Connecting the Dots between Our Blessings and God’s Love

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Photo credit:  Pinterest

Photo credit: Pinterest

I want you to stop what you’re doing. I want you to spend a few moments thinking about the five to ten people you love the most. Visualize your love and really open up your heart and feel your love for them. Imagine how sometimes your love for them is so great it hurts. How sometimes it brings you to tears because you’re afraid they don’t fully understand how deeply you love them. How sometimes it drives you crazy wishing you could show them your love in ways they can better understand.

I’m no social scientist but I’d say that 99 percent of us experience very similar feelings of intense love for at least a few people in our lives.

Now, turn your hat around. Take several moments and make a mental list of the people who you believe love you: spouse, children, parents, sibling, best friend – whoever. If you believe that we are, indeed, similar in the way we feel love for those closest to us, then imagine those people feeling the same way about you as you do for them. Don’t venture into thinking about how well they show their feelings of love, just that they have them. Regardless of how they demonstrate their love for you, can you empathize with them? You know how they feel because you feel that way yourself, don’t you?

Next, mentally select one or two of those people who you say loves you the most. Think back over the last week or so and remember a kindness that person did for you. Maybe your husband cooked you dinner because you’d had a rough day. Maybe your wife brought you a cold iced tea or beer while you were working up a sweat doing yard work. Maybe your son or daughter colored you a picture because of the way you inspire them.

Was the instance that came to mind one for which you offered sincere gratitude? Or, was it one where, perhaps, you failed to express adequate appreciation? Did you stop and consciously think, “He/she did that for me because he/she loves me?” I’m betting there’s a good chance you didn’t recognize it for the act of love that it was. You took it, and the other person’s love, for granted.

These thoughts came to my mind this afternoon when I stopped into a special place and prayed. I worked in Somerset, Ohio today and afterwards I visited St. Joseph’s Catholic Church, the “Cradle of Faith” and oldest Catholic Church in Ohio, to spend a few minutes with the Lord. Once again, I was the only person in the church and the perfect silence inside was ideal for some one-on-one time with Him.

As always, I began my prayer with thanksgiving. I had much for which to be grateful.

First and foremost I gave Him thanks for blessing me with a beautiful and healthy granddaughter, my first grandchild. Elsa Augusta was born to my oldest daughter, Sara, and her husband, Andy, in Seattle, Washington on the 13th. I had been praying for nine months for Sara and Elsa’s safe delivery and good health, and God answered my prayers.

I gave thanks for the wonderful weekend I had just experienced with my wife, Melinda, as we tent camped in a state park in Kentucky, our first camping trip ever without children along.

I gave thanks for the good health of another pregnant daughter and her unborn son; for the safety of another daughter and her husband in their hazardous environment occupations; and for the continued well-being of my youngest daughter in her first semester of college. I am a fortunate husband and father and I wanted to make sure He knew I appreciated all my blessings.

Finally, I thanked God for His constant and eternal love.

And then it hit me. There was a difference in today’s prayer as compared to my prayers in the past.

Up until today, my praying had become rote. I had always given thanks because that’s the first thing you’re supposed to do when you pray. Although my prayers are always sincere – as they certainly were today – I know sometimes I simply rattle off ‘thank yous’ like I’m checking them off my list.

I always give thanks for His love not because I constantly feel it (I know I probably should feel it, but, honestly, I admit I often don’t), but because I have faith and believe Jesus Christ when He tells me God’s love is constant and eternal.

There, on my knees in St. Joseph’s, it dawned on me that this may have been the first time I genuinely connected the dots.

You see, normally, I give thanks for the blessings He gives me, and I give thanks for His love, but I seem to have failed in connecting the dots and realizing that those blessings are a direct result of His love. I hadn’t made the conscious connection that, “I have been blessed because He loves me.” I know now I have often taken His love for granted.

I couldn’t help but think about how I feel when my love is not fully appreciated and I wondered how God feels after I’ve done the same to Him. And, I couldn’t help but think that, perhaps, a good way to thank God for His love and blessings is to express it sincerely to the one who is acting on His behalf, the messenger who delivered it.

Maybe it took the miracle of a new granddaughter, the intimacy of a weekend away with my wife, and the knowledge that all was well with the other primary loves in my life for me to see how all of those blessings are, indeed, a result of His complete love for me.

How are you doing at connecting the dots?

“Heavenly Father, thank You for all Your many blessings and for allowing me to experience the beauty of Your love. Please know that I love You with all my heart, all my soul and all my mind. Amen.”

©2014 Reflections of a Lay Catholic. Reposting and sharing of material in its full and original content is permitted, provided that full and clear credit is given to the author(s) and Reflections of a Lay Catholic.

A New Catholic Prays the Holy Rosary

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A woman prayingOne of the most confounding things about being a new Catholic has been learning how to pray the Rosary. I’ve been to family Rosary gatherings, special Rosary services, and attempted several times to pray it on my own. But, it never quite clicked for me.

In my first attempt, I pulled out my Knights of Columbus “How To Pray The Rosary” wallet card and followed the instructions. I navigated my way around the Rosary without any problems but I had trouble with contemplating each of the mysteries. The instructions said to announce the mystery and then contemplate on it while saying the decade of Hail Marys. So, using the Sorrowful Mysteries as an example, I announced, “The Agony in the Garden”, and then tried to think on that as I was saying my first decade of Hail Marys.

Those five words, “The Agony in the Garden”, didn’t tell me much. There wasn’t enough there to contemplate. What was I supposed to think about? I did manage an image of Jesus wrestling with what he knew He would have to do, but, I couldn’t sustain that vision when I was trying to deliver ten marginally memorized Hail Marys.

For my next effort I went to a Sunday Family Rosary with friends. I followed in sync with everyone but, once again, I got lost when they got to the announcement of the Mystery. This group used the St. John Vianney Vocation Society publication as a guideline. Thus, when they announced, “The first Sorrowful MysteryThe Agony in the Garden”, they also said, “Jesus asked His Apostles to pray so that they ‘might not enter into temptation.’ Our Lord knew they needed to pray in order to endure what would soon happen.”

I thought, “Wow, there’s more to it than simply saying, ‘The Agony in the Garden’”? In addition to envisioning Jesus in agony over his fate, here was something else to be contemplated: praying for the strength to resist temptation. I asked a friend about this and he told me, “Not everyone prays the Rosary exactly the same way.” The heck you say!

