now, I didn’t know scripture, didn’t read scripture, but as soon as I thought that, the scripture came to mind: “Thou shall not test the Lord your God.”

    That night it was time for prayer, and they asked that whoever wanted to be prayed over to come kneel before the Eucharist. I didn’t think it was appropriate because I wasn’t baptized. I wasn’t churched. So I just sat there in the corner. They began to pray over people. When they prayed over the first person, I began to tremble…my whole body began to tremble. My legs were shaking. My hands were shaking. One of the core members came over and asked if I was OK. Then one of the teens came over and asked if I wanted to be prayed over, and it was that question that moved me forward. I wasn’t going to be prayed over. I thought this was a bunch of…nonsense. In my mind when he said do you want to be prayed over I was thinking to myself I am going to prove that this is a bunch of baloney. I went before the Eucharist and I prayed that if this is real I want to know, and if it’s not, I’m going to prove that it’s not.

    Before she prayed over me, Pat asked me a series of questions: “Do you reject Satan and all his works?” And I said, “I do,” although I had no idea what that was saying. “Do you love the Lord your God with all your heart and all your soul?” And I said, “Yes,” but I didn’t. “Do you give the Holy Spirit permission to work in your life? Will you go where He wants you to go? Will you say what He wants you to say? Will you be what He wants you to be?” And I said, “Yes,” but I didn’t. She asked, “Do you realize what it is you’re saying?” And I said, “Yes,” but I had no clue.

    I closed my eyes and I felt myself kind of pushed backward, but I was fighting it. I remembered a conversation I had earlier in the day with my prayer partner about giving up control, and in my mind I said, “I give up control.” And I began to fall back. “I couldn’t tell you when I was vertical and when I was horizontal; there was no sense of falling at all.”

    “I was fighting it. I could feel this emotion that I couldn’t quite understand coming to me… I saw this white light – it was like being put up into the dome of a skylight – and I was completely surrounded by this light and this peace and this love. I was fighting it, and the whole time I was fighting it I was crying and crying because I felt so unworthy of that love. And I knew I was in the presence of Jesus...and the peace and love is so intense…and not of this world…it can’t be described in human terms. From a human standpoint we can’t feel that until Jesus is with us. Once I gave in and accepted that love it was like wave after wave after wave of peace. I realized everything that everybody had tried to tell me over the years was real.

    I couldn’t get up. Debbie said it was like someone was holding me down on the ground. I was trying to get up and I could not get off the ground. The Holy Spirit wasn’t done with me. I don’t know how long I was down – it seemed like a long time.”

    The next morning, I went outside to drink my coffee. I was talking to this guy Joe, and Debbie said she looked out the window, and she said she had never seen me so animated. My senses were so alive. It was snowing, and I never heard the sound of it snowing before. The snow was coming through the trees and it was like someone had plugged that sound into an amplifier. It was beautiful. All of a sudden you see the world in a different light; you see nature in a different light.

    The next morning, we went out to get a letter from Jesus. Even after everything that had happened, I still went, “Yea right, I’m gonna get a letter from Jesus.” I went out and sat in my truck. All of a sudden I got a sentence; then I got another, and another. It said, “Dear Kevin, All your life you’ve asked for signs. This weekend I’ve given you two of the most compelling signs that I can give you. Now you need to seek me, love me, and serve me. Love, Jesus”

    At breakfast, they gave everybody an opportunity to say what the retreat had meant to them. The only thing I could say was to read my letter from Jesus, and as I read the letter, I started crying. When I finished reading my letter, I heard these hands slam down on the table. When it got around to Joe (the man who had gravitated toward me on Friday night), he was just crying and crying. Joe said it had been four or five years since his first retreat, and the letter that he got on his first retreat was almost verbatim the same as my letter from Jesus.

    Across from the retreat center is the Shrine of St. Joseph, and before starting the drive home, I told Debbie I wanted to see the shrine. The Stations of the Cross are spaced along a path winding up the hillside, with a life-size cross at each station. I was walking with my head down, contemplating the stations. When we reached the top of the mountain, I turned and looked to the right and saw the crucifixion, and in my mind He was really there and I began to cry uncontrollably. For the first time in my life I understood what He did for me. Standing there looking at the cross, I saw how repulsive my sin is to God. If Jesus had to suffer such a horrible death, then my sins were not small. The pride, selfishness, anger, hatred, pre-marital sex, drugs, drinking and my ego were the hammer pounding those nails in his wrist. I understood the depth and gravity of my sin, and now I began to understand the depth of His love. Standing at that Cross, I saw what sin does, but I also saw what love does: it goes all the way.

    Jesus asked Peter, “Who do you say that I am?” Suddenly I knew what Peter knew in his heart, that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of the living God, my Salvation. I met Him and He is real.

    On that retreat I found a Love that changes everything. Once you feel the love of Jesus, then you are able to love. I learned that love is caring more for others than you do for yourself. Love is doing what is not necessarily in your best interest, for the sake of another. Love is stepping outside of yourself in order to serve, giving of yourself to the point where it hurts, giving body, mind and soul. Love is unconditional, expecting nothing in return – complete and absolute surrender. For the longest time in my life I failed to love. It has only been in choosing to love, that I have begun to truly experience life in all its joy.

    Once I felt the love of Christ, his salvation, his redemption, the affects of my sin were broken. I was freed from the ignorance and illusion that life was about this world and about me. I was freed from destructive behaviors that harmed myself and my family. I quit blaming others and took responsibility for my actions. The hardest part was being able to forgive myself. Once I was able to forgive myself, then the healing began. I asked for forgiveness from those whom I hurt. It began within my family and spread outward to the community. Relationships became important to me. Walls were broken down. Pride, ego, and competition were reduced (I say reduced because I still have a little bit of it but not much).

    Once you know Jesus, you know that, no matter what happens, everything will be OK. Trust in God increases. There is peace. There’s a saying: “No God, No peace. Know God, Know peace.” I found this peace while ministering to my Mom and Dad in the last days of their lives on this earth, helping them transition from this world to the next. Never once did I pray for healing of their bodies, only their souls. If we love Jesus with all our hearts, we will not even feel the passage to eternity. Faith, hope and love – love is the greatest because it carries on into eternity.

    When you see Jesus in yourself, that is when you begin to see Him in others. When we see others, what we see is their humanness. It is in the humanness that sin lives in, and we don’t always like what we see. When I pray to see through the eyes of Jesus, I ask that my eyes be opened to see what He see’s, to love as He loves, to hear what He hears. It is then that I begin to recognize the soul which he cherishes.

