Roadtrip Reflections: Technology and Time Zones


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A month ago I posted Jesus, The Spiritual Roadmap in which I accused younger folks of not knowing what a road atlas or accordion-fold highway road map looks like because they simply plug in an address on their cell phone GPS, hit start and go where the cute voice tells them to go.  Well, today, the hand that had one finger pointing and poking fun at their dependence on technology had three fingers pointing back at me.  

I spent Friday and Saturday helping my daughter relocate to Nashville, Tennessee, from Memphis, hauling her furniture and other belongings to her new residence.  Then, this morning I left Nashville to drive home to Ohio.

Before leaving her house, I checked the app to see if there was a church nearby where I could attend mass before getting on the road.  Today is the Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity and I didn’t want to miss mass.  All of the nearby Catholic churches had mass times at 7:00, 8:30 and 11:00 a.m.  It was currently 9:10 a.m., so I decided to not wait until an 11:00 a.m. mass, thinking I’d find a convenient one somewhere between there and home.

Around Bowling Green, Kentucky I checked the app again and found no convenient masses near there.  I checked Elizabethtown, Kentucky and,  Aha!,  I found one just eight miles from Elizabethtown.  St. John the Baptist Catholic Church advertised an 11:30 a.m. mass.  The app lets you get directions to the churches so I tapped on that and discovered I could get there about ten minutes early.  Perfect!

I took the exit off of I-65 just as the cute little voice told me to do.  I made several turns and with each one I seemed to be getting further into rural Kentucky.  Eventually, the GPS told me I had reached my destination.  I stopped on the narrow country road and looked to the right where “she” told me the church was.  Miraculously, St. John the Baptist Catholic Church had either disappeared or became transfigured into a nice pasture of healthy looking angus cattle.

I drove another mile down the road and turned around.  Coming back, the voice told me my destination was on the left.  Still nothing but cattle.  I went on down the road a couple miles to a convenience store/gas station and pulled in.  I put in the actual address of St. John the Baptist Church and, lo and behold, it was about four miles further down the road.  I concluded that somehow someone loaded the wrong X:Y coordinates of the church in the mapping program.  

I thought, if I hurried I might be able to make it before the Gospel reading.  It was then that I noticed the time on my phone said 12:31 p.m.  And that’s when it hit me:  the time zone line between Eastern and Central time runs along the western and southern borders of Hardin County in which Elizabethtown sits.  St. John the Baptist Catholic Church was just inside the eastern time zone line…and mass was just ending!

I couldn’t help but laugh at the situation.  I’d added at least a half hour to the day’s drive time and now, once I got home, I’d have to drive another half hour each way to St. Mary’s for 6:00 p.m. mass.  I thought, okay, if that’s what God wants me to do, then that’s what I’ll do.  

Before putting my truck in drive I checked my fuel gauge and saw that I was nearing empty.  That’s when I noticed the price of gas at the station where I was parked was $2.99 per gallon…40 to 50 cents per gallon cheaper than any prices I’d seen along the interstate.  My truck has a 32 gallon tank.  I chuckled when I thought how divine providence may have just rewarded my unsuccessful effort to attend mass by saving me $15.00 on a fill-up.  

“Heavenly Father, once again my plan was not Your plan.  You had a better one that resulted in me not only saving money at the gas pump, but by allowing me to attend a beautiful mass where I ran into a friend who needed to talk to me about some matters.  You saved us a phone call.  Thank you for Your providence!  Amen.”

(Roadtrip Reflections:  Technology and Time Zones was first published on the blog Reflections of a Lay Catholic)

©2013-2023 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.


Evangelization Begins with Friendship


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I went to a high school graduation party yesterday for a young friend of mine, Thomas, with whom I’ve had the pleasure of working side by side as a volunteer repairing people’s homes, and who has been a great help to me in maintaining my own property.  After writing a note to him in the obligatory greeting card, I realized that my sentiments were not so much congratulatory as they were well wishes for the future and an affirmation that he will do well and go far.  Thomas, is bright and hard working and I believe he will see his high school graduation not as the end of something, but as the beginning, or “commencement”, of a promising future; that his diploma is more than a confirmation of a job well done, but a conferring of responsibility to do something great.

While I was at the party, it occurred to me that it was my second event of the day to celebrate a “commencement”.  The first was attending mass on Pentecost Sunday, the day on which the Apostles utilized the gifts of the Holy Spirit which had been conferred upon them in the upper room.  It was the day they graduated from simply being disciples to becoming disciple-makers

Unlike Thomas and other graduating seniors who will go on to college before they effectively utilize all that they’ve learned, the Apostles, didn’t waste any time.  When the Holy Spirit descended on the Jews in Jerusalem, Peter became the first to accept the Great Commission to make disciples of all nations (Mt 28:19).  With fortitude, he proclaimed the Gospel message of salvation through Jesus Christ.  When he was done, three thousand Jews converted.