About a month ago a friend gave me another Rosary guideline, this one published by the Marian Fathers. It suggested that the first Sorrowful Mystery should be announced as, “In His anguish He prayed with all the greater intensity, and His sweat became like drops of blood falling to the ground. Then He rose from prayer and came to His disciples, only to find them asleep, exhausted with grief.” (Luke 22:44-45)

As I read this I was able to conjure up a better vision of how Jesus must have felt that night in the Garden of Gethsemane.

Also, about a month ago, one of our priests, Fr. Rob, handed out CDs he had recorded of himself praying the Rosary. The way he announced each Mystery made it more personal for me. For example, with the first Sorrowful Mystery he said, “As we recall The Agony of Jesus in the Garden, let us ask the Lord to feel the weight of our own sins, that we can truly repent from the evil that is in them”. I could do that.

About that same time my wife told me of another resource that helped her to better understand each of the mysteries. The web site, The Rosary Center , illuminates each Hail Mary of each decade of each Mystery in such a way that I can’t help but understand them. It also summarizes each Mystery with a “Spiritual Fruit”, which, for The Agony in the Garden is, “God’s Will be Done”.

In the end, I’ve learned there are many different ways to pray the Rosary, each different but each correct. And, I’ve concluded two things: first, that most cradle Catholics probably learned one way to pray the Rosary and have probably always prayed it that way; and second, that I would teach myself to pray the Rosary by utilizing the expanded reflections on each Hail Mary as presented by the Rosary Center. Then, once I internalize the meaning behind each Mystery, I will be able to recite one of the “shortcuts” as found in the other guidelines but still know the true meaning of that Mystery.

Do you have any special thoughts you can share about how you pray the Rosary?

This week I had an opportunity to give it another try. My experience convinced me to write about it.

Many of my posts are born from “God-Moments” when the Lord reveals Himself to me through subtle indicators that He is present.  Such was the case Tuesday.

I was working at our office in Somerset, Ohio. As I was leaving it began to storm. Rather than drive in a downpour, I chose to stop at St. Joseph’s Catholic Church, just three quarters of a mile from my office, for an hour of Adoration. St. Joseph’s is the oldest Catholic Church in Ohio (see my post from September 2013 The Cradle of Faith in Ohio) and is a beautiful church. I grabbed my Rosary from my car’s console, and I ran up the steps to the church. I was the only one there. I knelt in the front pew, said prayers for Thanksgiving and assistance, and then began to pray the Rosary with determination. Since it was Tuesday I prayed the Sorrowful Mysteries and I was able to contemplate each of them in a way I had never before been able to do. With each Hail Mary I felt as though I was there, two thousand years ago, witnessing each event. In perhaps a small way, I had a sense of what Jesus was feeling. But, I also felt a connection with Mary and how she must have felt as a parent watching her Son being crucified. I cried.

When I finished I sat there a while longer in the total silence and solitude of the church. I realized I had not yet read the daily scripture so I pulled out my phone and called up my Laudate app. As I read, a smile came on my face and I nodded gratefully towards the ceiling. I discovered that it was the Memorial of Our Lady of the Rosary that day. Coincidence? I don’t think so.

Lord, I’ve come to expect these visits from You. I look for You to show Yourself and You have never failed or disappointed me. I certainly don’t feel I deserve them but, nonetheless, I thank You for all the Graces You give me. Amen.

©2014 Reflections of a Lay Catholic. Reposting and sharing of material in its full and original content is permitted, provided that full and clear credit is given to the author and Reflections of a Lay Catholic.

Simple Evangelization: Looking Without vs. Within

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Photo credit:  Jesusdivinemercy.com
Photo credit: Jesusdivinemercy.com

 

Last week at our Parish Council meeting we discussed the upcoming ministry fair during which the various ministries will explain what they do and who they serve for the purpose of encouraging more parishioners to get involved. Our discussion was about how the displays should look and how best to attract people to browse the exhibits.

Afterwards, I thought more about this and it seemed to me something was missing. There needed to be more than quality displays and getting people into the parish hall for it to be a success. People need to know more than what the ministry is – they need to know why that ministry is important to the volunteer – and it needs to be expressed in a way that will encourage others to want to participate.

I recalled a re-post from June 2013 titled Catholics are Called to Daily Martyrdom, says Pope. In his Angelus, Pope Francis reflected on Matthew 16:25 and said, “The faithful are called to follow the example of the martyrs in losing their lives for Christ, even if they do not suffer violence for their faith.” He emphasized that it is expected of us, if not our duty, to sacrifice for the good of others.

I remembered this because, although I agree with Pope Francis’ intent, I don’t totally agree with his delivery. By making the analogy between martyrdom by violent death and martyrdom by daily sacrifice, he leaves a dark and unpleasant visualization in people’s minds. I know his intent is to encourage more Catholics to sacrifice their time, talent and treasure for the good of others and for the Church, but there is nothing appealing in those words that will make people who are not already on that train want to jump on board. They imply giving up stuff we value – stuff like comfortable habits.

Words mean things. It’s an individual’s perception of the meaning of a word that induces them to act one way or the other. People can do tremendous things if they are motivated by the promise of positive and encouraging outcomes rather than a sacrifice that hurts.

With respect to helping others, it boils down to how people answer the question, “What’s in it for me?” When it comes to self-motivation, there are two basic types of people. Most people fall somewhere between these two extremes.

On one end of the spectrum is the person whose focus is without and whose answer to “What’s in it for me?” is “What can I do for someone else?” This is the person who is unselfish, is intent on helping others and doesn’t even consider a sacrifice being made. They may recognize a duty but their focus is on the other person. They enjoy it. Their sacrifice is born from love. Martyrdom isn’t even on their radar.

Then, on the other end, there are the people who focus within. Their driver is truly, “What’s in it for me?” These folks range from those who give of themselves because it is their duty, but who find no pleasure in their actions because their sacrifice is a labor to them; to those who say with pride, “Look at me and how much more I’ve sacrificed than so-and-so.” The pride that goes along with this “Holier than thou” attitude is the sin of all sins. Jesus might have said, “He who tries to find martyrdom in this way for my sake is trying to save his life for his own sake.”