    If given the option of knowing Jesus in your mind or in your heart which would you choose? I choose to have heart knowledge. In my mind, I can rationalize Him. With what the world tells me, that He is not real, it’s just a story, I can not comprehend Him, or why He did what He did for me. In my heart I feel him, I know him, I love him and can accept the love and mercy he pours out on me, a sinner. The love poured out for me, His blood, His very life, so that I may live.

    Lord Jesus, thank you for loving us. Help us to see as you see, to love as you love, and hear as you hear. Help us to cherish every living soul we encounter, and see you in them. Amen.

    --Kevin Ethier
     
  5. padraig

    padraig New Member

    That was really beautiful. Darrell, thank you :D
     
  6. twoangels

    twoangels New Member

    Darrell, I've just been blown away with that amazing story.....


    Siobhan
     
  7. Mario

    Mario Powers

    Powerful.

    Darrell,

    Thank you for this awesome testimony. One of many profound points that Kevin made:

    I understood the depth and gravity of my sin, and now I began to understand the depth of His love. Standing at that Cross, I saw what sin does, but I also saw what love does: it goes all the way.

    This was the key realization in my own conversion. I believe it is crucial for everyone to experience. If it were so, short confession lines each week would be a thing of the past and joy would abound.

    Lord Jesus, makle me a more effective witness to your Mercy!

    Safe in the Hearts of Jesus and Mary!
     
  8. darrell

    darrell New Member

    The Alpha course included a weekend retreat that was a very powerful experience. It was all about the Holy Spirit, and giving Him permission to work in our lives. On Friday night, I met Pat Kruska for the first time (Pat had interviewed me on the phone and signed me up for the Alpha course). She impressed me as being very down to earth and at the same time as being very close with Jesus. I very much wanted that intimacy with God. We watched more videos, all about the Holy Spirit and the gifts of the Spirit, and Pat supplemented these with talks about the Catholic Charismatic Renewal and her own experiences.

    Saturday night included exercises in forgiveness and prayer. Everyone was given the chance to be prayed over and to “rest in the Spirit.” I was skeptical, but at the same time very much hoped that God would blow me over. I still wanted that lightening-bolt experience. God didn’t knock me over that night, but I did say, “Yes.” Pat asked the questions: “Do you love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your strength?” and “Do you give the Holy Spirit permission to work in your life?”

    I said, “Yes.” And then I stood there and waited for God to knock me over. Nothing happened. I prayed silently, rededicating my life to God; I promised Him that I was His, so He could go ahead and knock me over whenever He was ready. Still, I remained standing. So I figured I would make it easy for God. I relaxed as much as I could and leaned back (that way it wouldn’t take much for Him to knock me down). I began to rock back and forth, and I felt like a big tree swaying in the wind. I kept my eyes closed tight, and I could hear those around me quietly praying in tongues. For just a second, I felt what seemed to be gentle caresses on my face, shoulders and back, and I heard what seemed to be the sound of a thousand voices. Still, God didn’t push me over, so I leaned back a little more and fell backwards into the hands of those waiting to catch me.

    If you had asked me then, I would have said that deep down, I wasn’t sure if anything happened. And to be honest, to this day, I’m not certain if that sound of murmuring voices was the people around me praying or not, or if those caresses weren’t the fingertips of those waiting to catch me (although they swear no one touched me). There were no tongues of flame or roaring winds,(1) and I didn’t have any visions; but something definitely happened. For starters, I stepped forward in faith (or in this case, fell backwards), and I’ve no doubt that grace was involved. Whenever we’re seeking to follow Jesus, He is with us, and His grace will be sufficient for us. Maybe I didn’t experience anything unmistakably tangible with my physical senses in those brief minutes of time, but something definitely happened. Here I am, seven years later, and I see everything through the eyes of faith. Looking back at that night, I realize that I wanted God to carry me off to some mystical mountain; but He had other plans, and His message was that He wanted me right here in the world because He had work for me to do.

    I came home from that weekend retreat with a mission: I knew that I wanted to continue working in the Alpha ministry. Looking back, I see so much grace. For over twenty years I had said no to Jesus and gone my own way; but when I finally said yes, He wasted no time in giving me hope, and bringing me friends and community, and He gave me work to do. He has work for all of us, if we only say, “Yes.”

    All of this isn’t intended to promote the Alpha ministry; I’m simply telling you my story, and Alpha was a part of my walk. I was active in the Alpha ministry for six years, first at St. Timothy’s in Mesa and then at St. Mary’s in Chandler. The Alpha course was an introduction to Christianity, but we always said Alpha was for everybody, and it was true. It didn’t matter where people came from, whether they were atheists or agnostics like I had been, Baptists, Buddhists or whatever; everyone was welcome. Yes, we wanted people to come to know the Truth who is Jesus and hopefully to convert, but we never forced ourselves on anyone. If someone didn’t show up, we let them know we missed them and hoped to see them next week, and that was it. God gives everyone free will, and we respected that.

    Alpha is an interfaith course intended to teach what all Christians believe, but it missed the mark a little bit. Not all the teaching in the Alpha course was in line with Catholic doctrine, so it wasn’t what all Christians believed. But that’s OK, and I’m going to tell you why. The Holy Spirit uses Alpha to reach people; I learned that God can use anyone or anything in His plan. Nothing is beyond Him. Look at me: if after reading my story this far, you believe that I’m a man of faith, and I think the people who really know me would say that I am. Now I’m not saying that I’m a saint – I still have a long way to go. I still stumble and fall; I still make mistakes; I still sin; I don’t believe I’m holier than anybody else. But I’ve met God in my heart, and He speaks to me in my heart. I may not live up to the standard, but I’m never going to deny the Author of the standard. And Alpha was a step in my journey.

    We witnessed many good fruits. Many of those who went through the course were already practicing Catholics, but through the working of the Holy Spirit, in Alpha they had an inspired renewal of their faith: 154 people specifically stated that they had returned to Jesus. As a direct result or their Alpha experience, thirteen were Confirmed as adults, thirty-one people entered RCIA, seven marriages were blessed, and two children were Baptized.(2) This may not seem like huge numbers, but we always remembered the shepherd who went searching for one lost sheep.(3)

    Even with the obvious good fruits of this ministry, some of our fellow Catholics took exception because the teachings weren’t purely Catholic (and I imagine there might be some Catholics reading this right now who object). This attitude is a stumbling block to ecumenism. First, to my fellow Catholics let me state very clearly that I hold everything the Catholic Church teaches to be true; however, we’ll never achieve the unity willed by Christ unless we first enter into interfaith dialogue. We’ll never get anywhere with an “I’m right and you’re wrong” attitude. We need to begin by finding common ground, with the things all Christians believe: we are saved by grace; our salvation comes from God alone; Jesus suffered and died on the cross for our sins. And after we step onto the bridge of common ground and embrace our brothers and sisters with love, then we can begin to look for a way to knock down the walls that separate us. “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God” (Matthew 5: 9).