Pentecost serves as a reminder to all of us Catholics that, by virtue of our own Baptism and Confirmation, we have the right and duty to utilize the gifts which the Holy Spirit has conferred upon us to discover how to bring the message of salvation to other people.  

It’s doubtful that we will experience a noise like a strong driving wind, or tongues as of fire (Acts 2:2-3) that prompt us to take action, but we all do experience opportunities to begin the process of saving souls through Jesus.  I’m not talking about evangelizing by standing on a street corner preaching through a bull horn.  No, it’s much simpler than that.  It begins with friendship and a love that desires good for the other person.  And, there’s no greater good than to know Jesus Christ.

Our society today is starving for true friendship.  We have what my friend, Dr. Mike Scherschligt of the Holy Family School of Faith, calls FDS – Friendship Deficit Syndrome.  Virtual friendship through social media platforms isn’t working.  Loneliness and depression caused by a lack of personal interaction and friendship are the leading causes of an alarming increase in suicides.  People are lost.  Many don’t know who they are or what they are.  They don’t know what love is.  They don’t know what brings happiness.  And, they no longer know truth.  They don’t know God.  Souls are waiting to be saved through friendship.

Through friendship, meaningful conversation, and hospitality we build relationships.  We get to know and understand each other and we build mutual trust.  It takes time, but when a friendship develops to this level, the friend who is far away from our Lord is much more likely to accept an invitation from you to explore or go deeper in faith.  The door is opened for you to arrange an encounter with Jesus.  That encounter may come from inviting the person to a small group discussion, a bible study, to attend mass, spend an hour in Adoration, or pray a Rosary with you.  As they get more comfortable, you walk as their companion on their journey while they establish their own relationship with Christ.  It’s the ultimate win-win for everyone – they discover the love and mercy of our Lord, and you receive abundant graces for your effort.

It works.  Two men, who, in honoring their duty, made it their mission to get to know me.  They followed up by building a relationship with me based on trust.  Then, they brought me to an encounter with Jesus.  The rest is history.  

“‘Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of Your faithful, enkindle in us the fire of Your love.  Send forth Your Spirit so that we may be created, and You shall renew the face of the earth.’  Lord, open our hearts to Your Spirit so that we, like the Apostles at Pentecost, will boldly step out of our comfort zones and graduate from simply being disciples to being disciple-makers.  Amen.”

(Evangelization Begins with Friendship was first published on the blog Reflections of a Lay Catholic)

©2013-2023 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.

Don’t Just Stand There, Do Something!


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The Ascension, Pietro Perugino, 1510

When I graduated from college in 1979 with a Bachelor’s degree in Civil Engineering, my first job was working for a large contractor in central Missouri.  Their specialty was earthwork, including building large earthen dams, municipal water and sewer systems, roads, etc.  They used various types of large earthmoving equipment, and many of the projects involved drilling and blasting rock.  All of this was new to me and I was fascinated by the equipment, the men who operated them, and how their movement seemed almost to be choreographed.

My boss, Ralph, was one of the owners of the company.  He was a big man, kind and generous, with a good sense of humor.  He treated me like his son.  But, Ralph wouldn’t hesitate to speak his mind.  He was a mover, he never stood still.  He walked fast and drove faster.  And if you didn’t keep up he’d let you know it.  More than once he caught me standing idle watching the equipment work and he’d yell, “Hey, don’t just stand there, do something!  You’re wasting time!”  It didn’t take long for me to learn to keep on task and pay attention to my own work. 

Ralph passed away about five years ago, I guess.  I think about him from time to time.  I thought about him this last Sunday as I meditated on the day’s Scripture passages.  

Most dioceses celebrated the Solemnity of the Ascension on Sunday, although the actual forty days after Easter fell last Thursday.  During those forty days, Jesus revealed Himself several times to His disciples.  The first of those was in Galilee where the disciples were told to meet Him (Mt 28:7-10).   In this first encounter, Jesus commissioned the Eleven to go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. (Mt 28:19-20)

In another encounter, the disciples were instructed to return to Jerusalem and stay there until they received the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:4-5).  Then, while in Jerusalem, Jesus returned His final time and told the disciples that they would be His witnesses in Jerusalem, throughout Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8).  Then, before the disciples’ eyes, Jesus was taken up into heaven.

Scripture tells us that the disciples were looking intently up at the sky.  I imagine they were filled with awe and wonder, dumbstruck over what they were witnessing.  Just then, two angels came, stood beside them, and interrupted their fascination with what they had just seen.  One of them asked, why are you standing there looking at the sky? (Acts 1:10-11).  