It is okay for someone else to say, “You are a wonderful person, so sacrificing and caring of others.” But, it’s not okay for us to think of ourselves in that way. Our motivation must be inside-out. We must do good for goodness’ sake and not for the purpose of inflating our egos. We can only focus on the reward to the beneficiary of our action, not on our own reward. It’s a fine example of the Catch 22 I wrote about in Live Forever or Die in the Attempt– if you want to save your life, then you must lose it, not begrudgingly, but with a smile on your face.

The Pope’s message is wasted on the people in the first group because it’s a “no-brainer” to them. It has to be directed at the people in the second group. To be effective, it has to be encouraging and influence a change in attitude more than an increase in effort; a shift in perspective from looking within to looking without; and blindness to the sacrifice. Only when we develop humility and stop looking for our just rewards will we receive them.

In the case of our ministry fair, attractive displays will certainly help. But, we need those manning the booths to give encouraging testimony, focused externally, to help convince others to get involved. This is an excellent opportunity for offering simple evangelizing comments like those below that emphasize the good in why they serve others and, ultimately, the good of the Church, rather than suggesting that prospective volunteers do their duty for duty’s sake:

“I enjoy being a Lector because, by reading the scripture at Mass, I feel I can help others better understand the Word of God.”

 “I am on the Hospitality Committee because I enjoy welcoming new members to the parish and introducing them to all we have to offer.”

 “I participate in the Respect Life Ministry because I hope my actions will help save the life of an innocent, unborn child.”

 “I am a Day Leader for Eucharistic Adoration because I hope to help others develop a closer relationship with Christ.”

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if all Catholics answered Pope Francis’ call for evangelization by witnessing how blessed they feel when serving others, and how losing one’s life so it can be saved is a sacrifice born of love and, thus, not really a sacrifice at all?

 

 

©2014 Reflections of a Lay Catholic. Reposting and sharing of material in its full and original content is permitted, provided that full and clear credit is given to the author(s) and Reflections of a Lay Catholic.

You Speak To Me

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Listening to GodDo you ever talk to God? Does He speak to you when you pray for understanding? He certainly did for me over the last week.

I am fortunate.  I love my job….except for days like a week ago Monday when a new employee gave me his resignation. I had spent months trying to find a person with his skill set and potential. He was young and enthusiastic and I thought he would make a good employee. His reason for leaving was because he could not get along with the experienced employee under whom he had been assigned to train. In addition, he made several serious allegations about the behavior of the tenured employee, one of the hardest working and most dependable employees I have.

I spent the next two days preparing for individual meetings with them and HR. We would meet on Thursday and Friday. Much of our preparation was about disciplining the experienced employee. In business, at least in the world of corporate Human Relations, an employee who allegedly offends another employee is usually considered guilty until proven innocent. This is because, in the hierarchy of things, the offended employee’s perception matters more than the offender’s intent.

These situations require time and immense concentration. As such, it stole personal time away from my daily scripture reading and reflecting. Thus, when Wednesday night arrived, I desperately looked forward to the bi-weekly get-together of my men’s faith sharing group. The topic for the night was the Gospel from the previous Sunday, Matthew 18:15-20:

“(15) If your brother sins go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have won over your brother. (16) If he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, so that ‘every fact may be established on the testimony of two or three witnesses.’”

I thought this passage fit my issue at hand and reaffirmed my decision to approach the accused employee and discuss his many ‘sins’. I planned to gather a couple witnesses who could corroborate the allegations, too.

Later that night I read the first reading from that same Sunday’s liturgy, Ezekiel 33:7-9:

“(8) When I say to the wicked, ‘You wicked, you must die,’ and you do not speak up to warn the wicked about their ways, they shall die in their sins, but I will hold you responsible for their blood. (9) If, however, you warn the wicked to turn from their ways, but they do not, then they shall die in their sins, but you shall save your life.”

I read this several times to let it sink in. I had an inkling God was trying to tell me that, as a leader, I have a little skin in the game. Before I convict an employee, I first need to give him a chance to defend himself, and coach and counsel him so that he can consider changing his behavior.

Continuing to catch up on other missed scripture readings from the week, I read Tuesday’s passage from 1 Corinthians 6:1-11:

“(2) Do you not know that the holy ones will judge the world? If the world is to be judged by you, are you unqualified for the lowest law courts?

This was getting interesting. I was, indeed, expected to wear the judge’s robe in this ‘case’. Was I judging fairly and acting as a judge should act? Or, was my mind already made up?

Thursday morning I awoke early and read the Gospel for the day from Luke 6:27-38:

“(31) Do to others as you would have them do to you. (35) … love your enemies and do good to them…. (36) Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. (37) Stop judging and you will not be judged. Stop condemning and you will not be condemned. Forgive and you will be forgiven.”

For sure, God was speaking to me through this passage. Could I be open-minded and not convict until I had the facts? Shouldn’t I be hoping I would not find evidence of wrong-doing? Was I in a state of mind to be merciful? Would I be willing to give the employee a second chance if he was remorseful?

After reading the daily Bible scriptures, I normally read from my devotional of writings by St. Augustine. On this Thursday morning the passage was from his Letter 22, 5:

“Be assured that abuses are not done away with by harsh or severe or autocratic measures, but by teaching rather than by commanding, by persuasion rather than by threats. This is the way to deal with the people in general, reserving severity for the sins of the few.”

Okay, this was getting uncanny! God was driving his point home! He was reminding me to be kind and respectful to the experienced employee, instead of accusing and confrontational, and to paint a clear picture of my expectations for his behavior around other people.

That day the HR rep arrived and we interviewed the resigning employee. His allegations were serious. We corroborated parts of his story with others. We planned our strategy for the next day’s discussion with the ‘offender’.

On Friday morning I again woke early and read the daily Gospel from Luke 6:39-42:

“(41) Why do you notice the splinter in your brother’s eye but do not perceive the wooden beam in your own? (42)….You hypocrite! Remove the wooden beam from your eye first; then you will see clearly to remove the splinter in your brother’s eye.’”

Wow, this week was all about judgment! Smiling, I looked upward and said, “Okay, God, I get it. Thank you! For three days You have taken my hand and shown me the way.” I thought who among us hasn’t, at some time, behaved unprofessionally and been just a little ashamed? Don’t we appreciate a friendly warning, some sound advice and a second chance? And, could it be that I helped cause the employee’s behavior by overlooking a tell-tale sign or by overworking him?