    Many Catholic leaders understand and encourage this ecumenical work and have endorsed Alpha, including: Father Raniero Cantalamessa, OFM, Papal Preacher;(4) Walter Cardinal Kasper, President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity;(5) and Bishop Thomas J. Olmstead, Diocese of Phoenix.(6)


    What I try to say to Christians of other denominations is very similar to what the prophet Haggai said to the people after the exile: “Is it a time for you yourselves to live in your paneled houses, while my house lies in ruins?” (Haggai 1: 4). Is this a time to be only concerned about our own Church and to quarrel among ourselves when Europe and the Western world are turning their back on Christ and forgetting the Gospel completely?… Our old differences have lost most of their meaning; new challenges are facing us. The crucial issue at the beginning of the third millennium is no longer the same that led to the separation of the East and West at the beginning of the second millennium, nor is it the same as later on led to the division within Western Christianity between Protestant and Catholic… Our situation, in the post-Christian world, is in many aspects similar to the situation of the early church in the pre-Christian world, and we should be able to draw some light from that. At that time there was not yet any Christian philosophy, or a Christian art and literature that made it possible to be “Christian by culture” and nothing else; there were no “concordats” with the States to protect the interests of the Church. There was only the power of a name: Jesus Christ, and that was enough to change the world. We need to rediscover the “unique” power of that name. And for that purpose we need to unite our efforts and support each other’s initiatives. This is why from the first moment I knew it I rejoiced about the Alpha Course and spoke well of it to other Catholics …It has proved to be an effective tool to help people to come to know Jesus.
    -- Father Raniero Cantalamessa, OFM
    (7)

    “There was only the power of a name: Jesus Christ, and that was enough to change the world.”

    Amen.

    References
    (1)Acts 2: 1-4
    (2)Alpha statistics compiled by Pat Kruska
    (3)Luke 15: 3-7
    (4)Cantalamessa, R. (2004). Experiencing a new Pentecost. Cantalamessa.org.
    (5)Kasper, W. PONTIFICUM CONSILIUM AD CHRISTANORUM UNITATEM FOVENDAM. Stuttgart
    (6)Olmsted, T. (2005, January). Letter to the pastors of the Diocese of Phoenix.
    (7)Cantalamessa, R. (2004). Experiencing a new Pentecost. Cantalamessa.org.
     
  9. Mario

    Mario Powers

    One hesitation.

    Darrell,

    What you've shared is true. What Fr. Cantalamessa said is true and I can wholeheartedly embrace:

    “There was only the power of a name: Jesus Christ, and that was enough to change the world.”

    However, my experience in the last 32 years with many ex-Catholics has revealed that animosity toward the Catholic Church runs deep in many fundamentalist circles. Once a lukewarm Catholic has been awakened to an experience of the living God, there are those who will pull out all the stops in order to woo them away from the Catholic Church. When we are evangelizing fellow Catholics we do need to take the precaution of referring them to honest and respectful mentors.

    Safe in the Hearts of Jesus and Mary!
     
  10. padraig

    padraig New Member

    Every time I hear of ecumenism I always think of Blessed Gabriella, a young Cistercian nun who gave her life for it:

    http://word.op.org/tag/blessed-gabriella/


    BLESSED GABRIELLA APRIL 22nd.

    Born in Dorgali, in Sardinia, in 1914, Maria Sagheddu is very representative of the strong shepherd's stock from which she sprang, with all their good characteristics - fidelity, a deep sense of duty, strength of character and intransigent purity as well as their more negative ones - stubbornness, wilfulness and a streak of violence. Her most prominent personal trait as a child and an adolescent was her indomitable temperament, typical of her people.

    At the age of 18, a personal encounter with the Lord, the exact circ­umstances of which are unknown, completely changed her life, leading her to lead a deep life of prayer and to devote herself to works of charity. At 21 she decided to enter the Cistercian Convent of Grottaferrata, near Rome. There her life appears to have been dominated by very few but very essential elements. The first and most visible was gratitude for the mercy that God had shown her in calling her to the Cistercian Life. The second element was the desire to respond to this grace with all her strength. After her profession she was inspired to offer her life for Christian Unity.

    The impulse came from a request for prayers and spiritual offerings for this cause during the Prayer for Unity Octave, of which Fr Paul Couturier was the great apostle and guiding spirit. Sr.Maria Gabriella had never studied the problem of separation or the history of ecumenism and, in fact, knew very little about it. She was simply dominated by the desire for Christian Unity. During this time the Convent at Grottaferrata had contact with the Anglican Benedictine Abbey of Nashdom which still possesses a card signed by Sr.Gabriella during her final illness.

    The fatal sickness that assailed her twenty-three year old body on the very day of her offering (up until then she had always enjoyed perfect health) brought her to her death after fifteen months of suffering. On April 23rd. 1939, her long agony ended in total abandonment to the will of God. It was Good Shepherd Sunday and the Gospel proclaimed: "There will be one flock and one_shepherd.”

    Prayer for Blessed Gabriella.

    Lord God, eternal Shepherd,
    you inspired the Blessed Virgin, Maria Gabriella,
    generously to offer up her life
    for the sake of Christian unity.
    At her intercession,
    hasten, we pray, the coming of the day when,
    gathered around the table of your word
    and of your Bread from heaven,
    all who believe in Christ
    may sing your praises
    with a single heart, a single voice.
    Through Christ, Our Lord. . .


     

    Attached Files:

  11. darrell

    darrell New Member

    Re: One hesitation.

    You’re absolutely right Terry and I agree with you 100%. My own brother and sister-in-law left the Church for a Protestant church where they, in their words, “have a relationship with Jesus Christ.” Fortunately, I came to faith in a thriving parish where the Holy Spirit was doing big things. Ironically, it was a visit to this parish that caused my brother and his wife to start looking for a church that was “more alive.” This was a number of years ago, and I have thought and prayed about this a lot.