I’m sure the rest of what the angels said was left unrecorded but went something like this:  “Didn’t Jesus just tell you that you would be his witnesses in Jerusalem, and throughout Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth?  Aren’t you supposed to go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them and teaching them?  Then why are you standing there gawking? You have work to do!  Don’t just stand there, do something!  You’re wasting time!”

I think that angel’s name was Ralph.  And, back at my job today as Director of Evangelization for our parish, I sensed this larger than life angel named Ralph sitting on my shoulder, shouting in my ear with a sense of urgency, “You have people to teach and disciples to make!  Don’t just stand there, do something! You’re wasting time!”

“Come Holy Spirit, help me to discern Your will each and every day in my mission to teach and make disciples.  Help me to overlook the superfluous distractions that keep me from growing Your Kingdom.  And, Lord, I pray for more of Your faithful to accept the same Great Commission.  Amen.”

(Don’t Just Stand There, Do Something! was first published on the blog Reflections of a Lay Catholic)

©2013-2023 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.

Some Will. Some Won’t. I Tried. Who’s Next?


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Yesterday was the Feast of the Ascension of Jesus into Heaven.  One of the last things Jesus spoke to the Apostles was to “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations” (Mt 28:19)In yesterday’s first reading from the Acts of the Apostles, Acts 18:1-8, we read about St. Paul once again doing just that, preaching the salvation of Jesus Christ to the Jews in the synagogue, “Every Sabbath, he entered into discussions in the synagogue, attempting to convince both Jews and Greeks” (Acts 18:4)We can tell from Scripture that evangelizing wasn’t a walk in the park for him and we can imagine how frustrating it must have been.

I try to imagine what it would have been like to be a fly on the wall during one of those “discussions” in the synagogue.   Who did most of the talking?  Was there dialogue or was it mostly one-sided?  Were there questions and answers?  Were the conversations civil or were they heated arguments?

Have you ever stopped and wondered why he continued to preach so fervently when it must have seemed he was beating his head against a wall?  Why did he keep going back for more disappointment?  I imagine that each and every conversion renewed his zeal, making it worth the struggle.

I don’t think his goal was to impress upon people that he was right and they were wrong for pride’s sake.  No, I suspect he preached from a position of love.  He had a love for the Lord, and a love for the well-being and salvation of the soul of every person he met.  St. Paul may have never actually met Jesus, but he knew Jesus through the Holy Spirit and a deep life of prayer.  He knew Christ’s love, and he took to heart the Great Commission of bringing that same love to other people. 

We know that St. Paul was tenacious.  He didn’t give up until he’d exhausted every effort to bring men to conversion.  He persisted until the opposition and revilement (Acts 18:6) indicated he was at a hopeless juncture and it was obvious that he ought to move on and evangelize someone else.  

With respect to our efforts to evangelize, what can we learn from St. Paul’s style?  I think we have to be clear as to why we’re evangelizing in the first place.  Are we trying to convince someone we’re right and they’re wrong?  Or is our concern truly based on our love for them, wanting their good and the salvation of their soul?

When we operate from a position other than love for another person, when we focus on our rightness and their wrongness, effective dialogue becomes nearly impossible.  Evangelizing becomes an argument.  It prevents us from understanding and accepting that the other person’s perception of truth is based on their education and life experiences, things that may be totally different from our own.  We lose sight that, for us to be believed, the other person must see us as authentic and trust-worthy.  That trust can only be won through listening, which is often hard to do and sometimes even painful.  Rather than make the effort to listen and understand the other’s story, we have a tendency to give up too soon when a conversion may only be one conversation away.  

But, like St. Paul, we may have to eventually accept failure knowing that we gave it our best shot.  We may have to take the attitude of a friend of mine, a committed disciple maker, who says, “Some will.  Some won’t.  I tried.  Who’s next?”, and move on to the next person who is searching for, or open to, the love that can only come from Jesus Christ. We may need to give up on an individual, but we can never give up on the mission.

“Dear Jesus, today, on this feast of Your Ascension into Heaven, help me to realize the grace from the Advocate as you promised.  With Your help, I resolve to grow my friendship with You through prayer.  And, I commit myself to deeper friendships with others as a disciple maker, bringing them into a friendship with You.  Amen.”

(Some Will.  Some Won’t.  I Tried.  Who’s Next?  was first published on the blog Reflections of a Lay Catholic)

©2013-2023 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.

Angling and the Art of Evangelization


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At my holy hour of Adoration this week, I knelt before our Lord in the tabernacle and, as sometimes happens, my mind, after a while, began to wander.  This time it drifted to a trip in July to Montana where I’ll have the opportunity to do something I love – fly fish.  Although it’s two months away, I’m already excited about it because this will be a special trip as I’m taking a good friend with me who has never angled for trout in a mountain stream.

