Friday, December 14, 2012

Draw near to God

In the midst of the senseless violence and the loss of innocent life in Newtown, Connecticut, may we remember the words of St. John of the Cross who we remember this day:

"In tribulation immediately draw near to God with confidence, and you will receive strength, enlightenment, and instruction.”

The nation mourns, but before we want answers or choose to get angry let us first draw near to God.

There is no new gun law, no death penalty verdict, or deep desire to get even that will erase this behavior in our world. It is turning to God, who through His Son our Lord Jesus Christ, commands us to love.

People don't just grow into killers one day, it is the absence of genuine love in their life, which we as humans need.

Be an example of love not hate this day and everyday!

Wednesday, November 7, 2012


A Christian knows when it is time to speak of God and when it is better to say nothing and to let love alone speak. He knows that God is love and that God's presence is felt 
at the very time when the only thing we do is to love. --- Pope Benedict XVI
Wow! Many people today are saying those words after the ending of an intense election in the States. Those “wows” don’t just come from one side but all sides for many different reasons. There are those who are joyful, some others painfully disappointed and still others unsure and questioning, “Is this what we have become?”

As many of you who know me, I am a quiet and observant. Not quick to judge or to make my voice heard. I like to pause, reflect, and then speak. Always praying and hoping my words may not be just my own, but that of the Gospel, which I strive to live. I know I do not always perfect the Gospel in my own life, but I only pray that I never grow weary of striving towards its fulfillment each day.

As I have watched and listened over the many months, both up close and from afar, I could not help but to think, “Is this what we have become?” From the bickering and complaining, to hurtful and ungodly Facebook postings, to the media who no longer seek the facts nor the truth but their own version of it, “Is this what we have become?”

On a personal note, something more disappointing then the decisiveness in the country is the division within the Church. Catholics arguing amongst Catholics, blame, judgment, and finger pointing towards one another, not to mention the very little time taken to neither listen nor learn.

I truly believe this is where the problem lies. We have stopped listening and learning. We tend to think we have our truth and if we shout it the loudest everyone else will have to accept it as the truth.

This past Sunday, I was reminded by Jesus in the Gospel of Mark of the words first spoken to the Israelites in Deuteronomy 6:4-6. It reads, Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is Lord alone! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength. Take to heart these words which I command you today. These same words Jesus reiterates in Mark 12:29-31, with an additional command: the second is this: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. For Jesus, these two commands sums up the totality and basis of the Law.

Something worth noting is said before the commands are given, it reads, “HEAR, O ISRAEL.” To first hear, we must stop to listen. Not to argue, nor assume, not give our personal opinion, nor put forth our own commands, but first to hear!

I am in all in favor of civil discourse and even disagreement, but something I cannot favor is never taking time to listen and learn. And yet before we even can position ourselves to listen to one another, we must first listen to God. God lays forth the commands. God gives us the ways for moral living. Humans don’t make them up, society cannot pick and choose which ones we would like to live by and others we feel like casting aside. My professor a few days ago told his students, “for justice to work we need moral absolutes which are the backbone for every civil code and society.” I recently read an article that said,

“Many of the people in the world around us embrace divergent worldviews, and many of their views contradict the Christian perspective. As a result, it’s often difficult to get people to even consider the Christian version of moral accountability. In fact, many resist the notion that there is an absolute moral code that comes from a source higher than themselves. When considering the existence of moral truths, the questions are simple: “Does morality come from people or does morality come from God?” “Does our society shape our moral beliefs, or are they handed down to us from God?” If we, as people, are the source of moral truth then we can simply follow our own path. But if morality comes from a source greater than ourselves, we have an obligation to that source and we ought to at least make an effort to identify the source of all moral truth... Transcendent moral truths have great value in that they provide protection from irresponsible behaviors that ultimately hurt each of us (individually) and hurt our relationship with God. It’s been said that “good fences make good neighbors” because fences allow each neighbor to know his or her boundaries. In a similar way, “good fences (moral codes) make good people” because they delineate the moral boundaries that ultimately protect us from doing wrong. It’s not enough for us to embrace and accept a particular moral code. We first need to think clearly about the SOURCE of that moral code. If the source is transcendent and unchanging, we will come to recognize that moral truths are not trivial and transient; they are as fixed unchanging as their source. If this is true, then we are less likely to exchange them whenever we please to meet our human desires.”