    Padraig, thank you for the post on Blessed Gabriella. This fits perfectly with Part 7, the next and final part the book which is all about Christian Unity. It’s the longest part and the one that I’ve agonized over the most.

    For now, I’d like to continue on with “Living Faith.”
    Here’s the next chapter:

    After I’d been doing Alpha for a couple of years, the leaders recognized the need for a follow-up, and we developed a new ministry. Alpha means beginning, and the Alpha course was an introduction to Christianity, a beginning. However, conversion is a lifelong process. When we give that initial “Yes” to God and pray that sinner’s prayer, that’s not it, that’s not the end – that’s just the beginning of our walk as Christians. Just as I recognized at the beginning of my conversion the need for further direction and learning, and the need to walk-the-walk for God, so too we recognized that at the end of an Alpha course, many participants needed direction.

    We saw that people went through Alpha and had this incredible God experience; there were conversions and healings. Some people wanted to go on and continue working in the Alpha ministry like I had, but there were others who didn’t. The participants had this wonderful experience and formed relationships with the people in their groups, and then at the end of ten weeks we told them, “We’re finished. Now go out and live your lives for Jesus.” We recognized the need for community and for further direction and learning. So we took responsibility and a group of us got together one evening, and we brainstormed, and we came up with a follow-up ministry. Unlike Alpha which was interdenominational, this was going to be Catholic, and unlike Alpha which ended after ten weeks, this would be ongoing. Originally, we called it “After Alpha,” but eventually, we came to call this new ministry Discipleship. The aim of this ministry was threefold: to form small faith-sharing communities, continued Catholic education, and service.

    The first goal of the Discipleship ministry was to form small, faith-sharing communities that would be ongoing. Being Catholic is all about community – we don’t go through this life alone. Some are called to a religious life within the walls of a monastery or convent, and there exists a form of community. The rest of us live in the world, but we don’t walk alone. We’re all part of the great Communion of Saints; when we go to Mass, we go together as community to receive Holy Communion. We’re all God’s children; we’re all brothers and sisters; we’re all part of one big family. God put us here to love each other, to help each other, to take care of each other. That we might do that, our Lord Jesus Christ gave us His Church. We’re all of us part of the community of human beings, we are the body of Christ; we are the Church.

    A community is a family, and we know that a family is a communion of persons. It is in the family that we learn to love; we take care of each other, help each other, support each other, and at times we admonish each other and hold each other accountable. If a person is going it alone, it’s easy to stumble and fall, to be lured by the false promises of the world, or to be overcome by discouragements or doubts. In community we have strength because when one member may be weak, another is strong; when one has doubts, we can see the faith in others; we get strength and hope and love from each other. So the goal of the Discipleship ministry was to form small faith-sharing groups that would be ongoing and that would learn and grow and work together in their walk.

    The second goal of Discipleship was Catholic education. We selected a series of videos from The Crossroads Initiative,* Touching Jesus Through the Church, by Marcellino D’Ambrosio. The topics of the eight videos: Who Needs the Catholic Church?; Baptism: Gateway to Life; Confirmation: Empowered to Serve; Personal Prayer: Pathway to Joy; What is the Mass?; Getting More out of the Mass; Keeping a Pure Heart and Mary and the Saints.

    Marcellino D’Ambrosio was raised in an Italian-American Catholic family, but like many teenagers, he wasn’t excited about his faith. He mainly went to church because he didn’t want to go to Hell, and he looked at it as an “unpleasant duty.” In his own words, he was interested in “girls, glory and excitement,” and he was on his way to a promising career as a musician in a rock band, already playing in clubs all over New England. However, he recognized the problems involved with the lifestyle: all his friends were using drugs. When he saw the changes in some of his friends who found Jesus, he decided to investigate, and what he found was a Catholic Church that was alive and exciting, and he came into a personal relationship with Jesus. He felt the Lord calling him to give up his dream of being a rock star, and to pursue a career serving Christ and His Church.* He earned a PhD in theology under the renowned Jesuit theologian, Avery Cardinal Dulles, and taught at the University of Dallas. He’s currently the director of The Crossroads Initiative.

    The third goal of these Discipleship groups was community service – to the parish and to the larger community. One of these groups really took this goal to heart and went on to form a charitable organization, Fiat Charities,* and as of this writing, they currently are building their third school in Mongolia! Now let me be very clear here that I can take no credit for any of what they have accomplished. I simply facilitated the start of their group for a couple of months, and after I cut them loose, they went out and found a way to make a difference. This amazes me because God chooses to use all of us, His little children, in His plan of salvation. He’s always calling us to follow Him,* and if we’re seeking to do His will, He leads us and brings us together and uses us. Our souls touch and He weaves the threads of our lives together in creating His Divine tapestry!

    In developing the Discipleship ministry, we patterned it after the Alpha course because Alpha worked. Our groups met together with a leader for ten weeks. We decided not to have dinner and instead discuss the evening’s video over coffee and dessert. Unlike Alpha which was over after the course was completed, our goal was for the small groups to continue on together. After they had finished the video series, the facilitator helped the group to form a covenant; this was basically an agreement about how often and where the group would continue meeting, and what the focus of their group would be.

    Discipleship also included a weekend retreat. These retreats were much more in-your-face than the Alpha retreats – they were a challenge to pick up our crosses and follow Jesus.* The leaders told a number of parables including the story of the tightrope walker, and then we sent the participants off with their prayer partners to let the Holy Spirit work. We used to show the movie Romero: not in support of liberation theology, but to show what it means to be a disciple, and what it might cost when we say “yes” to allowing the Holy Spirit to work in our lives. Oscar Romero was a meek and bookish man, but after being appointed Archbishop of San Salvador, he began to speak out for the poor and victims of the Salvadoran civil war. He was assassinated on March 24, 1980. Over the years, there have been many good fruits, many conversions and healings. My friend Steve Crutchfield was healed of his drug addiction on one of these retreats. My friend Kevin Ethier had his conversion experience on one of these retreats. And it was on one of these retreats that God called Father Dan McBride to be a priest.♦

    ♦[Note: These retreats were ongoing for many years before we developed the Discipleship ministry. Originally called “Parent Retreats”, they were done for parents of the teenagers in the teen ministry.]

