Sunday, October 7, 2012

To Love is to Die

           I want to talk today about Gods love. Sometimes we get to caught up in ourselves; our wants, our desires. I think we often forget that God is love. We only see Him as a rule maker and a judge. God is far more than that. I used to think I had to DO more to love God more. Although we do have to strive to grow in holiness we cant really do more FOR God, I mean he died for our salvation, what more could you do for Him to repay that debt? Nothing and Jesus knows that, that's why he gave us that gift of love so freely, He knows we cant love Him the same way He loves us. But he does show us How we can learn to love more freely.
           In the Gospels this week Jesus has been talking allot about being childlike, especially yesterday; He said "I give you praise, Father,Lord of heaven and earth, for although you have hidden these things from the wise and the learned you have revealed them to the childlike."(Lk 10:21) What is this child-likeness that Christ is talking about here? Does He want us to behave like a bunch of bratty school children? No!!! He is talking about innocence. He is talking about being the child just before he/she makes their first Holy Communion. That innocence is priceless, if we could all go back to that moment in our life we would realize that we were so pure and open, everything made sense and we were always believing what was being taught to us. We had a "child's faith"!!!! As we grow older we start to wonder and ask questions; which is a good thing that's how we learn, but some people did not get an answer or the answer was not the truth. As we get/got older we started wondering how can this be true, how can that be possible and we started to lose that childlike faith. We don't intend to it just kind of happens as we grow older. We start to try and make our faith our own which is a necessary part of growing up, but unfortunately when we start to search on our own we sometimes get lost and it takes God; in His great love, coming and searching for us, to pull us back to Him. It takes us ten times as long to relearn how to love as a child, to be able to just be.
           What does it mean to just "BE"? I have long thought about this question and the answer is not exactly a set answer. To "be" means to just be in the presence of God and be happy! Nothing else matters just God. Being happy and at peace deep within your heart even if your external world is falling apart. This just "being" sounds like some sort of crazy way of making people just be happy all the time, but just "being" is actually a great gift from God and helps us to see His great love for us even more in our lives. We often think that if we love God than the world revolves around us. That is not the case, lets look at Job he lost everything but still kept up his love for God. Love in all reality is death!! Yes that's right I just said that love is death!!!! You are probably saying to yourself "this guys a nut!" hear me out on this. To love takes great sacrifice! right? Your love for God and Faith (which are really the same thing) are really supposed to be the center of your life, but to have God as the center of your life is a great sacrifice. You may have to get up early in the morning to pray before school or work, you may get made fun of for being "the bible thumper" or "the Catholic freak", maybe you fasted for Mass which is on your lunch hour or maybe you had to give up going to a movie with friends so that you could go to Mass with your family. What ever little sacrifice it is for you  these little things are "little deaths". They make us die to ourselves and let God come just a little closer to our heart. Lets all pray that we may die a little more each day, so that we may love God more and draw closer to Him here on earth.
           May our great and loving God come down and remain with us forever!

"For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life." (Jn 3:16)