We met with the employee on Friday. He was surprised about the allegations. He agreed his actions were, at times, less than professional, and explained that it was never his intent to offend anyone. There seemed to be some truth to each story. I let him know I would consider his responses and I would follow up with him in a few days. I also knew I would probably let this consume me and otherwise ruin my weekend.

On Friday afternoon I went to my regular Adoration hour where I frequently pray for God to help me understand what He has in store for me. Occasionally, I pick up on little things but too often I’m blind to them. Not this week. No, this week He left no doubt by telling me not to be too critical in my judgment, to be fair and respectful in my approach, and to be temperate with any discipline I may hand out. I thanked Him and prayed for the Grace to handle this according to His will.

On Saturday morning I read from another devotional, Jesus Calling. I had not read from it all week and missed its inspiration. After the “God-moments” of the last few days, I wasn’t surprised when I read the following passage for that day:

“Come to Me and rest. Give your mind a break from its habitual judging. You form judgments about this situation, that situation, this person, that person, yourself… as if judging were your main function in life….When you become preoccupied with passing judgment, you usurp My role.”

If this wasn’t the exclamation point at the end of His lesson for me, I don’t know what could be. I knew I could trust Him and I knew He will grace me with the wherewithal to do the right thing. All I have to do is listen and follow His lead.

“Dear God, thank You for being here, for speaking to me and counseling me when I need You most. Thank You for drawing me to You and helping me understand Your word. Thank You for Your persistence – You knew I needed it to convince me to trust in You.  Lord, I pray that I will honor You by exhibiting the Grace You have bestowed upon me. Amen.”

 

(The post You Speak To Me was first published in Reflections of a Lay Catholic)

Keep Close to You

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It’s been an awkward and mopey evening. As my daughter, Grace, has been laboring to clean her room and decide what to pack and load in the car for our trip to Mississippi State University tomorrow to begin her college career, I found myself continuing to wrestle with the various emotions that have been plaguing me the last few days.

The singer, Suzy Bogguss, in one of her hits from the 90’s sang, “I’ve had 18 years to get ready for this day.” I’ve never liked that song because it has always made me cry.

This is my fourth time around and I’ve never been ready to turn loose of any one of my four daughters. You’d think that by the time I got to the fourth and last one I’d have this business down pat. Wrong.

There is one thing a little different this time than there was with her three sisters before her. It’s not concern about whether or not she knows how much I love her.   I know she knows.

It’s not fear about her safety and me not being there to protect her. I have faith that the university will provide the necessary safety.

It’s not doubts about whether or not I’ve done all I can do to prepare her for her new independence. She’s the most independent of all my daughters.

No, the thing that’s different this time around has nothing to do with Grace at all. It’s me. I’m Catholic, which is something I was not when my other three daughters went off to college. Her spiritual health has become very important to me.

And, so, with Grace, I’ve found myself worrying if she will stick with her faith or fall to the temptations of secularism? Will she slowly drift away from God and lose touch with Jesus or will she continue to receive the Holy Eucharist weekly? Will she turn to Him in times of need instead of turning to the negative influences so prevalent in college? Will she put her faith into action or will she let it get soft and unrecognizable?

This evening, as she’s been sorting through stacks of clothes and years of mementos trying to decide what to take, I’ve been fumbling with how to start a conversation, without appearing overbearing and pushy, from which I can gauge her intentions. So, on my umpteenth time to try and break through my anxiety, I found myself staring down at a pile of items she was choosing to leave behind. In that pile were two plastic, yellow Rosaries. My heart sank a little.

Trying to be nonchalant I asked, “Are you leaving these Rosaries here?” to which she responded affirmatively. My heart sank a little further.

Then, she followed up with, “I have like six Rosaries and I’m just taking the better and nicer ones with me.”

“Lord, I can hear you chuckling now over the fun you had with me – teaching me softly to trust in you, to admit that I’ve done about all I can do as a father, and accept that Grace will soon be fully in your care. But, Lord, I still pray that, with her new-found freedom, she will exercise her free will in such a way that she will Keep Close to You.”

(The post Keep Close to You was first published on Reflections of a Lay Catholic)

A Sedevacantist Catholic Church in Lebanon, OH

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The traditional Latin Mass or Tridentine Mass was the most widely celebrated Mass in the world until the introduction of the present ordinary form of the Roman Rite of the mass given us post Vatican II by Pope Paul VI in December 1969.

St. Therese the Little Flower, a new Sedevancantist Catholic Church located on West Mulberry Street In Lebanon, was dedicated by their Bishop Mark Pivarunason yesterday, August 6th.  The church is not affiliated with the Catholic Archdiocese of Cincinnati,

What is a Sedevancantist Church?

The web site for St. Therese the Little Flower states: “The clergy and parishioners of St. Therese adhere firmly to the unchangeable Catholic Faith as taught by all true Popes, from St. Peter to Pius XII. Because of our faithfulness to the Catholic Church of the ages, we reject the Modernist church of Vatican II with all its teachings, liturgical rites, and disciplines. We reject John XXIII, Paul VI, John Paul I, John Paul II, Benedict XVI, and Francis as illegitimate usurpers of the papal office and believe that there is currently no Pope reigning in the Catholic Church (sede vacante).”

Typically, Sedevacantist churches reject the changes that occurred in the Church after the Second Vatican Council, particularly in the areas of liturgy. They celebrate the sacraments in the pre-Vatican II Tridentine manner. They argue that the Popes since John XXIII have espoused modernist doctrines over traditional Catholic teachings, hence are not really true popes. Stephen Heiner — founder of TrueRestoration.org a member of the sedevacantist movement argues there hasn’t been a true pope in Rome since Vatican II.

According to William Marshner, professor of theology at Christendom College in Virginia, sedevacantists base their argument on an obscure Papal bull issued in the 1550s by Pope Paul IV which pronounced excommunication against anyone who secretly held any sort of heresy. Anyone in the hierarchy who was even suspected of heresy was deprived of office.

“No reputable theologian today thinks that it (the Papal Bull) was anything but canonical legislation — a disciplinary thing,” Marshner said. But the sedevacantists today “try to inflate it to a doctrinal level so that it can’t be canceled by later pontiffs.” They go through statements of Pope John XXIII, Paul VI, John Paul II, Benedict XVI and Pope Francis deciding what is heretical in their statements and using their findings to claim that this person should be deprived of all ecclesiastical office and therefore can’t be pope.