    References
    * www.crossroadsinitiative.com
    * Why Be Catholic?
    * www.fiatcharities.org
    * Matthew 4:19, 8: 22, 9: 9, 10: 38, 16: 24, 19: 21: Mark 1: 17, 2: 14, 8: 34, 10: 21;
    Luke 5: 27, 9: 23, 9: 59, 14: 27, 18: 22; John 1: 43, 10: 27, 12: 26, 21: 19, 21: 22
    * Matthew 10: 38, 16: 24; Mark 8: 34; Luke 9: 23, 14: 27
     
  12. darrell

    darrell New Member

    “We learned two new works!” Isabella exclaimed excitedly one day when I picked her up from Catechesis of the Good Shepherd where she goes for religious education. She wanted me to see; so she took me by the hand, led me over and showed me her new “works.” She didn’t explain very much, but she very purposefully set up the little displays, and then carefully put them away. I wondered at her desire to share what she’s learning with me. Upon reflecting on this, it also occurred to me that possibly my little daughter recognizes that our faith is important to our family – it’s central really – and maybe her sharing with me was an effort to please me.

    I remember Johnny used to say, “Hey Dad, watch this!” Whether it was jumping his scooter off a little ramp in our driveway, or trying to imitate his friend Trent’s tumbling, or riding his bike, he wanted me to see him and be proud of him. (I was and am.) It seems there is something in little children that makes them want to please their parents: To do your will is my delight; my God, your law is in my heart! (Psalm 40: 9)

    True believers in their hearts seek to do God’s will. As St.Therese said in her autobiography, “The most beautiful thoughts are nothing without good works.”*


    ♦ ♦ ♦



    A while back, I was working on building some shelves for Liane’s coffee mug collection. The shelves were ready to be primed, and my beautiful little four-year-old daughter came to me and said, “I want to paint.” Now, it would have been a lot quicker and easier (and way less messy) to do the job on my own, but I let Isabella work with me anyway. So I put a smock on her, put some primer coat in little can, gave her a little brush and let her get to work.

    Johnny used to say, “I’m getting my work done.” And he was: developmental psychology teaches that play is the work of children: in their play, children learn and practice what they need to live in the world. In the same way, our work for the Lord is preparation for Heaven. Sometimes Isabella brings me a plate of plastic food she has prepared in her toy kitchen or gives me her artwork, and I treasure all of her gifts – they are more precious than the finest gold. So too, we offer our service to our Father in Heaven.

    Despite the added time and mess to clean up, and even though I didn’t need Isabella’s help, her contribution gave me great joy. It pleased me to let her help me. So too, it pleases our Lord to let us help Him in His plan of salvation.

    God has no need for anyone to carry out His work, I know, but just as He allows a clever gardener to raise rare and delicate plants, giving him the necessary knowledge for this while reserving to Himself the care of making them fruitful, so Jesus wills to be helped in His divine cultivation of souls.
    --St. Therese of Lisieux*

    ♦ ♦ ♦


    The other night I was looking for something to read, and I went over to my bookshelf and decided upon a beautiful little book by John Paul II. “It was usual to say, as early as the era of the Fathers, ‘Christianus alter Christus’ (‘The Christian is another Christ’), meaning by this to emphasize the dignity of the baptized and his vocation, through Christ to holiness.”*
    At the last supper, Jesus told His Apostles, “Whoever believes in me will do the works that I do” (John 14: 12). Through His own life, Jesus has shown us the way to live out our faith. “The Christian is another Christ.”

    It’s been a month since I last took up the pen, not for lack of desire or inspiration, but for lack of time. Life simply gets busy sometimes with the demands of work and family, and then there’s the unexpected. My young son Dusty just spent eight days in the hospital for a ruptured appendix. It was hard to see my little boy suffering, and even though I was pretty confident he would get through it, I didn’t know for certain. I work in a high acuity ICU, and I know from experience that even when the surgeons, doctors and nurses do everything right, very often things still go wrong, and despite everyone’s best efforts, sometimes people still die. That’s life in a fallen world. Dusty’s illness reminded me of the temporariness of this life. Even though I deal with life and death on a daily basis, this was really personal. I really hope I won’t have to bury any more of my children, but I know it’s a possibility. The Lord numbers our days,* and none of us knows how much time we’ll have on this earth. We go along thinking we have time – months, years, decades; but then accident or illness strikes, and we’re reminded that we may not have that time.

    Come now, you who say, "Today or tomorrow we shall go into such and such a town, spend a year there doing business, and make a profit"— you have no idea what your life will be like tomorrow. You are a puff of smoke that appears briefly and then disappears. Instead you should say, "If the Lord wills it, we shall live to do this or that."
    --James 4: 13-15


    As Christians, we know that we’ve been given work to do in this life – a mission. Lord, grant that I am able to fulfill mine. Amen.

    ♦ ♦ ♦


    “The Christian is another Christ.” Very clearly being a Christian is about being and about doing; it’s about the way we live our lives. We have the perfect model in the life of Jesus of Nazareth. God could have come into the world anyway He wanted to, but He chose to be like us, to come as an infant, within a family. Family is very important, and the Church teaches that the family is a reflection of the Holy Trinity, of God Himself; it is a community of faith, hope, and charity.*

    The Christian family is a communion of persons, a sign and image of the communion of the Father and the Son in the Holy Spirit. In the procreation and education of children it reflects the Father's work of creation. It is called to partake of the prayer and sacrifice of Christ. Daily prayer and the reading of the Word of God strengthen it in charity. The Christian family has an evangelizing and missionary task.
    --Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2205



    I was talking to one of my coworkers a while back, a young woman preparing for her wedding, and I shared with her that my wife and I have been married for sixteen years. I asked her if she wanted to hear my thoughts on what it took to make a marriage last, and she said, “Yes.”

    I told her that the high divorce rate was a reflection of our society, of the “it’s all about me” and the “I deserve to be happy” mentality. The reason so many marriages failed was because too many people didn’t really mean it when they made their wedding vows. They entered into marriage thinking, “I’ll commit…for as long as I’m happy, and if it doesn’t work out, well then we can just get divorced.” That’s not the way it’s supposed to work.

    I told my young friend that for a marriage to have any chance, both the man and the woman needed to enter into it committed to making it work for the rest of their lives! They needed to truly believe deep down in their hearts that their marriage was a Sacrament, that their wedding promises were sacred vows: “for better, for worse; for richer, for poorer; in health and in sickness; forsaking all others; till death…” These traditional vows don’t fit in with today’s feel-good, me-first society, but when you get right down to it; they’re the only ones that promise real commitment, and the only ones that will make a truly loving relationship. Romantic love is wonderful, but sooner or later, the honeymoon is over. When the flames of passion have faded, and kids come along, and other hardships – whether they’re financial, illness, or whatever – that’s when real love starts.