Monday, August 20, 2012

Parts of the Mass-Liturgy of the Word

             Reading from new missal translation

               Hey Catholic teens! Sorry I’m a day late in posting this, I ran out of time yesterday!  So in continuing my effort to shed some light on why the mass is exciting, I’d like to write today about the entrance and the Liturgy of the Word.  The Liturgy of the Word is the first part of the mass that begins with the penitential rite where we say the Confiteor and ends with the Nicene Creed.  That’s a big part of the mass, and it includes the Confiteor, Kyrie, Gloria, opening prayer, 2 readings from the Bible (on Sundays), the reading from the Gospels, the homily, and the Nicene Creed. 
                The entrance procession is an important part of the mass.  The priest acts at mass “in persona Christi” which just means “in the person of Christ.”  When the priest is walking forward toward the alter at the very start of the mass, he is reenacting Christ’s journey to Calvary.  I read once that during the middle ages, priests would actually carry a cross up to the alter during the entrance procession. Then the priest genuflects and goes forward to kiss the alter.  As far as symbols go, the cross and the alter are interchangeable-it is on the wood of the cross that Christ died for our sins and it is on the wood of the alter that that same Christ becomes present as we celebrate the mystery. 
                If you have prepared yourself for the mass then you will probably be at least a little familiar with the readings for that day.  We do something very significant when the priest or deacon reads from the gospels-we stand up!  Why do we do that?  Is it because by that time we are all falling asleep and we need to get the circulation going again?  No!  By standing up, we are acknowledging that God is present in the reading.  The first chapter of John explains this concept pretty well.  John 1:1 says,” In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”  The same God who is present in the Eucharist is also present in the scriptures. 
                When we hear the readings at mass and listen to the homily, we have to remember that the stories we hear in the Bible are not just historical. Scripture is God’s way of speaking very directly to us.  We need to try to find ourselves in the scripture readings.  There is a method of reflecting and contemplating scripture called Lectio Divina that I would like to just briefly touch on. Obviously Lectio Divina is not something we can really do at mass, but it is all about finding yourself in scripture, and the daily mass readings are a good place to start.  Lectio Divina has 4 basic steps-read, meditate, pray, and contemplate.  When we read a passage, we should do so slowly and carefully, letting every word sink in.  Then we meditate on what we have read, and I think it is particularly helpful to find out who we are most like in the passage.  We can discover very surprising things when we allow ourselves to be vulnerable enough to take only what God wants to give us from scripture.  In the third step we allow ourselves to speak to God directly from our hearts.  These prayers don’t have to be beautifully worded or artistic, you just have to mean them!  In the final step, we rest and allow ourselves to be transformed by the things the Holy Spirit is telling us.  Lectio Divina isn’t quite as mysterious as it sounds, and at first it can be difficult but it opens up a whole new world of interesting Bible discoveries!
                In a typical homily, the priest will probably try to do a sort of “condensed Lectio Divina” with the congregation.  The priest will try to give some historical background to the readings if it is necessary, and then he will talk about how we can take the words and make changes in our life with them.  Homilies are absolutely necessary, however a priest can only make general statements whereas when you meditate for yourself, you can be more personal.  For example, a priest might say in his homily that through the readings for that day, God is telling us that we need to be charitable and generous toward people.  But through further meditation and contemplation, you find that God is calling you to be charitable and generous by volunteering at a soup kitchen.  As Catholics we tend to be very Eucharist centered, which is not at all a bad thing, but sometimes we forget that we have to pay attention to the readings at mass too!
                That’s it for today!  I challenge you to take time once or twice a week and try to practice Lectio Divina with the mass readings for that day.  This is a very silent and meditative kind of prayer and you might find that it takes a long time to do, especially if you don’t try it often.  Trust in the Holy Spirit, He will guide you! I’m praying for you all and I will talk to you again soon!
Through Christ who strengthens me,

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Parts of the Mass-Preparation

              Hey Catholic teens!  I decided that over the next few weeks I am going to write about different parts of the mass and why they’re important.  I think a lot of Catholics think mass is boring, but I say that if we really understood the kind of mystery we are taking part in at mass there’s no way we could be bored!  In order to kick of this series of posts, I’m going to talk about how we can properly prepare ourselves for mass.  I think that preparing for mass is something that is kind of overlooked today, but it’s a really important step if we are going to fully take part in the sacrament.
                Before we go to mass, we should look up the readings for that day and spend a few minutes thinking about how the readings reflect on each other.  Is there a message from the first reading that applies to the second one as well?  What is Jesus telling us in the gospel?  Then we should think about how we can bring these messages into our day.  We don’t just go to mass, we have to pray the mass.  The Catechism says “By the Eucharistic celebration we already unite ourselves with the heavenly liturgy and anticipate eternal life, when God will be all in all.” (CCC 1326). By reflecting on the readings before mass and then listening to the priest’s homily during the celebration, we take an active part in our personal transformation that comes from receiving the Eucharist. 
                Another important component to preparing ourselves for mass is silence.  Before we go to mass we should always try to put ourselves in a prayerful and quiet disposition, but this is most important when we are in the church getting ready for mass to start. When we are waiting for mass to start, we should not be talking to the people around us or reading the bulletin.  We need to try to be silent and reflective because in silence we find out a lot about ourselves.  Just ask anyone who has ever been on a silent retreat, they will probably say that they learned more about themselves than ever before!  When we contemplate who we are, we are also reflecting on who God is because we are made in His image and likeness and we are the body of Christ! 
                We know as Catholics that we have an obligation to go to mass every Sunday, but that is the minimum requirement!  If our school and work schedule permits, we should go to mass as often as possible.  Why?  The Catechism says “The Eucharist is ‘the source and summit of the Christian life.’ The other sacraments, and indeed all ecclesiastical ministries and works of the apostolate, are bound up with the Eucharist and are oriented toward it. For in the blessed Eucharist is contained the whole spiritual good of the Church, namely Christ himself, our Pasch.” (CCC 1324). 
                St. Josemaria Escriva said that he would divide up each day into 2 parts.  After mass in the morning he would spend the first part of the day giving thanks to God for the Holy Communion he had received, and the other half of the day he would spend preparing himself for the mass he would celebrate the next day.  He said,” We have to do all we can to make the Mass devout, for ourselves and for other people. We can’t – and please don’t – waste all that infinite, centripetal force that sums up all of God’s gifts in this one supreme Sacrifice.”
                Over the next few weeks, challenge yourself to have discipline and go to mass as often as your schedule permits.  Reflect on the readings and allow yourself to be silent so that you can enter into the mystery more profoundly.  I’m praying for all of you and I will talk to you again in 2 weeks!
Through Christ who strengthens me,