“They seem to be unaware,” he continued, “of an important canon from the Fourth Ecumenical Council of Constantinople, which says that you can’t accuse your ecclesiastical superior of heresy or of a crime without a canonical process. You can’t set yourself up as judge and jury.”

Pope Francis seems to be getting special attention from the sedevacantists. Many view Pope Francis’s statements as too liberal and feel conservative Catholics will look to sedevacantists as an alternative. The Society of Saint Pius X, a slightly more moderate sedevacantist group, said in a statement that recent statements by Pope Francis had “provoked some new interest” in them and predicted membership would grow, “if the Holy Father confirms the direction he seems to be taking.”

For authentic Catholics, is there a  problem with Sedevacantists Churches?

As the name of our web site suggests, I am a Lay Catholic–that means a member of the rank and file and not a member of the clergy. Therefore, some of the doctrinal differences between what I consider “authentic Catholics” and sedevacantists may escape me. Never-the-less I see the fundamental problem with sedevacantist groups as a failure of faith that the Holy Spirit is acting through the the Church to give us what we need when we need it. They fail to recognize the authority of the magesterium. Some view Vatican II as a misstep in Church history—I do not. I think too often people who shun Vatican II have not actually read its documents.

From my perspective, our last three Popes show that God is active in our Church. Saint John Paul II gave us hope when we needed it. He brought the Church to the people traveling more than any previous Pope; he reached out to the world’s youth at a time when most felt the Church was out of touch; he gave us theology of the body, for which I believe he will eventually be named a doctor of the Church; and he helped clarify what Vatican II meant. For anyone who is uncertain of his contributions, please read Saint John Paul the Great: His Five Loves, by Jason Evert. It is a great read.

After John Paul II, the Holy Spirit gave us Pope Benedict who helped defend our Faith. Benedict helped us understand that Vatican II was not a radical break from the past but rather a continuation of the best traditions of our 2,000-year-old church. Benedict can be considered one of the greatest living theologians in recent Church history: he authored more than 65 books, stretching from the  “Introduction to Christianity” in 1968 to the final installment of his triptych on “Jesus of Nazareth.” In between, he lead the effort to produce the “Catechism of the Catholic Church” – which I personally believe to be the most important work since Vatican II.

Finally, the Holy Spirit has given us Pope Francis. I believe he is the Pope of Charity and Love. Pope Francis models what charity in action looks like and the joy on his face as he interacts with the faithful shows his love. Sedevacantists may believe that Francis is liberal and will drive conservatives from the Church, but I believe they are wrong. Francis has not changed Church doctrine and if the sedevacantists had issues with Pope Benedict, they will oppose anyone the authentic Church names as Pope. In my opinion, it is a tragedy to deny the blessings these great men have brought to the faithful and the world at large.

Is there hope for reconciliation? 

The Church has been actively seeking reconciliation. As recently as this past Sunday, Pope Francis appointed Archbishop Guido Pozzo as secretary of Ecclesia Dei, the curial office charged with reconciling the Church with the Society of St. Pius X. The office is meant to facilitate “full ecclesial communion” of those associated with the Society “who may wish to remain united to the Successor of Peter in the Catholic Church.”

The Society was excommunicated by John Paul II in 1988, when their leader Archbishop Lefebvre consecrated four bishops against the orders of Pope John Paul II.

Pope Benedict XVI lifted the excommunications in 2009 as a prelude to talks about reconciling the society with the Church. At the time he said that the society would have to show “true recognition of the magisterium and the authority of the Pope and of the Second Vatican Council” to restore full communion, “but we cannot negotiate on revealed faith; that is impossible.”

The concern these groups had about being able to perform the Tridentine mass has been largely removed by Pope Benedict. The Pope declared that the Tridentine mass is to be considered as an extraordinary expression of the Roman Missal. “What earlier generations held as sacred, remains sacred and great for us too, and it cannot be all of a sudden entirely forbidden or even considered harmful. It behooves all of us to preserve the riches which have developed in the Church’s faith and prayer, and to give them their proper place.” -Pope Benedict XVI, Letter to Bishops, 7 July 2007

My family and I recently attended a Tridentine mass at St. Peter and Paul Catholic Church in Naperville, IL. It was a beautiful service, full of reverence for the Eucharist but, in truth, I enjoyed it more for its historical relevance then I did for what I got out of the mass spiritually. Our current mass is rich in meaning and it is more accessible–it is our highest form of prayer with Christ truly present in a way that nurtures us. I would not want to go back.

Personally I believe reunification with sedevacantists will happen once pride is overcome. Never-the-less, I am reminded of a debate between Scott Hann and Robert M. Bowman in which Mr. Bowman notes in his opening statement that most Christians today do not have a good understanding of their own faith. The subtleties of these kind of doctrinal arguments are lost on most people and only show division among Christians, but there is much we agree upon and we should look to those common grounds to build up the faithful, not confuse them with distractions.  

(The post A Sedevacantist Catholic Church in Lebanon, OH was first published in Reflections of a Lay Catholic)

 

You Keep My Attention

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I came to see You today. As I knelt in front of You during my weekly holy hour of Adoration I looked up to You in the monstrance atop the tabernacle and I felt You descend and put Your arm around me. You knew my heart was heavy.

You asked me what was weighing me down. My answer to You surprised even me. It wasn’t a request to have You take care of and hold close to You my two daughters and the grandbabies they are carrying in their wombs.  I didn’t ask You to heal another loved one who is experiencing some unexplained health problems. Nor did I ask You to watch after my youngest daughter as she prepares to leave home and go to college later this week. No, those prayers came later.

I didn’t know why but I felt compelled to pray for and ask for Your blessings on the thousands of Christians about whom I have read are being persecuted in Syria, Iraq and elsewhere in the Middle East because they believe in You.

You prophesied, “If the world hates you, realize that it hated me first….If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you….And they will do all these things to you on account of my name, because they do not know the one who sent me.” (John 15: 18, 20-21, NAB)

Lord Jesus, I pray for Your blessings on those men, women and children who are being “persecuted for righteousness sake” and that You open up “the Kingdom of Heaven” (Matthew 5:10) to them as they profess their faith in You even under the threat of death. Please protect them, Lord, and give them the strength and courage to do Your will.

I confess to You I didn’t want to, but I did summon up the will to pray for the enemy, ISIS, as You commanded, “But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:44, NAB). That’s a tough one. I don’t feel loving towards them for even a second but I do wish them love and peace in their hearts. I think that’s what You mean.