    When a man and a woman give themselves to each other, exclusively, and open to life, God may bless them with children. The man and woman commit themselves to the welfare of the children, placing the needs of the children above their own wants and needs. Notice I said the needs of the children and not the wants. Happiness comes and goes in this life, but what’s really important is to do what’s right. Our children would be perfectly happy to consume ice cream, candy and soda all day, and to play and never do any work (come to think of it, a lot of adults feel the same way), but life is not one big party! There’s nothing wrong with wanting to have a good life and to provide a good life for our children – everybody wants that. But that doesn’t mean having the best of everything; this mentality is a huge mistake. It’s a fallen world, and none of us knows what hardships or tragedies will come in this life; we can’t guarantee that our children will have prosperity, health or long life. Our role as parents is to provide for our children’s needs (again I said needs, not wants) – food, clothing, shelter. Beyond this, it’s our responsibility to ensure their proper education so they can grow up to be productive members of society. Finally, and most importantly in my opinion, it’s our sacred duty to oversee our children’s ethical and faith formation. "Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea” (Matthew 18: 6).

    No matter what else happens in their lives, if our children grow up to have faith, they have everything. In the family we learn to give of ourselves to others – we learn to love. The Christian family is a sign to the world.

    * St. Therese of Lisieux. (1972). The Story of a Soul Washington, DC: ICS Publications.
    * St. Therese of Lisieux. (1972). The Story of a Soul Washington, DC: ICS Publications.
    * Pope John Paul II. (2005). Crossing the threshold of hope New York: Alfred A. Knopf.
    * Job 14: 5
    * Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2204
     
  13. twoangels

    twoangels New Member

    This is very inspirational Darrell.


    Siobhan
     
  14. maryrose

    maryrose Powers

    Darrell,
    I like that line 'if you give your children faith you have given them everything'. All around me I meet families that have not passed on the faith but I think that the parents must not have ever had a real living faith. You cant pass on what you dont have. If families pray together then it will help to grow and pass on the faith.

    Mary
     
  15. darrell

    darrell New Member

    "The family that prays together stays together." Cliche, but so true. Of course, our children will always have their own free will and there's no guarantees, but if we're doing our best then all we can do is trust in the good and merciful God and our Blessed Mother.

    Isabella wants to make smiley faces.
    :idea: :idea: :idea: :oops: :idea: :twisted: :wink: :idea: :idea: :idea:

    ♦ ♦ ♦

    “Whoever believes in me will do the works that I do” (John 14: 12). Jesus Himself tells us that if we have faith, it will be productive – we will do works. What kind of works did Jesus do? Well, He fed the multitudes and healed the sick. Of course, Jesus works were miraculous – turning water to wine, multiplication of loaves and fishes, miraculous healings, raising the dead. These and His other miracles – calming the storm at sea, walking on water, driving out demons – were signs for the world to show who He was, who He IS; but He also did these things because He loved. When the crowds followed Jesus, “his heart was moved to pity for them” (Matthew 14: 14); and when Jesus saw Mary and the others weeping for Lazarus who had died, He became troubled and perturbed,* “And Jesus wept” (John 11: 35).

    I remember the time after little Johnny was killed and the pain I felt in those first months. I looked around at the world and all the pain and injustice troubled me, and my heart cried out. I can’t remember the source, but the story goes someone once asked God why He didn’t change the world, and the Lord replied, “I did. I created you.” I believe that’s what being a disciple is all about: seeing the hunger and the poverty and the sickness and the despair, and being moved to do something about it. What can any one person do? Jesus said, “Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever believes in me will do the works that I do, and will do greater ones than these…” (John 14: 12).

    ♦ ♦ ♦

    Gonxhu Agnes Bojaxhiu was born in 1910 in Skopje, Macedonia. In her personal correspondence, she wrote that she knew she had a vocation to the poor when she was only twelve, and she decided to leave home and become a nun at the age of eighteen. She joined the Sisters of Loretto, primarily a teaching order, in Dublin, Ireland. From there, Sister Teresa was sent to India where she taught at St. Mary’s High School in Calcutta for sixteen years. She was very happy in her work, but the Lord had other plans for her, and He made this clear to her in a very unmistakable way. This “call within a call” began on September 10, 1946 while she was travelling by train to the Loretto convent in Darjeeling for her annual retreat. On that train, Teresa had the first of a number of mystical experiences that began with a series of locutions: she was literally hearing Jesus’ voice and conversing with Him intimately.

    [It] was a call within my vocation. It was a second calling. It was a vocation to give up even Loretto where I was happy and to go out in the streets to serve the poorest of the poor. It was in that train, I heard the call to give up all and follow Him into the slums – to serve Him in the poorest of the poor…I knew it was His will and that I had to follow Him. There was no doubt that it was going to be His work.*

    This call was much more than an understanding that Jesus wanted her to go out and serve the poor. In addition to the locutions, Teresa also experienced a series of visions, and in these mystical experiences, Jesus very clearly outlined every detail of what He was asking: the nature of the work, the name of the new order, the kind of women to be recruited for the work, how disciples would be formed, how they would dress, all the details of their work and spiritual lives. Very clearly, “it was going to be His work.”

    Sister Teresa was happy in her work teaching at the school, but Jesus was asking her for something more. This was a challenge to her: “To leave that what I love and expose myself to new labours and sufferings which will be great, to be the laughing stock of so many – especially religious – to cling [to] and choose deliberately the hard things of an Indian life – to [cling to and choose] loneliness and ignominy – uncertainty – and all because Jesus wants it – because something is calling me to leave all and to gather the few – to live His life – to do His work in India.”*

    When Sister Teresa revealed what had happened to her spiritual director, in the usual prudent fashion of the Church, her superiors began a long and careful discernment of her mystical experiences and “the call.” Sister Teresa had to wait for approval before proceeding with the mission given to her by God, and in fact, for a time her superiors instructed her not to even think about it! This also was a great trial for her, but she was obedient. As she waited for approval to proceed from her superiors, as she struggled with her own doubts and fears, Jesus called to her, “Wilt thou refuse to do this for me?” Mother Teresa’s responded by saying, “Do with me whatever You wish.”