I dreamed about preparing my equipment, of examining my fly box, and wondered what will attract the fish this time.  I visualized sections of streams where I’ve caught fish before and of making the perfect cast into the perfect spot.  I sensed the patience and anticipation, and the sound of the rushing water as I stood in the stream with the beauty of the mountains surrounding me.  It was an excellent daydream!

When I came out of it I felt guilty that I had been distracted from my adoration of Jesus.  I know that distractions in prayer are sometimes the devil dividing my attention away from Him.  But, I’ve also experienced times of distraction that left no doubt that it was the Holy Spirit Who had led me there.  This, I believe was one of those cases.  

In March I came out of retirement and began working as the Director of Evangelization in our parish family. It’s a job I am loving and excited about, and a challenge which, I hope, will help bring other people to Christ.  As I was coming out of my daydream I was suddenly inspired by the parallels between fly fishing and evangelizing.  

Intentionality – In most of America, you can’t just go fly fishing for trout at the drop of a hat.  You have to be intentional about it and you have to plan for it.  The trout stream doesn’t come to you, you have to go to it.  Evangelization, I think, is like that.  In most cases, someone who doesn’t know Christ isn’t going to come looking for you.  Rather, you have to make yourself available to them.  And, you have to go into it seeking to make a friend with whom you can build a trusting relationship.

Preparation – A successful fishing trip requires up front preparation:  checking your equipment, your leaders and tippets, the flies in your fly box, your waders for leaks, etc.  Preparation is required for successful evangelization, too.  You need a firm relationship with Christ, the One Whom you are going to introduce to someone.  You need to know how to respond to a few questions such as, “Why are you a Christian?”, “Why are you Catholic?”, “Who is Jesus?”, etc.  And you need to be prepared to stay with a potential new friend on their journey.

Love – Angling, I believe, requires a real love for the sport.  Anybody can thread a worm on a hook, put a bobber on a line and toss it in a pond.  It doesn’t take a lot of love.  But fly fishing is an art form that can only be truly appreciated with a love for the craft.  Likewise, evangelization is an act of love.  In evangelization, our love is expressed by truly desiring the good of the other person, and there’s no greater good to gift someone than a relationship with Christ.  

Meet them where they are – Unlike pond fishing where you randomly toss your line out and hope something will bite, in fly fishing you have to read the water.  You have to find that boulder, or the slot on the edge of the turbulence, where the fish are waiting.  You have to meet a trout where he is because he’s not going to swim out of his way to take your fly.  In evangelization, one needs to meet people where they are.  Everyone is at a different place in their spiritual life, and it’s necessary to ask a few questions to understand where they are.

Feed them – Trout are always hungry but they are picky eaters.  They won’t eat just anything.  They know what’s common to the stream, they know what insects are emerging and coming off the water.  Just any old fly won’t work.  Similarly, someone looking to understand Christianity is looking for that one thing that will click with them, that will entice them to take a second look.

Presentation – You can pick the right fly and float it past a trout, but if it doesn’t look right, forget it, they’ll let it go.  If it’s moving too slow, too fast, or in a different direction than everything else in the water, it’s suspicious to them.  Presentation is important in evangelization, as well.  Get too preachy and the person is turned off.  Too nonchalant, and they won’t take you seriously.  You have to be authentic, real, because they’re looking for someone they can trust.

Patience – Fly fishing requires patience and experimentation.  Sometimes it takes time to find where the fish are lingering, what’s on the streams natural menu, and how you’re going to “plate” the fly.  You may have to try different tactics to get that first strike.  Evangelizing is no different, it takes time and patience to find that one thing that will catch a person’s attention.

Persistence – Fly fishing isn’t a lazy person’s sport.  You have to work at it.  You can’t sit on the bank and wait.  You have to be active, wade in the stream, and risk slipping on a slimy rock.  If you don’t, you’ll become discouraged and give up.  Then you’ve failed.  As Christians, it is our duty to evangelize.  We’re not allowed to give up.  We can take breaks, we may fail occasionally, but we can never give up. 

Our Lord said to his disciples, “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations…” (Mt 28:19).  If Jesus hadn’t had a lot of other things on His mind, I think He’d have told them to go and learn to fly fish for trout, too.

“Heavenly Father, I pray for the grace to listen to your Word, and to let the Holy Spirit lead me in building a culture of evangelization in our parish.  Lord, inspire our faithful to grow closer to you and form an army of intentional disciples.  Help us to be fishers of men and women.  And, if it’s Your will, for a successful fly fishing trip in July.  Amen.”

(Angling and the Art of Evangelization was first published on the blog Reflections of a Lay Catholic)

©2013-2023 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.