Tonight at home, I read something in a Catholic publication and I suddenly understood why You made this prayer first and foremost in my heart and on my mind. Today, 1 August 2014, was declared by the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter to be a worldwide day of Adoration and prayer for the persecuted Christians of Syria, Iraq and the Middle East. I didn’t know this when I was with You.

Lord, You play these tricks on me quite frequently. I’m so glad You do. You keep me guessing, and I know God-Moments like these are how

You keep my attention.

(The post You Keep My Attention was first published in Reflections of a Lay Catholic)

Live Forever or Die in the Attempt

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Photo credit: Karen Jekel

Photo credit: Karen Jekel

Earlier this month I was having a discussion with my sister about my fear of heights. She had little sympathy for me because she’s done crazy stuff like sky dive and told me I ought to “live” a little and try it. I replied that jumping out of a perfectly good aircraft was counterintuitive to living a long life and that I intended to “live forever or die in the attempt”.

That quote, “live forever or die in the attempt”, has lain dormant in my subconscious for over thirty years and it somehow bubbled to the surface at just the right moment. As some of you may know, it is from the classic satirical novel, Catch 22, by Joseph Heller. It is one of my all-time favorites.

The line is the sentiment of the story’s main protagonist, Captain John Yossarian, a B-25 bombardier flying missions over Italy during World War II. His motivation to “live forever or die in the attempt” came from his obsessive fear that everyone was trying to kill him: the enemy, by trying to shoot him down, and his own superiors, by sending him on more and more missions. The quote itself is representative of the self-defeating logic, the conundrum called Catch 22 which permeates the story, or as Webster’s Dictionary defines it, “a problematic situation for which the only solution is denied by a circumstance inherent in the problem”.

After I rebutted my sister with that quote the thought occurred to me that Mr. Heller probably had every intention of writing it the way he did, as a logic defying statement. But, I wondered if he knew that, to us Christians, it was perfectly logical and precisely on the mark?

In the New Testament gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke, there is a verse that is nearly identical in all three gospels. The version from Matthew 16:25 (NAB) goes:

“For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”

As Christians, we often refer to this as, “Dying to Self”.

It means that we take up our Cross and we follow Christ who died so that we may live.

It means that we do it first through our baptism, when our old self dies and our new self takes life, and then we continue to die to ourselves every day for the rest of our lives as a process of sanctification.

We do this by following Jesus’ example of loving and caring for others before ourselves. A husband dies to himself by making the needs of his wife paramount to his own (Eph 5:25). A mother sacrifices for her children.

We give up many luxuries by tithing and giving back to the Church. We sacrifice our time and talents to seek out and offer charity to the poor and needy in our society.

We forgive others when it is the last thing in the world we want to do. We subordinate our pride and replace it with humility even when it would feel so good to do otherwise.

And, we let go of our will and accept God’s will in all that we do.

It is exactly this drive to “die in the attempt” which we believe will ensure that, once we die in this life, we will “live forever” in the next.

Do you plan to live forever or die in the attempt?

“Lord Jesus, I pray for Your help as I try to follow Your example and do Your will. Please help me remember to: place the needs of my family, friends and neighbors ahead of my own; increase my generosity; forgive when it is difficult to do so; and, for both friends and enemies, to always ‘wish them well’. Amen.”

(The post Live Forever or Die in the Attempt was first published in Reflections of a Lay Catholic)

Opening the Door between Heaven and Earth

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I have spent most of the last six days decompressing from one of the most emotionally rewarding experiences of my life, and processing it so I can put it down on paper and relate it to you. Last Wednesday through Saturday I participated in our church’s bi-annual high school youth group Appalachian mission trip where we worked with Hand In Hand Ministries in Auxier, Kentucky.

During those four days I witnessed immense love and compassion for our fellow human beings. It wasn’t just one-way from our group to those whom we went to help. No, it also came from them to us, between the individuals within our own group, and between our group and other groups who were also there to volunteer. Having never been on a mission trip before, I will say my expectation was more along the lines of us giving “alms” to those in need with the exception that we would be giving of our talent and not just our treasure. How wrong I was! The kids and the Hand In Hand staff showed me that the love in true Christian charity, like C.S. Lewis describes in Mere Christianity, is more than just alms and more than an emotion. It is a demonstration of love for another, “A state not of the feelings but of the will.”

I am grateful to God for the experience. And I feel fortunate because the trip almost didn’t happen.

Two weeks before the group planned to depart, Mike, the group leader and parish Religious Director, experienced a personal injury that prevented him from going. As such, the entire trip was in jeopardy unless someone could be found to take his place. Since my daughter, Grace, was going, I was asked if I would go in Mike’s place. After praying about it, I agreed to go. I was excited about volunteering and participating in a new experience, about helping others, and working with our youth to provide them with a valuable life experience.

That optimism came to a screeching halt the next morning when Mike advised that two of the other adult chaperones, a married couple, had let him know they could not go. With only two chaperones left, Kelsea and I, the trip was once again in jeopardy. I saw two options: find two more people, a man and a woman, or cancel the trip. As I spoke to others about our seeming misfortune I heard warnings from them such as: “Well, there’s your sign!”, “You’re not meant to go on this trip”, and, “The good Lord’s sending you a message to not go”. As I listened to them, I began to believe they just might be right.

The next day I had an opportunity to spend an hour in prayer at Adoration. I prayed for help in discerning what to do – scuttle our plans or try to find two other chaperones to join us. As I prayed I became convinced that the setbacks were simply Satan throwing up obstacles testing our resolve to do God’s work. Deciding to move forward, I asked a friend to help me find two more people who were both qualified and willing to go. Fortunately, within a couple days we found two such people, Clay, a good friend of mine, and Becky, a veteran of several similar mission trips.

We met at the church for mass on Wednesday morning. The four of us sat with our five charges: Grace, Kathryn, Seth, Hannah and Tayla, and we received a blessing from our priest. The normal gospel reading for the day was replaced by the Judgment of the Nations passage from Matthew 25: 31-46 (NAB):

“(35) For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, (36) naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me….(40) And the king will say to them in reply, ‘Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.’”

The deacon’s homily referred to Mother Theresa’s work with the poorest of the poor in Calcutta and was a fitting inspiration for us.