Sunday, July 29, 2012


"Jesus went across the Sea of Galilee.A large crowd followed him,because they saw the signs he was performing on the sick.Jesus went up on the mountain,and there he sat down with his disciples.The Jewish feast of Passover was near.When Jesus raised his eyes and saw that a large crowd was coming to him,he said to Philip,"Where can we buy enough food for them to eat?"He said this to test him,because he himself knew what he was going to do.Philip answered him,"Two hundred days wages worth of food would not be enough for each of them to have a little.'"One of his disciples,Andrew, the brother of Simon Peter, said to him,"There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish;but what good are these for so many?"
Jesus said, "Have the people recline."Now there was a great deal of grass in that place.So the men reclined,about five thousand in number.Then Jesus took the loaves, gave thanks,and distributed them to those who were reclining,and also as much of the fish as they wanted.When they had  their fill, he said to his disciples,"Gather the fragments left over,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.When the people saw the sign he had done, they said,"This is truly the Prophet, the one who is to come into the world."Since Jesus knew that they were going to come and carry him off to make him king, he withdrew again to the mountain alone".(Jn 6:1-15) You may recognize this? its the readings from Mass today. I know I have often read this and just been like "wow that's awesome" but it has so much more! Jesus could have  just said the word "food" and poof there it is. But he didn't, he asked "Where can we buy enough food for them to eat?" and Philip was like um dude we don't have no money. Jesus wanted to see what the disciples would do. It's the same for us, Jesus has given us a gift and he is waiting to see what we are going to do with it. Think of it like this if I gave you $1,000,000 and you went out and bought an awesome car, a huge house,and married a super model, and I called you up and said "I am going to come visit" so you get everything ready and I come and we have a great time and I say as I am getting ready to leave "are you happy?"  You tell me yes and thank me a million times for giving you such an awesome gift and then I tell you that when I gave you that $1,000,000, on the same day I invested it in three different things and today it is worth triple what it was the day I gave it to you! Would you still be happy? Or would you ask me why I didn't tell you to invest it? If I told you what to do with your gift I would be using your gift, not mine. God gives us the choice to multiply our investments, we need to make the right choice and use our gifts for Gods greater glory, not ours. Our lives should be a reflection of Jesus's life and to do that we need to know how he lived. Read the gospels, know the word of God, pray daily that he will show you how to use your gifts to His greater glory, and give God your all, surrender all that you have and all that you are to Jesus. I know he is on our side and he won't let us down, he said "ask and you shall receive, seek and you will find."(Matt 7:7) Ask him, seek him with all that you are. God is all or nothing "No one can serve two masters...." (Matt 6:24)there is no world and God. If we are going to be followers of Christ we need to follow him all the way not just until the road gets rough ,but right into the line of fire! We need to lay down our lives so that Christ can live in us. In our society everything we want is right at our fingertips, in this fast paced world we need to remember that God is first and everything else second! Until next time may God bless you!!! 


Sunday, July 22, 2012

It Will Only Cost You Your Life!