    Finally, Mother Teresa received approval from her archbishop, from the Superior General of Loretto, and eventually permission from the Pope to leave her order and begin her new mission. After nearly two years, on August 17, 1948, Mother Teresa dressed for the first time in a white sari with a blue border, left her beloved Loretto and went out into the streets with the poor. After brief training with the Medical Mission Sisters in Patna, she returned to Calcutta and on December 21st she entered the slums for the first time. On that first day she visited some families, washed and bandaged the sores of some children, cared for an old man lying in the street, and nursed a woman dying of starvation and TB. After a few months, her former students began to join her.

    On October 7, 1950, the congregation of the Missionaries of Charity was officially established in the Archdiocese of Calcutta, and by the early 1960s, Mother Teresa began to send her Sisters to other parts of India. In 1965, she opened a house in Venezuela; this was soon followed by foundations in Rome and Tanzania, and eventually on every continent. In the 1980s and 1990s, Mother Teresa opened houses in almost all of the communist countries, including the former Soviet Union, Albania and Cuba. She was awarded the Indian Padmashri Award in 1962 and Nobel Prize for Peace in 1979. By the time of her death in 1997, Mother Teresa’s Sisters numbered nearly 4,000 members and were established in 610 foundations in 123 countries of the world. “The whole of Mother Teresa’s life and labour bore witness to the joy of loving, the greatness and dignity of every human person, the value of little things done faithfully and with love, and the surpassing worth of friendship with God.”*

    Another side of Mother Teresa’s life came to light after her death, something she had kept hidden even from those closest to her. Around the time she began working with the poor, she entered the “dark night of the soul,” a painful feeling of being separated from God. “The Darkness” lasted to the end of her life, but rather than causing her to lose faith, it led to a more profound union with God. To the unbelieving world, Mother Teresa’s spiritual dryness might seem a lack of faith – she didn’t feel God’s presence – but in fact it was just the opposite because despite her lack of consolations, she continued to answer the call. By embracing a life of “absolute poverty, angelic chastity and cheerful obedience,”* she mystically participated in Jesus thirst for souls.

    Suffering and darkness were not new to God’s chosen servant. Many years earlier, while still in Loretto before making her final vows, in a letter to her former confessor Sister Teresa wrote, “Do not think that my spiritual life is strewn with roses – that is the flower which I hardly ever find on my way. Quite the contrary, I have more often as my companion “darkness.” And when the night becomes very thick – and it seems to me I will end up in hell – then I simply offer myself to Jesus.”*

    Mother Teresa’s confession – “Do not think that my spiritual life is strewn with roses” – reminded me of the words of her namesake, St. Therese of Lisieux: “Do not believe I am swimming in consolations; oh, no, my consolation is to have none on earth.”*

    This is a lesson for all of us. Father Raniero Cantalamessa explains, "Learn from the dark night of the mystics and, in particular, of Mother Teresa: how to behave in the time of dryness, when prayer becomes a struggle." Like Blessed Teresa, we should remember and embrace our calling to spread the Gospel, and by living lives of faith, hope and charity, become “evangelizers in the postmodern world, where [people] live as if God did not exist."*

    Mother Teresa was specially chosen by God to do a very special work. Not everyone is called to serve the poorest of the poor in the slums of Calcutta, but we can all help to shelter the homeless and feed the hungry; we can all care for widows and orphans in their affliction.*

    The works of mercy are charitable actions by which we come to the aid of our neighbor in his spiritual and bodily necessities.* Instructing, advising, consoling, comforting are spiritual works of mercy, as are forgiving and bearing wrongs patiently. The corporal works of mercy consist especially in feeding the hungry, sheltering the homeless, clothing the naked, visiting the sick and imprisoned, and burying the dead.* Among all these, giving alms to the poor is one of the chief witnesses to fraternal charity: it is also a work of justice pleasing to God:*
    He who has two coats, let him share with him who has none and he who has food must do likewise (Luke 3: 11) But give for alms those things which are within; and behold, everything is clean for you (Luke 11: 41). If a brother or sister is ill-clad and in lack of daily food, and one of you says to them, "Go in peace, be warmed and filled," without giving them the things needed for the body, what does it profit? (James 2: 15-16)
    --Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2447


    As Christians, we know that to believe means more than a simple acceptance as truth: if we really believe, we are going to act accordingly; we will do the works that Jesus does, living our lives loving and giving to others, being merciful and selfless and sacrificing. Living faith works through charity.

    Blessed Teresa of Calcutta, pray for us!

    * John 11: 33
    * Mother Teresa. (2007). Koldiejchuk, B. (Ed. & commentary). Come be my light: The private writings of the “Saint of Calcutta” New York: Doubleday.
    (Quoted in): Muggeridge, M. (1971). Something beautiful for God New York: Harper & Row.
    * Blessed Teresa of Calcutta. (2007). Koldiejchuk, B. (Ed. & commentary). Come be my light: The private writings of the “Saint of Calcutta” New York: Doubleday.
    * Mother Teresa of Calcutta (1910-1997). Vatican.va.
    * Rules. Blessed Teresa of Calcutta. Come be my light: The private writings of the “Saint of Calcutta”.
    * Letter to Father Jambrekovic, Feb. 8, 1937. Come be my light: The private writings of the “Saint of Calcutta”.
    * St. Therese of Lisieux. (1972). The Story of a Soul Washington, DC: ICS Publications
    * Cantalamessa, R. (December 14, 2003). Zenit.org.
    * James 1: 27
    *Isaiah 58:6-7, Hebrew 13: 3
    * Matthew 25: 31-36
    * Tobit 4: 5-11, Sirach 17: 22, Matthew 6: 2-
     
  16. darrell

    darrell New Member

    God had a very special work in mind for Blessed Mother Teresa, and He let her know in a very unmistakable way – through a series of mystical experiences; He was very specific about what He was asking her to do. Most of us don’t get these kinds of clear, specific requests from God; He gives us a lot of freedom. A few years ago, I was offered a job, and I asked my friend Pat how I could know if it was God’s will for me to take this job or not. She replied that she didn’t think the Lord cared what I did, as long as I did it for Him. Her advice made a lot of sense to me. The Lord gives all of us gifts, and we should use them to serve God.

    One thing that really struck me about Blessed Teresa was her understanding that the work needed to be grounded in time spent with the Lord. Novices spent their first year completely separated from the world in contemplation and manual labor. In her handwritten rules for the sisters working in the field:

    36. Daily the Sisters shall make half an hour’s Meditation. Twice a day the examination of conscience.—The full rosary—the litanies of Our Lady and Saints and a half hour of spiritual reading. On Thursdays and Sundays the hour of reparation.
    37. The Sisters shall spend one day in every week, one week in every month, one month in every year, one year in every six years in the motherhouse, where in contemplation and penance together with solitude she can gather in the spiritual strength, which she might have used up in the service of the poor. When the Sisters are at home, the others will take their place in the Mission field.*

    In true humility, Blessed Teresa understood that this was the Lord’s work, and it could only be accomplished by the grace of God.