Every person, family, community or society has a system of rules that governs its living. For a person to deny this would be foolish. But what governs your system of rules? Where do you learn your values, principles, rights, and wrongs? Are they universal or particular? Do they change with the latest poll or popular opinion? Should it be left to an individual or group to determine today what is wrong and tomorrow what is right? Or should it be left to a SOURCE that is transcendent and unchanging? A SOURCE, which is not looking to change with the latest polls nor is interested in the popular vote. A SOURCE, which creates order out of disorder and brings redemption from suffering. A SOURCE that perhaps we should all take a little more time to spend with, listen to and learn from!

Only from God does true revolution come... the definitive way to change the world. 
- Pope Benedict XVI

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Be Challenged

Nothing is equal to prayer; for what is impossible it makes possible, what is difficult, easy. . . .  For it is impossible, utterly impossible, for the man who prays eagerly and invokes God ceaselessly ever to sin. -St. John Chrysostom

This past week thanks to the Scriptures and our house superior here in Rome, Msgr. Kelly, I was confronted with two questions that challenged me to reflect deeper. These two challenges can impact the life of any believer, thus, I wish to share them with all of you. The first challenge: Do I put God above ALL things in my life? The second challenge: What keeps me from putting God above ALL things and do I have the courage to CUT IT OUT of my life?

Wow, talk about challenging questions. At first, my immediate response to the two questions is 100% yes! I would desperately like to believe that God is above all else in my life and that I have the courage to cut out anything that comes between God and me. However, in all honesty and upon further reflection, I have to admit unfortunately, the answer is no, not always. Those two questions confront me to more concretely ask myself, "What else do I put before God?" and "Why is it so hard to cut it out of my life?"

Each of us in our journey of faith need to be confronted with tough questions so as to not remain stagnate nor too lax. We are confronted day in and day out with distractions that keep us from putting God above all things. Some of those distractions are not necessarily evil or wrong, nevertheless, they can remain an obstacle that does not enhance our relationship with God.

Oh, how I wish it was so easy as the Gospel calls us to cut it off or to pluck it out of our lives. But then again if it were easy to do so, perhaps it isn't as much as an obstacle as we may believe. Yet, if it is difficult, will I have the courage and the trust to remove it from my life? Is it worth losing our eternal reward as the Gospel reminds us, it is better to enter into life crippled than to be thrown into Gehenna (Mk 9:47-48). Is anything in this life worth losing our eternal inheritance? I would imagine we would all say no, yet, many times we continue not to put God above all things! We continue to allow the distractions of this world to come between God and us.

So, what are we to do? Do we throw are hands in the air and give up? Do we really believe it just isn't possible? The answer to these questions is not easy, but there is really only one answer, PRAYER. Prayer has to be much more than petition. We cannot just simply allow prayer to be a list of needs that we have for God! Sure God tells us to ask for what we need, but it cannot be reduced to that alone. Prayer is about relationship and communication with our God. Prayer is about reminding ourselves who is God and who we are before God's presence. Prayer helps us to connect and thus be able to trust that God's grace will give us the strength to live for God alone. Living for God alone doesn't isolate us, rather, it enhances our gifts and enables us to greater respond to our call from God. Prayer reminds us it will all be okay and that when we put God first, rather than our desires or emotions, we will encounter greater joy, purpose, and meaning for our lives.

It may come as I surprise to some but I too don't always "feel" like praying. But I am sure a mom doesn't always "feel" like waking up at 3am for a crying baby nor a father always "feel" like working 12 hour days to provide for his family. Yet, the mother and father do and we must because love isn't only about "feelings" it is much about sacrifice. And it is in sacrifice that one can in unexpected ways encounter joy, purpose and meaning in their life.

Catechism of the Church

2726 In the battle of prayer, we must face in ourselves and around us erroneous notions of prayer. Some people view prayer as a simple psychological activity, others as an effort of concentration to reach a mental void. Still others reduce prayer to ritual words and postures. Many Christians unconsciously regard prayer as an occupation that is incompatible with all the other things they have to do: they "don't have the time." Those who seek God by prayer are quickly discouraged because they do not know that prayer comes also from the Holy Spirit and not from themselves alone.