Jesus, the Spiritual Roadmap


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US Rte. 66 – The Mother Road

I once was lost.  Once.  Back in 1991.  I had to go to a gas well site in extreme Southwest Kansas.  I was new to the area and I’d never been to that site before so I asked a fellow worker for directions.  He told me to go down this road, turn left on another road and then turn right when you get to the big tree and it’s a couple miles from there.  I couldn’t miss it, he said.  I thought, that’s easy enough, I don’t need a map.  

I found the first road and turned left but then I never saw the big tree.  I kept driving looking for the big tree.  I finally realized I was lost when I came to an intersection of two highways in Oklahoma, thirty miles south of where I was supposed to be.  I found a pay phone (this was before cell phones), and called my associate.  I told him I never found the big tree (there aren’t many trees nor much else in Southwest Kansas).  His response….”Oh, that’s right, the tree fell down about five years ago but everybody knows where it was.”  Everybody except me.

People who know me know that I like to drive.  Ever since I was a young boy, I’ve been making long, cross-country roadtrips with my family.  Some of my earliest memories include sitting in the front seat of our ’62 Chevy Bel Air somewhere between California and Missouri, studying a road atlas, and telling my dad how far it was to the next town down Route 66.  

Younger folks these days might not know what an atlas or an accordion-fold state highway road map looks like.  With GPS on cell phones, most people simply plug in an address, hit start and go where the cute voice tells them to go.

A few years ago, my daughter and her husband drove from Kansas to Middle Tennessee to meet us for a family reunion.  They put the address in their GPS and relied on it to get them there.  It took them through back country roads to the Tiptonville ferry which crosses the Mississippi River between Missouri and Tennessee.  It’s a nine car ferry.  When they arrived at the landing the ferry had just left.  By the time the ferry returned and they got to the Tennessee side they’d lost about two hours.  If they’d looked at a map they’d have seen a much better and quicker route. 

Studying a map gives you the big picture.  You have an idea of where you’re going, and what towns and scenery you can expect to see between here and there.  You get an idea of waypoints and you can track your progress.  A GPS, well, it just takes all the fun out of it.  

Call me strange, but these memories came to mind this morning as I entered into prayer, meditating on today’s Gospel passage, John 14:1-12.  Jesus said, “…’Where I am going you know the way.’”  Thomas said to Him, ‘Master, we do not know where you are going; how can we know the way?’  Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through me.’”(Jn 14: 4-6).

Thomas (nor any of the Apostles, actually) had not been paying attention.  He followed his Master all around Galilee but hadn’t studied his roadmap, Jesus.  He hadn’t looked out the window at the scenery.  He didn’t know where he was going nor where he had been.  He was lost and confused.  

Living eternally with our Father in heaven is our destination.  Jesus is the Way.  He is the Roadmap.  Studying Jesus and His life in the Scriptures, and following His directions, is the shortest and quickest route to heaven.  He showed us the route:  in the Beatitudes, in His works of mercy, in His love for the Father, and in His sacrifice for our personal salvation.

Jesus is the Truth.  He will not lead you astray.  You can depend on Him for a safe and enriching journey.

Jesus is the Life.  He will fill your life with infinite graces, let you see along the way all the beauty that God created, and give you opportunities to live your life to the fullest with peace and happiness.

Study His map.  Follow His directions.  The joy experienced on the journey will only be exceeded by the awe and wonder when you arrive. 

“Dear Jesus, send Your Holy Spirit into my heart that I might have the grace to consistently turn to you in prayerful meditation, study Your life in the Gospels, and apply what I learn in daily resolutions so that I make all the right turns.  Amen.”  

(Jesus, the Spiritual Roadmap was first published on the blog Reflections of a Lay Catholic)

©2013-2023 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.

How to Evangelize Like St. Philip


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St. Philip the Deacon and Evangelist

In last Thursday’s first Scripture reading, Acts 8:26-40, we read where St. Philip the Evangelist (the deacon, not the Apostle), at the prompting of the Holy Spirit, met, instructed, converted and baptized the Ethiopian eunuch.  Philip took to heart the Great Commission handed down by Jesus to, “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” (Mt 28:19).

Let’s take a look at evangelization.  What is it exactly?

In a very simple sense, it is telling someone else about something near and dear to your heart.  Something you love.  People know that I love pizza, I love my wife and family, I love to mow grass, and I love to fly fish in a mountain stream.  They know these things because I talk about them.  I don’t keep them a secret.

But, there’s something I love even more than pizza, my family, my zero turn mower, and fly fishing.  I love Jesus. People who know me know this because I tell them.  And, to people I don’t know, I write about my love for Him in this blog.  It’s one way in which I spread the Gospel (which means “Good News” by the way).  It’s really no different than telling someone the good news of when you have a new grandchild, when you get a new car, or when you’ve become engaged.  