Hey Catholic teens!  So today I’m talking about vocations!  This one is mainly geared towards vocations for women to the religious life, but there’s definitely some information in here that could be useful for men too.  First I’d like to quote a passage of scripture that I’m sure everyone has heard before, and then we will talk about how it relates to vocations. This passage, Mark 6:24-44, actually begins where the Gospel reading from today ends.
When he disembarked and saw the vast crowd, his heart was moved with pity for them, for they were like sheep without a shepherd; and he began to teach them many things.  By now it was already late and his disciples approached him and said,” This is a deserted place and it is already very late.  Dismiss them so that they can go to the surrounding farms and villages and buy themselves something to eat.”  He said to them in reply, “Give them some food yourselves.” But they said to him,” Are we to buy two hundred days’ wages worth of food and give it to them to eat?”  He asked them,” How many loaves do you have? Go and see.” And when they had found out they said,” Five loaves and two fish.” So he gave orders to have them sit down in groups on the green grass.  The people took their places in rows by hundreds and by fifties.  Then, taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he said the blessing, broke the loaves, and gave them to his disciples to set before the people; he also divided the two fish among them all. They all ate and were satisfied. And they picked up twelve wicker baskets full of fragments and what was left of the fish.  Those who ate were five thousand men.
                I always thought that this passage was interesting because here, what Jesus DIDN’T do is just as important as what he actually did.  So Jesus is teaching lots of people and after a while they are hungry but the disciples only had five loaves of bread and two fish with them.  First I’d like to point out that Jesus is God, and God is omnipotent.  When He found out there wasn’t enough food, He could’ve said,” Hey, Peter! Throw me that rock over there; I’m going to change it into two thousand loaves of bread!”  That way, He wouldn’t have even had to take the loaves and fish from the disciples; He could’ve just made more.  But that’s not what He does.  Instead, He takes all the bread and fish the disciples had and feeds everyone from multiplying those.  In other words-God called the disciples at that time to give Him everything they had in order to do more with it than they could’ve ever imagined.  And notice-He gave everything back to them, and more.
                When God calls a woman to a religious vocation, He asks her to give up everything she has to follow him, just like the first apostles.  Truly, a young woman even gives up her life so that God may take it and do even greater things with it.  No, the woman isn’t actually dying when I say that she “gives up her life.”  But in a way, she does die to the world-she renounces owning anything, having an earthly spouse, and her will and her desires.  In fact, the concept of giving up your life is a central idea to the religious life, and it is reflected in many practices and traditions of the different orders.  The website for the Poor Clares of Perpetual Adoration at the Our Lady of the Angels Monastery (the order Mother Angelica belongs to) says,” The black outer part of the veil is a sign that the nun is dead to the world.  Inside, the veil is white-this symbolizes the glory of Heaven. This white part is partially hidden by the black to symbolize that those who are ‘of the world’ cannot see the reward that is to come.  Wearing this veil is the nun's witness to that reward.  From the reading from Mark, we know that God took everything the disciples had and did more with it than they could do on their own.  In the same way, when God calls a woman to religious life, He is calling her to do more with herself than she could ever do without Him as her spouse.  And really, it will only cost her her life. 
                In the responsorial psalm this morning, we heard that “The Lord is my Shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.”  This also applies to the passage from Mark and to the religious life because after everyone was fed, they were able to fill up twelve baskets of extra fish.  When the Lord asks you to give Him your life, there is no reason to think that He won’t give you back something better.  The Lord is our shepherd-did you know that sheep are very dumb?  They can’t tell when there is danger, and they’ll walk right into trouble.  The shepherd’s job then is to lead the sheep to food, shelter, safety, and anything else that they need, because the sheep can’t provide those things for themselves.  And the shepherd loves his sheep, so he is going to lead them to the best food and the safest places and protect them, but the sheep have to be willing to give up their control to the shepherd.  In case you haven’t figured it out, God is the shepherd and we are the sheep.  God doesn’t ask us to give anything up if he isn’t going to put something more majestic in its place. 
                If you’re a young person discerning a call to the religious life, don’t be afraid of what God might have planned for you.  Pray about your future, go to mass as often as possible, and spend time with Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament.  Most importantly though, be patient.  If there’s one thing I’ve learned from the discernment process, it’s that you may have your life scheduled and planned out, but God doesn’t work on YOUR schedule.  I’m praying for all of you and I hope you have a wonderful couple of weeks!
Through Christ who strengthens me,