After mass, the kids hugged parents and we loaded up into two cars and set off on our four hour drive to Auxier. Along the way we stopped for lunch and took a goofy group picture, and detoured to Natural Bridge State Park for a hike up to its unique rock formation. Both were opportunities to have some fun and begin bonding as a group.

We arrived at the Hand In Hand Ministries Auxier Center on time and were greeted by their friendly staff: Gail, Kevin, and Andrew, and by three summer interns: Aniela, Freddie and Jeremy. We learned we would be sharing our volunteering experience with a dozen or so other adults and youths from the Louisville area and as far away as Arkansas. Gail explained to us the Center’s mission, and introduced us to the projects on which we would work over the next three days. She gave us some background on the people we would be helping. As Gail described the hardships faced by their clients, I began to see the wheels turning in the minds of our kids. They were trying to discern which cause they felt most passionate about and how they could help improve the lives of these people they had never met. Our group split between two projects and we were joined on them by some of the other volunteers.

 The whole group

The whole crew at Hand In Hand Auxier Center

Thursday morning found some of the kids being rousted from bed earlier than they had risen all summer, and we mustered for breakfast, packed lunches, said prayers, and loaded trucks with the tools and supplies we would need for the day. As we loaded up to drive to the clients’ homes, I could see the excitement in the kids’ eyes.

I joined Clay, Kelsea, Tayla, Seth, and others at a home where we would be removing walls and ceilings in a house and reinforcing deteriorated rafters for eventual roof replacement. Becky went with Grace, Kathryn and Hannah, and five others to a house to repair a porch and build a wheelchair ramp to the house. The third home, which we would not go to until Saturday, needed new exterior doors installed as the existing ones would not close. This old house, we learned, had, in the last couple weeks, just received its first electricity and water.

I don’t think anything could have prepared our kids for what they would find as they walked into each of these homes. The obvious poverty and poor living conditions were undeniably foreign to anything they had ever experienced. And, I was almost there with them. We had the opportunity to talk face-to-face with the home owners and learned they wanted nothing more than to have safe and healthy homes for their families. In those first few minutes after arriving, I began to sense a transformation taking place within all of us.

In observing the kids, and looking inward myself, I was reminded of the lyrics from a Jason Gray song, With Every Act Of Love1, wherein he sings of a man who can’t be bothered by a woman’s “heart-cry” written on a cardboard sign she is holding:

“….But when she looks him in the eye / His heart is broken open wide / And he feels the hand of God reach out through him / As heaven touches earth // Oh, we bring the Kingdom come / Oh, with every act of love / Jesus, help us carry You / Alive in us Your light shines through.”

There’s no doubt our hearts were broken open wide during those first few moments. And, over the course of the next two and a half days, I saw and felt the hand of God reach out through me and the other volunteers, bringing heaven to earth, and His Kingdom come with every act of love.

I saw high-schoolers who probably haven’t cleaned their rooms in months jump in and move the homeowner’s personal belongings out of the house so that demolition could begin and do it with care and respect. These same kids, who more than likely complain about washing dishes or mowing the yard, donned Tyvek suits, dust masks, and safety glasses, grabbed crow bars and commenced busting out ceiling drywall with enthusiasm.

 Seiler, Kelsea, & TaylaSuited up for demolition work

I saw compassion by volunteers who took the time to visit with and get to know the homeowners, and who honored the homeowner’s desire to participate in the renovation of their own residence.

Kids took pride in their work, from cutting a straight line in drywall to hammering tacks perfectly straight and spaced to fasten anti-slip treads on a wheelchair ramp.

There were some kids who were less outgoing than others but were invited into the extra-curricular activities in the evenings by the other kids. It was like there was some unwritten and unspoken morality which everyone knew and honored by ensuring nobody was left out.

I saw kids with more skill and experience watching out for those with less ability and helping them to learn and perform. Never did I see anyone suggest that “this is my job and that is yours”. I witnessed volunteers relieving sweaty and dirty workers so they could grab a bottle of water and cool off without the work stopping. I saw eager teamwork in action by people who had only known each other for a few hours.

Grace w circ saw

Learning to use a circular saw

I saw kids cleaning up their messes, shoveling sheetrock and sweeping up dust before they left at night because it was the right thing to do.

Even in the midst of living conditions to which most people would turn up their noses, our kids were always positive and encouraging, always trying to build up instead of belittling. They made me proud to be associated with them.

We went to the Thursday evening Front Porch Pickin’ at the US23 Music Highway Museum to listen and dance to some of the best Bluegrass music to be found. While there, I saw kids honor the dance requests of the elderly locals who come to this event every Thursday night to clog and two-step the night away and have fun, kids from the different volunteer groups ask each other to dance, and I saw the experienced college-student interns request the pleasure of a dance from the wallflowers in the group to ensure that nobody was left out. Even I danced!

Clogging at FPP2Grace and Andrew dancing at FPP2

Clogging and two-stepping at Front Porch Pickin’

I saw pure love in action when a young woman donated her personal spending money to purchase an electric table lamp and present it in person to the couple who had just had electricity installed in their house.

I saw “kids” from 14 to 74, most of whom were strangers when we arrived on Wednesday, engage in work and play like they were life-long family. By the time the week was over, “family” was the best way to describe us.

I saw humility that would make Jesus proud when we went around the room on Saturday morning reflecting on the highs and lows of the week. I witnessed strong men break down and cry and younger kids comfortably and perfectly articulate their emotions in front of a large group.

And, I heard our kids discussing and dreaming about returning next year and possibly being summer interns themselves.

By mid-day Saturday, when it was time to leave, nobody wanted to go. But, after tearful hugs and long goodbyes, we packed up and headed home. I know many lasting friendships were made during those four days, and each of us left transformed, fulfilled, and richer than when we arrived.

Goodbye 1

Final goodbyes

On the way home I reflected on how we almost cancelled the trip and how our group of nine almost missed these life changing experiences. I couldn’t help but think that in spite of Satan’s attempt to thwart our desire to do as Jesus would have us do, we won this game. Walking Hand In Hand with God, we shut out the Devil nine to nothing.

As I was writing this I was listening to the song, With Every Act Of Love, again. Between the second verse and the refrain there is a bridge that sums up the main take-away for me from this trip. It goes:

“God put a million, million doors in this world for His love to walk through / One of those doors is you.”

I hope this experience helped all of us see ourselves as beautifully painted and architecturally perfect portals through which the hand of God can bring heaven to earth.

