Friday, November 25, 2011

Falling in Love with God

“Nothing is more practical than finding God, that is, than falling in a love in a quite absolute, final way. What you are in love with, what seizes your imagination will affect everything. It will decide what will get you out of bed in the mornings, What you will do with your evenings, how you spend your weekends, what you read, who you know, what breaks your heart, and what amazes you with joy and gratitude. Fall in love, stay in love, and it will decide everything.” -Pedro Arrupe, S.J.

I have reflected on this beautiful quote from a Jesuit Priest throughout my life in the seminary and priesthood. It seems to reappear from time to time and causes me to reflect on my own relationship with God. In some way, everyone desires true love. In fact, at times, the desire is so strong some individuals may seem to simply settle in order to achieve what they believe to be "true love". How true it is that the love of another can seize one's imagination and affect everything. It does indeed determine how we spend our days or what we do with our time. Think about the last time you fell in love. Did you think about the person constantly? Did you look for every moment to have contact with that person? Did you desire to do much for that special one?

As a celibate priest, I often reflect on my own love of God and the Church I serve. So many people often wonder how a person could give up marriage and family for celibate living. Others question a person's true motives. Yet, still others believe it is just not possible. St. Paul reminds us in his letter to the Corinthians that an unmarried man is anxious about how to please the Lord while a married man is anxious about the things of the world, how he may please his wife and he is divided. He further adds the distinction between the unmarried and married woman (1 Cor 7:32-34). Jesus speaks about how some have renounced marriage for the sake of the Kingdom of Heaven and cautions that not all can accept this word, but only those to whom that it is granted (Matt 19:11-12).

My purpose for writing upon this was not to defend the celibacy of priests nor to imply that married couples are not anxious about the things of the Lord. My desire was to reflect upon God 's invitation into a relationship of love. No matter ones state in life as a single, married, or ordained person, God invites us into a union of profound love. To find God and to fall more deeply in love with God each new day no matter our calling. To allow God to seize our imagination. To let God be the reason we get out of bed and what we do with our day. Perhaps some may believe, as I have accepted, I have a greater responsibility as a priest to fall in love with God. In fact, the only reason why I may have a greater responsibility is to remind others, just as Christ, that the invitation is not for me alone, rather it is indeed an invitation for us all!

We are about to begin the Season of Advent leading to the greatest gift, the celebration of the Birth of Christ at Christmas. Society tells us to stand in line for the great bargains on Black Friday to get that perfect gift. We also do so much to prepare our homes with Christmas decorations and to plan our Christmas parties. And although we do get caught up in some of those things, may we not forget to do the most important preparation. To prepare our hearts and souls to accept the invitation by God to fall in love. When was the last time we waited in line to get into a Church? When was the last time we prepared our soul with the Sacrament of Reconciliation? When was the last time we gave ourselves as a gift to God as God has given us the greatest gift of His only Son?

My dear friends, as we prepare for Christmas, let us not forget:

Fall in love with God! Stay in love with God! For it will truly decide everything and will for all eternity!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

From Your Heart

"While you are proclaiming peace with your lips, be careful to have it even more fully in your heart."  - St. Francis of Assisi

Earlier this month on October 4 we celebrated in the Church the feast day for St. Francis of Assisi. A man of faith called to action in the service of God and Church. There are few people that their words continue to ring so true so many years after their death. For me, St. Francis is one of those people. I have always held close to my heart that other famous quote by St. Francis, "Preach the Gospel always, if necessary use words." That quote has always been so powerful to me. To know that first and foremost, you and I, are called to preach the Gospel of Jesus the Christ through our actions. Before we can beautifully state our belief in Christ through our words we must first and more powerfully be willing to live it.

More recently, as I was preparing to celebrate the Memorial of St. Francis, I came across a new quote I hadn't heard before attributed to St. Francis. It reads, "While you are proclaiming peace with your lips, be careful to have it even more fully in your heart." This reminds me that we can do a lot of exterior things in our life many of which are good, but for it to really have value and true meaning, it must flow from our heart. We can not simply use lip service or do things half heartily. It has to extend from the depths of who we are created in the image and likeness of God. It is only when we give from the heart that we can bring about change and be willing to truly lay down our lives for another.

Thursday, September 1, 2011


Getting into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, he asked him to put out a short distance from the shore. Then he sat down and taught the crowds from the boat. After he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, "Put out into deep water and lower your nets for a catch." Simon said in reply, "Master, we have worked hard all night and have caught nothing, but at your command I will lower the nets." When they had done this, they caught a great number of fish and their nets were tearing. Luke 5:3-6

Jesus desires to share and teach His words of Everlasting Life. He wants to sit in the boat of our life and reveal His Kingdom and our participation in it. Unfortunately all too often and quickly we can be stubborn. Before really listening, we are tempted to tell the Lord our plans, our desires, and reveal our notion of the Kingdom. We are tempted to tell Jesus, “I want to do it my way!” Or like in the Gospel reading above, we can grow frustrated with challenges or lack of results in our lives. We might even say to Jesus, “I’ve already done it my way Lord, what makes you think your way will have any more success!” Yet, through it all, the Lord asks us to trust! He invites us to put out into the deep water and lower our nets. Trust that He does indeed have a PLAN for you and for me, a PLAN that gives new life and new life in abundance. A PLAN that although it will bring with it a Cross, it will provide us with more than we can ever imagine or hope. I pray that when we are tempted to think, we know better or when we grow weary in trying to do it our way, we not forget Jesus’ invitation to trust, trust Him by going into the deep and lowering our nets for a catch!