Monday, July 16, 2012

Combating Complacency

               Hey Catholic ladies!  As some of you know, I got to go visit the Franciscan University of Steubenville in Steubenville, Ohio a couple weeks ago.  I was there for a few days and I’d like to talk about a thought that occurred to me while I was praying after mass in the campus’s main chapel.  There’s a running joke on the university’s campus that “only at Franciscan will the lines for confession be longer than the lines for the cafeteria!”  For some reason during mass that joke popped into my head.  And sitting there in the pew, I thought to myself,” How can the lines for confession be so long HERE of all places?  If you’re in such a holy place, what sins could people really be committing here?”  And that’s when I realized that sin can hide.  It turns out that the enemy himself likes a good game of hide-and-go-seek too.  There are ways the devil uses hide and go seek to lead us to draw closer to him, sometimes without even realizing it.  I’ve learned that the devil can be the most dangerous when we stop believing that he is a problem. 
                When you go to a place with holy people, like Franciscan, a convent, a youth retreat, etc., you wonder what people could possibly have to say in confession.  You wonder how people could sin if they are surrounded every day by holiness.  But when we think that way, we start to compare our own spirituality with that of the people around us.  We think to ourselves that if I’m dressing more modestly than that girl, then I must be ok, even if I show up to mass in a miniskirt and tank top.  We think to ourselves that if I pray longer than that guy, then I must be ok, even if I’m not even concentrating on the prayers I’m saying.  The devil makes us think that our own journey to holiness is about superficiality-like the length of my skirt or the number of minutes spent in prayer.  In situations like this, we are convinced that the devil is hiding because this battle goes on entirely in our minds.  We can’t physically see other people sinning because these sins happen when the devil convinces us that we are better than those around us so we don’t need to try to be any holier.  If you are not striving for God, you have already started to turn away from him.  Because of our complacency, the devil is making us seek him instead of God by telling us that we are close enough to God!  What a grave sin complacency is! We should never be complacent with where we are in our spiritual lives, we should always be striving to be closer to God.  James 4:8 tells us “Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you.” Don’t let the devil convince you that he is not there.  There will ALWAYS be opportunities to sin.  The devil is most dangerous when he can make us believe that he isn’t a threat.    
                So how can we resist the devil most effectively?  We have to always be striving for union with God.  We have to trust the knowledge that we have learned about Him.  The Bible tells us to pray without ceasing, which doesn’t necessarily mean that we have to spend all day in a church, but it means that we need to go about our day with God always in mind.  There is no clearer way that God speaks to us than through the Bible-so read it!  There’s always a spiritual battle going on-unfortunately the devil wants us to turn away from God just as much as God wants us to turn toward Him!  We can never be complacent with where we are spiritually, which means that we need to be trying to be holier every single day.  God calls us every day to live holy and faithful lives, and let’s not let him down!
                Think about these things and reflect on times when you might have listened to the devil instead of listening to God.  A Catholic who strives for holiness goes back through her spiritual battles to see where she went wrong and where she can improve, the same way that an athlete who strives for greatness goes back through his games to see where he can improve his skills.  I hope everyone has a fun couple of weeks and I will keep you all in my prayers!
Through Christ who strengthens me,

Men of God?

In my life I have been blessed to have great guys in my family. Guys who know how to lead, how to be loving, how to be true men. In our society today most young guys are looking for good role models, but they're looking in all the wrong places. We search our culture today in hopes of finding someone we can look up to in our lives, someone who has what we want. Most of the time we think we know what we want, things like money, power, and pleasure. These things are lies! They make us think that we are happy and  that everything is fine, but what we really are feeling is pain and sorrow. Bl. Pope John Paul the 2 said this, “It is Jesus that you seek when you dream of happiness; He is waiting for you when nothing else you find satisfies you; He is the beauty to which you are so attracted; it is He who provoked you with that thirst for fullness that will not let you settle for compromise; it is He who urges you to shed the masks of a false life; it is He who reads in your heart your most genuine choices, the choices that others try to stifle.
It is Jesus who stirs in you the desire to do something great with your lives, the will to follow an ideal, the refusal to allow yourselves to be ground down by mediocrity, the courage to commit yourselves humbly and patiently to improving yourselves and society, making the world more human and more fraternal.” Guys this is the truth, JP2 didn't lie to us! If you are thinking "WHY, why do I feel like nothing is working for me, nothing makes me happy, nothing makes me joyful" Then my brothers in Christ, maybe it's time you turned yourself  over to the great God who created you , let him be your role model, let him be your guide. To be a true MAN you must know the true MAN..... Jesus...... because how else can you come to be a man if you have never  seen a man who knows Jesus and works daily to show Him to you, or unless you know Jesus and desire to live like him and strive every day to live like Jesus. Maybe you are like me and have a great dad who does strive every day to live like Jesus. He teaches me and my brothers to do the same. Maybe your dad doesn't know Jesus and what I am talking about just doesn't make sense to you, but you are thinking, "that's it, that's what I need." Maybe you don't have a dad to look up to at all, for whatever reason. Let me tell you all something though, No matter who you are, or what your background is, Jesus doesn't care, He will take you from where you are and raise you up to new a new life in him, because our God is a merciful God, our God is an awesome God! There is a lack of understanding of what a true man is. A true man is a man who dies to himself to serve others every day!!!!! We need to learn as young men to serve others, to give up our wants, to serve our great and awesome God. This blog is here for all teens and young people who are searching for something great in life, searching for truth, searching for Christ, searching for happiness. Always remember JP2's words throughout your life "Jesus is what you seek"......find him and never give in to mediocrity. 

May God Bless you all.