    Most lay people lead very busy lives and aren’t able to go on retreat every month, but we all can make more time to spend with the Lord. We find time for what’s important. If we have time for happy hour, to watch TV, go to the gym, play sports, play video games, spend hours on hobbies or remodeling the house, and go to the movies, we can find more time to spend with God. We find time for what’s important to us. We find time for what’s important to us. Even if we don’t have time to go on regular retreats or to go to daily mass, I think everyone could find a little time every day to pray and to read the Bible. A few years ago, I made it a point to read the daily scripture readings, and it wasn’t long before the Holy Spirit started speaking to my heart. If we’re not spending time with the Lord, how can we know what He wants from us? How can we hear Him if we’re not listening?

    Then the LORD said, "Go outside and stand on the mountain before the LORD; the LORD will be passing by." A strong and heavy wind was rending the mountains and crushing rocks before the LORD – but the LORD was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake – but the LORD was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake there was fire – but the LORD was not in the fire. After the fire there was a tiny whispering sound.
    --1 Kings 19: 11-12



    ♦ ♦ ♦



    This Sunday’s readings (Fifth Sunday of Ordinary Time, February 8, 2009) speak to another aspect of the work of our faith:

    Reading I
    Job spoke, saying: Is not man's life on earth a drudgery? Are not his days those of hirelings? He is a slave who longs for the shade, a hireling who waits for his wages. So I have been assigned months of misery, and troubled nights have been allotted to me. If in bed I say, "When shall I arise?" then the night drags on; I am filled with restlessness until the dawn. My days are swifter than a weaver’s shuttle; they come to an end without hope. Remember that my life is like the wind; I shall not see happiness again.
    --Job 7: 1-4, 6-7


    Responsorial Psalm
    Praise the Lord, who heals the brokenhearted.
    Praise the LORD, for he is good; sing praise to our God, for he is gracious; it is fitting to praise him. The LORD rebuilds Jerusalem; the dispersed of Israel he gathers. He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds. He tells the number of the stars; he calls each by name. Great is our Lord and mighty in power; to his wisdom there is no limit. The LORD sustains the lowly; the wicked he casts to the ground.
    --Psalms 147: 1-6

    Reading II
    Brothers and sisters: If I preach the gospel, this is no reason for me to boast, for an obligation has been imposed on me, and woe to me if I do not preach it! If I do so willingly, I have a recompense, but if unwillingly, then I have been entrusted with a stewardship. What then is my recompense? That, when I preach, I offer the gospel free of charge so as not to make full use of my right in the gospel.

    Although I am free in regard to all, I have made myself a slave to all so as to win over as many as possible. To the weak I became weak, to win over the weak. I have become all things to all, to save at least some. All this I do for the sake of the gospel, so that I too may have a share in it.
    --1Corinthians 9: 16-19, 22-23

    Gospel
    On leaving the synagogue Jesus entered the house of Simon and Andrew with James and John. Simon's mother-in-law lay sick with a fever. They immediately told him about her. He approached, grasped her hand, and helped her up. Then the fever left her and she waited on them.
    When it was evening, after sunset, they brought to him all who were ill or possessed by demons. The whole town was gathered at the door. He cured many who were sick with various diseases, and he drove out many demons, not permitting them to speak because they knew him.
    Rising very early before dawn, he left and went off to a deserted place, where he prayed. Simon and those who were with him pursued him and on finding him said, "Everyone is looking for you." He told them, "Let us go on to the nearby villages that I may preach there also. For this purpose have I come." So he went into their synagogues, preaching and driving out demons throughout the whole of Galilee.
    --Mark 1: 29-39


    The first reading expresses the universal human experience. Except for a very few born into privileged circumstances, we all have to work for a living in this fallen world. At one time or another, we all experience feelings that life is drudgery. Job’s cry of anguish echoes the feelings I had in the first months after Johnny was killed: like Job, I did not believe that I would again see happiness in this life; but I was wrong. Sunday’s Psalms proclaim how great our God is. His wisdom is without limit, and He calls the stars by name, just as He knew me when He formed me in my mother’s womb. He healed my broken heart; He taught me the meaning of this life, and He gave me a mission. Praise the Lord, who heals the brokenhearted!

    In the Gospel reading, Jesus healed Simon’s mother-in-law, and she immediately got up and started working. The Lord gives us work to do in this life: the work of Christians is to live lives of faith, hope and charity, and the greatest work of mercy that we can do is to give someone the gift of God. Just today, my friend Kevin told me, “God has blessed me beyond my wildest dreams by allowing me to know Him, and my mission in life is to help bring people to this experience of Jesus so that they know that He is real.”

    In Sunday’s Gospel reading, Jesus tells us that the purpose for which He had come was to preach. In the second reading, the Apostle Paul tells us that his mission to preach the Gospel is an obligation! We all share in this obligation. The Church teaches that, “On all Christians, accordingly, rests the noble obligation of working to bring all men throughout the whole world to hear and accept the divine message of salvation.”* We are all members of “the Body of Christ, the Church,” and no member of a living body plays a passive part. From our union with Christ the head flows our “right” and “duty” to be apostles. This is a very serious responsibility: “The Church was founded to spread the Kingdom of Christ over all the earth for the glory of God the Father, to make all men partakers in redemption and salvation, and through them to establish the right relationship of the entire world to Christ…a member that does not work at the growth of the body to the extent of his possibilities must be considered useless both to the Church and to himself.”*

    sources:
    * Rules. Blessed Teresa of Calcutta. Come be my light: The private writings of the “Saint of Calcutta”.
    * Vatican II. (1965). Decree on the apostolate of lay people. Vatican.va.
    * Vatican II. (1965). Decree on the apostolate of lay people. Vatican.va.
     
  17. padraig

    padraig New Member

    Darrel

    Could you please give me a link to buy your book so I can read it in Church. I love the way you keep coming back to Scripture.
     
  18. darrell

    darrell New Member

    You got it - just as soon as it's published. God willing.
     
  19. padraig

    padraig New Member

    Oh sorry, Darrell, I thought you were all finished :D
     
  20. darrell

    darrell New Member

    August 12, 2009, 4:18pm

    It took me over three years, but I just finished. :)
     

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