(Note: Out of respect for Hand In Hand’s clients at whose homes we worked, I chose not to include any photographs of the worksites.)

1With Every Act Of Love, words and music by Jason Gray and Jason Ingram, © 2013 Centricity Music Publishing, Nothing Is Wasted Music (ASCAP) / Sony-ATV Timber Publishing, Open Hands Music (SESAC).

(The post, Opening the Door between Heaven and Earth, was first published in Reflections of a Lay Catholic)

My Time Is Not God’s Time

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It was one year ago today that I began a 2,600 mile, four day solo drive from Cincinnati, Ohio to Seattle, Washington during which I posted daily how God had shown Himself to me in one form or another. Last Saturday I set out again for another long drive for this year’s summer vacation. This trip was a 1,286 mile drive to Ingram, Texas, which is a little over an hour northwest of San Antonio, for a family reunion.

Unlike last year’s trek, I was joined this time by my daughter, Grace. My wife had gone on ahead by flying to Louisiana and then driving to Texas with another daughter. I always look forward to road trips and one of the things I was most looking forward to on this trip was being captive for twenty hours in the same space as Grace. I’m sure, at age 17, she wasn’t quite as enamored with the idea as I was. She will be leaving for college in a few short weeks and this would probably be our last chance to spend any real quality time together.

The level of conversation in the car often depends upon who has control of the stereo. Wanting to make this a pleasurable trip for both of us I relinquished control even though I was driving. This meant I had to listen to a few hours of Bruno Mars, John Mayer and Josh Groban. Pretending to like most of the songs was a small price to pay for this bonding opportunity.

Our plan upon leaving home on Saturday morning was to drive as far as Dallas via Louisville, Nashville, Memphis, and Little Rock. But, before we even arrived in Nashville, I could tell from watching my car’s GPS that our ETA in Dallas was steadily getting later and later because of the delays due to highway construction and heavy rains. By the time we were leaving Nashville I decided to make a hotel reservation in Mt. Pleasant, Texas, about two hours east of Dallas. My GPS said we could arrive at 11:30 p.m. I had already lost two hours during a six hour trip.

We came to another full stop on I-40 east of Jackson, Tennessee for more construction. We crawled along for about ten minutes when we came upon an accident. A Jeep Wrangler had collided with the rear end of a semi-trailer, and a PT Cruiser was bent in half leaning against a highway sign at the bottom of the embankment off the shoulder of the road. The driver of the Jeep was still in his vehicle and a young woman was sitting on the edge of the shoulder in front of the semi tractor. I saw one other person standing around talking on his cell phone.

Car 1

Car 2

Grace was driving so I asked her to pull over. I retrieved my first aid and blood borne pathogens kit from my car (I had just received Medic First Aid/BBP refresher training the Tuesday before and thought it would be a good idea to carry a kit on this trip) and donned the latex gloves. I walked to the girl sitting on the ground and asked about her condition. She was holding a towel to her chin in an effort to stem the bleeding from a cut she had received when her PT Cruiser had rolled down the embankment. She said she had movement of her limbs, head and torso and, other than the cut, was just shaken up. Telling her I would be back in a moment I went to see about the man in the Jeep.

On my way to check on the driver of the Jeep I met the other man who had stopped. He said he had activated EMS but otherwise didn’t know what to do. I then discovered another man who had stopped but who also didn’t know any first aid procedures. I went to the Jeep and found the young man coherent. He also said he could move his torso, neck and head but that he thought he had a broken leg because he was trapped in the vehicle. Upon inspection, he was indeed trapped and would have to be cut out of the vehicle.

As I was talking to the young man another man stopped and came up to me and asked if I was a medical professional. I replied I was not and he said he was a nurse. I asked him to take over here and I would go back to the driver of the other car.

When I walked back to the young woman, another woman walked up and said she was a nurse and, after relaying what I could tell of the injuries, I asked her to take over with this patient. I asked the young woman what had happened. She said she was stopped behind the semi and she saw that the vehicle behind her didn’t appear as if it was going to stop so she tried to move over onto the shoulder.   The Jeep slammed into the rear of her car and forced her down the embankment and caused her car to roll over. The Jeep then slammed into the rear of the semi-trailer.

It was obvious that her defensive driving tactic of looking in her rear view mirror had saved her life. Had she not made an attempt to move to the right onto the shoulder the Jeep would have pushed her car under the trailer and she could have easily been crushed and decapitated.

As she related the incident she began to cry. With medical professionals on-site and the EMS on its way, I decided there wasn’t much else for me to do. But, then I thought there might be one more thing I could do. I asked the young woman what her name was and she said it was Julia. I said to Julia that I didn’t know if she was a religious person but I would be happy to pray with her if she would like. She looked me in the eye and said, “Please do!”

As I knelt, I took her hand and I prayed for God to hold her close to Him, to heal her wounds, both physical and emotional, as well as those of the other driver, and l gave thanks for saving her from injuries worse than she actually received. When I finished praying she had stopped crying, smiled and thanked me. As I walked back to my car I heard the sirens of the emergency vehicles approaching.

Grace and I resumed our trip. We stopped in Jackson, Tennessee for reconciliation and mass at St. Mary’s Catholic Church. We got stuck in more severe weather and more construction delays. She conceded and we listened to some ‘70s music from Jimmy Buffet, Jerry Jeff Walker and Marshall Tucker Band. We arrived at our hotel at 2:30 a.m., three hours later than expected. What should have been a 13.5 hour drive turned into 18.5 hours.

As my head hit the pillow I remembered my prayers. I thanked God for delivering us safely but I wished we had not had so many delays. I prayed for the two injured young people from earlier in the day and I gave thanks for the opportunity to spend quality time with Grace. And then, the God-moment came to me. I believe now that the delays we had both prior to and after coming upon that accident were two-fold and were meant to be. Even though I may not have been able to do anything to help with their injuries, maybe, just maybe, I was able to be of help spiritually to Julia. Perhaps it was God’s plan for me to be there at that moment in time not to attend to injuries of the body but to strengthen a spirit. And, perhaps God knew that Grace and I needed an extra five hours of togetherness.

“Heavenly Father, I give you thanks for allowing me to be an instrument of your love and to spread your love through charity to others. Thank you for the opportunities you give me to build loving relationships with my family and friends and new acquaintances. Amen.”

(The post My Time Is Not God’s Time was first published in Reflections of a Lay Catholic)

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