2727 We must also face the fact that certain attitudes deriving from the mentality of "this present world" can penetrate our lives if we are not vigilant. For example, some would have it that only that is true which can be verified by reason and science; yet prayer is a mystery that overflows both our conscious and unconscious lives. Others overly prize production and profit; thus prayer, being unproductive, is useless. Still others exalt sensuality and comfort as the criteria of the true, the good, and the beautiful; whereas prayer, the "love of beauty" (philokalia), is caught up in the glory of the living and true God. Finally, some see prayer as a flight from the world in reaction against activism; but in fact, Christian prayer is neither an escape from reality nor a divorce from life.

2728 Finally, our battle has to confront what we experience as failure in prayer: discouragement during periods of dryness; sadness that, because we have "great possessions," we have not given all to the Lord; disappointment over not being heard according to our own will; wounded pride, stiffened by the indignity that is ours as sinners; our resistance to the idea that prayer is a free and unmerited gift; and so forth. The conclusion is always the same: what good does it do to pray? To overcome these obstacles, we must battle to gain humility, trust, and perseverance.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

The Journey Continues

So many people have been supportive of me during this time of transition so I wanted to thank you by putting together this video of my adventure thus far. I hope you like. May you always know God is with you on your journey! 


Friday, September 21, 2012

New Beginnings

So it begins. Yesterday I began my journey to Rome. As are with most transitions in life, there are a mixture of emotions. Excitement at a wonderful new opportunity, yet at the same time the unanswered questions and the challenges that await a new way of life. I imagine it's the mixture of emotions that are inside so many of us. The newly wed couple, the college bound 18 year old or the young priest heading to Rome for further studies. In life with every new step comes both the excitement and the anxiety of what the future holds. The knowledge that life will go on, but also thinking it probably won't be the same. Forced to confront this reality, questions do arise. Will things work out? Will I be okay? How will life be different? Perhaps it's a little over dramatic, but I do believe that in this life these are just a few of the questions we encounter along the transitions of life. Certainly it can't be compared with the grieving parents, the cancer stricken father or the divorced or widowed spouse. These transitions don't provide much excitement or any joy. Yet the same questions do arise. Will things work out? Will I be okay? How will life be different?

In a world where we expect a quick answer to many of life's questions at the click of a google search, facing transitions where there is no quick or easy answer can be frustrating and difficult. Why can't we just know what will happen next? Why don't we just hear God's voice speak to us crystal clear as a voice of a parent to a child saying, "it will all be okay!"

So what do we do when life's questions are not so quickly answered? We turn to God's word, God's revelation, God's promise. In Psalm 37:5 we are invited, "Commit your way to the LORD; trust that God will act." And Isaiah 30:15 we hear, "For thus said the Lord GOD, the Holy One of Israel: By waiting and by calm you shall be saved, in quiet and in trust your strength lies" and in Hebrews 6:15, "And so, after patient waiting, he obtained the promise." You see, God does speak to us. God does tell us it will be okay! Perhaps not always with the straight lines we draw for ourselves but after all we must remember, God says in Isaiah 42:16, "I will lead the blind on their journey; by paths unknown I will guide them. I will turn darkness into light before them, and make crooked ways straight. These things I do for them, and I will not forsake them."

And so as Scripture reminds us, no matter where we may be or what we are going through, if we are committed to God, we trust God will act, and we are patient, God will not forsake us, rather God will show forth His promise, a promise of new life, a new beginning!

"Today, as you see, I am going the way of all men. So now acknowledge with your whole heart and soul that not one of all the promises the LORD, your God, made to you has remained unfulfilled. Every promise has been fulfilled for you, with not one single exception." - Joshua 23:14

Tuesday, August 21, 2012


What is Apollos, after all, and what is Paul? Ministers through whom you became believers, just as the Lord assigned each one. I planted, Apollos watered, but God caused the growth. Therefore, neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who causes the growth. The one who plants and the one who waters are equal, and each will receive wages in proportion to his labor. For we are God’s co-workers; you are God’s field, God’s building. – 1 Cor 3:5-9

Anyone who knows me well will know that I am not much of a gardener.  However, the most oblivious of plant growers know there are three essential elements to help a plant to grow: sun, water, good soil.