Sadly, the word evangelization makes people uncomfortable.  It brings about visions of knocking on doors, of preaching from a street corner with a bull horn, and of putting one’s self in difficult situations where you might get asked questions to which you don’t have answers.  But, turn that around and look at it from the other side.  There are millions of people out there who have questions and are seeking answers.  Questions about how to be happier, how to feel loved, how to deal with suffering.  Questions about God and Jesus.  Questions that are just waiting for answers from those of us who experience the happiness associated with Christ’s love, and the value of suffering that comes with our faith.  Answers that will help bring about positive change in another person.  Answers that will ultimately save souls.

We all know people who are searching for something better.  They may be family, friends, a co-worker, the next door neighbor, your child’s little league coach or piano teacher.  People you know who see you and see what you have and want some of it for themselves.  They may not feel comfortable in coming to you directly.  But, if you’re observant, you can see the signs – signs that they’re hurting, lonely, afraid.

My conversion experience began with two men who befriended me, saw my struggles, and with love and patience, brought me to an encounter with Christ where I had a “Pauline” experience and got knocked off my horse.  And, then, those two men and several other “Ananaises” brought me even closer to our Lord and helped me get to know Him. 

With my conversion, I immediately felt Christ’s love for me, but I’d be lying to say I was immediately an evangelist.  No, it took a while for me to learn to love Him back and to build up my faith with a strong interior life. That transformation took place through deep and consistent daily prayer during which my relationship with Jesus grew stronger.  I talked to Him and, in meditating on His Word, I listened to what He had to say to me.  By acting on His promptings I grew in virtue, in holiness. People noticed. They began coming to me for answers of how to know Jesus better. 

So, how can you evangelize others?  First, get to know them (and that applies to family members as well as strangers).  Invite them into your life.  Make friends with them.  Build relationships.  Share meals and good conversations.  Get to know what makes them happy and what their struggles are.  Create an atmosphere where they feel comfortable asking the questions for which they are desperately seeking answers.  And, most of all, pray for them!

At some point you can begin talking more openly about your faith, telling them about Jesus.  To start, maybe you invite them to the parish picnic.  Soon, they might join you in a Bible study.  Perhaps, then, they will come and experience mass with you.  As they start growing in their relationship with Jesus, take them deeper in understanding His life by leading them in a meditation of the mysteries of the Rosary.  And, never stop praying for them.  Put all these things together and you have become an evangelist.  You are making disciples. 

The Ethiopian eunuch whom St. Philip evangelized went back to his country and began spreading the Good News to his queen and fellow countrymen.  That one disciple became a disciple maker.  Soon, Christianity spread throughout that region and the Catholic Church in Ethiopia became one of the first Orthodox Christian Churches outside of the Roman Empire and is still strong today.  

Jesus not only gave the Great Commission to the Apostles, he gave it to us.  We are called to make disciples who will go on to become disciple makers themselves.  Our parish needs it.  Our Church needs it.  Humanity needs it.

With whom will you meet today or tomorrow that will bring an opportunity to begin a beautiful new relationship that will ultimately bring them to Christ?  Be like St. Philip the Evangelist!

(How to Evangelize Like St. Philip was first published on the blog Reflections of a Lay Catholic)

©2013-2023 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.

Teachable Moments


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Thirty years ago when I was a middle manager in operations with an interstate natural gas pipeline company I had a vice president who intimidated me to no end.  He didn’t do it intentionally, rather it was my pride, and perhaps lack of confidence, that permitted the anxiety I felt whenever I had to meet with or give a presentation to him.

His name was Theopolis (which I didn’t realize until I looked up the etymology of that name a few minutes ago that it means “Loved by God”).  Theo was actually a kind man, a faith-filled man, soft spoken, and he usually wore a smile on his face and had a gleam in his eye.  And he was intelligent – super intelligent – and experienced.  He had worked his way up through the ranks, had previously been in my position and knew everything there was to know about my role and those of the engineers who reported to me.

It was impossible to slide something new past Theo, or to hide some mistake.  He knew the ropes.  In a regulated and safety conscious industry, there was little leeway to color outside the lines.  But, he wasn’t averse to one doing so if there was a good reason and a good plan for improving something.  His method of determining whether one’s intentions were good enough, or to get to the bottom of something that didn’t go as expected, was to gently question the poor unfortunate soul to see if they had thoroughly thought through the process.  When the root cause of a problem or the glitch in a plan eventually surfaced, Theo would smile and say, “What we have here is a teachable moment.”  He would then help you realize what could have been done differently or better based on his knowledge and experience.  