Saturday, August 20, 2011

World Youth Day 2011 Madrid, Spain

Pope Benedict XVI in speaking to the youth of the world reflected on the Stations of the Cross: "Let us look upon Christ, hanging on the harsh wood of the Cross, and let us ask him to teach us this mysterious wisdom of the Cross, by which man lives. The Cross was not a sign of failure, but an expression of self-giving in love that extends even to the supreme sacrifice of one’s life. The Father wanted to show his love for us through the embrace of his crucified Son: crucified out of love. The Cross, by its shape and its meaning, represents this love of both the Father and the Son for men. Here we recognize the icon of supreme love, which teaches us to love what God loves and in the way that he loves: this is the Good News that gives hope to the world."

There are thousands and thousands of Catholic Youth from throughout the world gathered together for World Youth Day 2011 in Madrid, Spain. Throughout the course of five days they have been praying, learning, and enjoying their Catholic faith. Pope Benedict continues to inspire the youth with a message of faith and love. May the symbol of the Cross be a sign of hope not of failure. May we learn the true meaning of Love and share it with one another. May we be a sign of Hope this world so desperately needs! God bless.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

What Now?

Have you ever noticed that it is so easy in life to be joyous when things are going well?  Happiness is so easy to find when everything seems to be just fine. Sometimes things are going so well that we forget to thank God for the blessings in our lives. Yet, the moment things take the turn for the worst, who do we go to? We go to God! Sometimes we go to God for help or strength. Others times we may even blame God. If the struggle is too much, the first question we ask God is why? Why me Lord? How come I have to go through this pain? I believe it is okay to take the time to feel the pain, sit with the sorrow, and to experience the hurt. We should speak with someone and share our experience. For if we do not face the pain, things could get worse, we may even get depressed. However, when the time is right we have to take the next step. We have to ask God a better question than why me? We need to ask what now? God, what are you asking me to take and to learn from this experience? Always remember that the cross stands for something more than death. It signifies new life and salvation. So remember once we face the pain of the cross we must go further to the joy of the resurrection and the new life it brings!

Don't Wait

Throughout our lives, it can be very easy for us to fall into a monotonous expression of living, often referred to as "going through the motions". The danger with this is that very easily we begin to take for granted or fail to see the importance of someone or something in our life. Unfortunately, we wait until it is in danger of slipping away or we lose it all together, before we try to do anything about it. All too often I see this when it comes to a relationship with God, family and friendships. As I have come to experience, often in ministering to people in times of sickness and even death, there are two things we take most for granted: our relationship with God and our relationships with family/friends. In the end, our relationship with God and our family/friends is truly what matters most. I invite you to give some thought today about the relationships in your life. Where is God and how is your relationship? How are things with members of your family or friendships that are important to you? Is there anything you need to say or express? Who do you need to forgive and perhaps be reconciled with? Stop going through the motions, stop taking these relationships for granted, don't wait until it is too late!

Life is a Journey

Life is a journey. Along the way there are reasons to celebrate and moments to cry. There will be opportunities for questions and periods of silence. For the most part the journey is made alone. No one else can walk in our shoes. No one else can finish the race we started.

Very few people if not God alone knows just how much each of us have traveled and endured on our journey.  God alone knows the fullness of the pain, hurt and disappointment. God alone sees every challenge, problem, and difficulty encountered along the way. 

From time to time, there is a need, desire, and longing to invite someone else to enter, to walk and to be part of the journey. 

As a Priest, I often feel so humbled and blessed when I am invited to walk with somebody as they make their journey. To sit, listen and be invited to share with someone’s pain or joy is something that changes me time and time again. This is not because I am “more special” or that I am a "better listener" than others, it is simply because I am a Priest! I am called to be another Christ. Sure at times it can be a challenge but over and over again I feel so blessed.  I get to learn each time I am invited to walk with someone else. The thing I have learned most along the journey is just how little I know about the other person I am so privileged to accompany. At times I think I have a general idea about the other person, but most of the time I am just blown away as I listen to the story.

It is very easy no matter who we are to make judgments, form opinions, and to think we know best. We assume we know the entire story. Oh how little we do in fact know! Before we assume and think we can walk in the other persons’ shoes, let us take a moment to pause. Let us take a moment to listen and to really hear the story.  Let us spend the moment just being with the other. For none of us know how long we will be privileged to walk with another in this journey we call life.

Highs and Lows

Ministry is much like life, there are highs and there are lows! Nothing compares with the highs. In my ministry the highs are what feed me and guide me. They give me strength and sustain me. Whether those highs are deep and profound like offering the Sacraments of the Church each day or calmer and quieter like listening to the stories of others. These are the moments that make it so much easier to see the presence of God.  

Regardless of what each day may bring, for me it is an opportunity for learning and growing. Seeing each day as a blessing is what I believe is an attitude for true success in life. I say this because sooner or later the lows will come. The lows which I choose to see more as challenges or bumps in the road will provoke a whole new emotion. The lows will do everything they can to bring you down or rain on your parade. Unfortunately, each of us will encounter lows in life and can do very little to avoid them. There will be moments of sadness and pain. There will be times when we just ask, why me?

So when those lows do come, we must not sit and drown in the pain. Rather we are to stand up, lift up our head and see where God is at work doing something new. God is always close at work and just as quickly as things can take a wrong turn, God is looking to bring the brightness of a new day into our midst to strengthen and renew us. Once we are renewed and experience the high of a new day, may you and I in turn look to help brighten another person's day.