Theo passed away ten years or so ago and I probably haven’t thought about him since I retired six years ago….until this morning when I read and meditated on today’s Gospel passage, John 6:16-21.  This morning I saw him as not always being critical of what I did, but as a mentor and teacher.

After feeding the five thousand, Jesus went up the mountain to pray and the Apostles got in their boat and set out across the sea to Capernaum.  On the way, the wind and seas picked up causing the crew to have some heightened anxiety.  Jesus, foreseeing their fears, then came to them walking on the water, which, to the crew of experienced fishermen, may have been an embarrassment before their master and teacher.  Jesus, told them, “It is I. Do not be afraid”.

Whether you’re a young engineer and middle manager or an experienced fisherman, it’s good to have someone who’s been there and done that, who can help you through the rough times.  Someone who can see beyond the immediate situation and find “teachable moments” to ease the tension and dispel the anxiety.

It’s a beautiful thing to learn from the experiences of those who have gone before us, from their mistakes and successes.  The Apostles and early Christians were, in a sense, just trying to figure things out.  They pioneered the New Way with Jesus as their leader.  They had no prior experience or self-study history books on which to fall back.  Their’s was a new learning experience every day.  And, Jesus, as their mentor, found “teachable moments” around every corner, especially when his followers, in their anxiety, needed to be told, “Do not fear.”

We still struggle with anxiety born from trying to do everything on our own.  We forget that Jesus is with us always, even in the midst of life’s storms.  We are fortunate in our faith, however, that the lessons learned by the Apostles and the early Christians have been captured for us in Scripture and in the sacred writings of the saints.  We need to remember that every time we pick up and read from our Bible or the spiritual writings of the saints, we are in the middle of a “teachable moment”.

Even then, trying to learn under our own power can be difficult and frustrating.  As Catholics, we are also fortunate to have available to us Spiritual Mentors who will walk with us on our journey of living a Holy life.  Spiritual Mentors are trained to ask questions that help us see what we can’t see for ourselves, and to gently provide “teachable moments” that help us steer around the difficulties of life.  

If you are interested in learning more about spiritual mentorship, or receiving spiritual mentorship from a trained mentor, or interested in becoming a Spiritual Mentor yourself, please leave me a comment, and I’ll be happy to help you.

“Lord Jesus, too often do I try to navigate rough waters on my own, forgetting that You are always with me.  In my times of prayer, Lord, give me the grace to realize Your presence, be attentive to Your gentle guidance, and learn from those “teachable moments”.  Help me also, Lord, as a Spiritual Mentor of other men, to help them find peace in their lives by relying on Your help. Amen.”

(Teachable Moments was first published on the blog Reflections of a Lay Catholic)

©2013-2023 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.



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There are plusses and minuses to being married empty nesters.  One positive is saving money on groceries, but an associated negative is the difficulty in preparing meals for only two people.  Most recipes are designed for at least four which, when followed, means there are usually leftovers.  That can be a problem if you’re one of those people who doesn’t care for leftovers, but for those of us who are fine with them and would rather not waste good food, it can be a really good thing!  When you accumulate enough leftovers you get a bye on deciding what to cook from scratch every now and then.

Also, leftovers, like a spicy pot of chili, just get better after they’ve “seasoned” for an extra day or two.  Even a pineapple upside-down cake like the one my wife made for my birthday this week just gets better each successive day as the pineapple juice and brown sugar syrup soak into the cake below.

I was thinking about leftovers yesterday morning as I read the day’s scripture during my morning meditation.  The Gospel, John 6:1-15, told the story about the multiplication of the loaves and fishes for feeding the five thousand.  After instructing the crowd to recline in the grass, “Jesus took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed them to those who were reclining, and also as much of the fish that they wanted.   When they had had their fill He said to His disciples, ‘Gather the fragments leftover so that nothing will be wasted.’  So they collected them, and filled twelve wicker baskets with fragments from the five barley loaves that had been more than they could eat.”  Jesus’ miracle transformed five loaves and two fish into enough food to nourish and curb the appetites of five thousand people with enough leftovers to repeat again and again. 

Taking the bread and giving thanks is a prefiguring of the miracle performed at every mass when, at the epiclesis, the priest calls upon the Holy Spirit and consecrates the bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ.  In receiving the Blessed Sacrament, we are at a feast and being fed with all the graces we need to live Holy lives.

But, we are also nourished and sated by the Word of God in Scripture.  When we pray and meditate daily on the life of Jesus in the Gospels, we are lovingly fed with as much as we can eat in one sitting.  We are given exactly what we need for that day to be virtuous souls.  Our job is to listen to and savor His Word, swallow it by relating it to our lives in the present moment, and then digest it by resolving to apply what we hear to living in a more virtuous way.  Then, we simply have to return to the table and repeat each and every day to partake in the perpetual and eternal leftovers.  No worries about not getting enough, about eating too much, or the food spoiling. There will always be another full and satisfying meal the next day.  And, just as day-old chili gets more flavorful, and pineapple upside-down cake gets more moist, each “meal” just gets better!

Jesus will always give us enough to nourish our souls if we invite Him, through prayer, into our hearts to feed us.  What nourishment do you need today?  Sit at the table, partake of the meal, savor each bite, and rejoice that there are enough leftovers for all the days to come.

“Heavenly Father, thank You for slaking my hunger by feeding me with Your Word, and for quenching my thirst with the Living Water, Your Son, Jesus.  I know through faith that You will never let me go hungry as long as I keep returning to the table through prayer and the Sacraments.  Amen.”

(Leftovers was first published on the blog Reflections of a Lay Catholic)

©2013-2023 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.

Our Father Who Art in Heaven…


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Holy Saturday began busily this morning as I arose and left home early for an 8:00 a.m. appointment with a gentleman at a local coffee shop/patisserie for our monthly spiritual mentoring discussion.  I let him know ahead of time that I needed to wrap it up around 9:20 at the latest so that I could make it back to our parish church by 10:00 a.m., for the final rites and practice for tonights Easter Vigil Mass when I will be welcoming a friend, whom I am sponsoring, into the Catholic Church. 

I arrived at the coffee shop early so that I could get my daily morning prayer and meditation in before my friend (let’s call him Wilbur) arrived.  Fortunately for me, I was able to read the Gospel and quickly formed a resolution for the day because Wilbur also arrived early.  He got a coffee, and I warmed up mine, and we set about talking about what’s happening in his faith life and how we can grow closer to our Lord.  As always, it was a fruitful discussion.

Time always flies by quickly when we’re in deep conversation and when I checked the time it was 9:20 already.  We began to wrap it up and then said our closing prayer and a Hail Mary with intentions for many out there who need help.  As we stood and began to walk away from our table, a woman sitting directly behind Wilbur caught our attention and said with a smile, “It is so refreshing to see men praying together!  You just made my day!” Then, a woman sitting alone at an adjacent table stood and said, with excitement in her eyes, “I agree!  What a blessing to see men sharing their faith in public!  Thank you!”

We were kind of caught by surprise.  Wilbur was the first to reply and said that he was there receiving spiritual direction.  Me, all I could think to say was, “Thank you!  You just made our day by noticing and saying something to us.”  We chatted for a while and I learned that the second woman was a minister at a small church.  Eventually, conscious of the time and needing to get going, I asked if they would like to pray the Lord’s Prayer with us.  They did, and we prayed, and, feeling sure that they were Protestant, I remembered to add, “For thine is the Kingdom, the Power and the Glory, forever and ever.  Amen”, to our normal recitation of the Our Father.

Wilbur and I said our goodbyes and as I got in my truck I realized it was 9:40 already.  I also knew, after having made this trip several times in the opposite direction, that it was at least a 30 minute drive considering all the traffic lights I had to pass through.  I was compelled to say a prayer of thanksgiving for the encounter with those ladies, and, even though I would be late, a prayer of trust that I would not arrive at church excessively late.

I made the first three major intersections on green lights.  I had a few miles then on the interstate where I blew past a state trooper at least five miles over the speed limit.  As I checked my rearview mirror I was relieved that he didn’t pull out after me.  After exiting the interstate I passed through the next four lights on green.  The eighth traffic light had me stopped for about ten seconds and the ninth light was green as I passed through it.  I walked into the church at 10:01.

The final rites this morning for the Elect coming into the Church tonight include the Presentation of the Lord’s Prayer, the Recitation of the Creed, and the Ephphetha Rite.  After standing and praying the Lord’s Prayer (the Our Father) together, we were asked to meditate on what it means to us.  

As I repeated the prayer in my head, I thought, “‘…Hallowed be Thy Name…’ – I praise you and thank you, Lord, for that encounter with those ladies at the coffee shop, and for getting me to the church on time!” 

I continued with, “‘…Thy will be done…’ – Lord, it was Your will that enabled that encounter, and Your will that caused all those traffic lights to be green.”

And I ended with, “‘…And lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil…’ – Lord, thank You for the faith to trust in You and not be tempted to be anxious about things out of my control.  Amen.”

“Heavenly Father, thank You for the many blessings You bestow on me and all Your faithful.  Thank You for the courage to express my faith in public and for the graces received when noticed by others.  Thank You for the gift of trust in You.  And, thank You for the gift of Your Church and for all those who will be baptized and initiated into the Catholic Church tonight.  Amen.”

(Our Father Who Are in Heaven… was first published on the blog Reflections of a Lay Catholic)

©2013-2023 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.