After giving some reflection on the growth of plants and reading scripture, I thought about the growth of plants in connection to our own growth as humans. As the reading above states behind all growth is God. God is the one who ultimately gives life and is the continued sustainer of its growth. In a special way, God invites us to share in the process with one another. 

The first element is good soil. Parents of children have a special responsibility to bring forth new life into good soil. You notice I said, good soil, not perfect soil. We all struggle to grow into that perfect being God calls us to be, but at the same time, we can’t give up or settle. There is so much riding on our participation. A child deserves to be brought up in good soil. As nature demands a child needs a mother and a father. It is then the special responsibility of the parents to provide a healthy living situation for the child to thrive and ultimately grow. 

The second element is the sun. The sun will shine. It will do its part. More importantly God will shine His love and grace into our lives and be ever present and faithful. The light that is so desperately needed will shine whether the soil of our lives is as good as we deserve. We must make it our task as fellow human beings to add the nutrients needed to treat the soil and to enable it to be the best it can be to sustain our growth. Even the weakest of soil when treated and cared for can provide life.

The third element is water. It, too, is essential to continual growth. Rain is perhaps the easiest way the for the land to be watered. However, for rain to come and sustain the life, clouds must form. High above our heads the sun continues to be present, yet for a period of time the clouds will form and pour out rain to nourish the earth. At times the clouds can convince us that maybe the sun isn’t there. Think about it! For the rain to nourish the land the sun must for a moment “go away”. Yet even when the rain falls and darkness comes, one can look around and in the form a rainbow, see a promise that the sun will “come back” again.

In our lives the clouds will come. It will grow darker. And we too may be convinced by others that God isn't there. However, in all honestly we need the rain in our lives for growth to happen. I don’t particular care for rain or sustained periods of cloudy days, just as many of us don’t care for the dark days in our lives. Nevertheless, when the rainy days come and when the sun seems to be gone, we do grow! What can help us appreciate the rain and get us through the cloudy days are the rainbows all around us, for they are the promises that God is ever present!

It is a cycle of life we must all go through. There will be prolonged days of bright sun shining days when we feel on top of the world. When things are just going as planned and we feel very strong in our faith. Then in an instance the clouds form, the darkness comes and the rain falls. We may not want it or care for it, but we cannot deny the importance of rain for our growth. In fact the most noticeable growth that is measured in our lives is after the storm. 

In the end, just like any plant to grow, we need all three! We may not be able to do much about when the sunny days are present or when the rainy days will come, but what we can do and are invited to do is to cultivate the soil in our lives and the lives of others in such a way as to receive both the sun and the rain so as to grow into God's wonderful creation. Let us be God's fields and God's buildings in a world that so desperately needs!

What is Apollos, after all, and what is Paul? Ministers through whom you became believers, just as the Lord assigned each one. I planted, Apollos watered, but God caused the growth. Therefore, neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who causes the growth. The one who plants and the one who waters are equal, and each will receive wages in proportion to his labor. For we are God’s co-workers; you are God’s field, God’s building. – 1 Cor 3:5-9

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Tragedy in Colorado

     A recent news article reads, "Baby of man wounded in Colorado movie theater massacre is born."
     In the midst of a horrible tragedy that has affected the lives of so many people, this headline gave me a moment to smile and have hope. I am often reminded by God in moments of challenge and difficultly that He is truly present and looking to fill us with hope and love. 
     It is the story of the Pascal Mystery which is that of death and new life. In the many funerals services that I have presided over it never fails that I look around the crowd of mourners to see but a reminder of new life in a baby boy or girl. That baby reminds me that life goes on and despite the pain we experience and endure there is reason to have hope as we can see the joy and innocence in the face of that baby. The life of a child has a weird way of reminding us of what is really important. Children can turn our frowns upside down in a mere moment. Children can put things in perspective in ways that the most intelligent of all adults could never do. Children help us to know there is a future and there is newness of life that awaits us all. It doesn't surprise me at all that God would choose to enter the world as a baby boy to remind us of Emmanuel, God is with us. That little child would soon grow up to be our Good Shepherd leading us once more from death of our sins to the newness of life in the Resurrection.
     No one person can ever replace the life of a loved one. Yet we can never forget that even in our pain and in the questions we have, Jesus remains present helping us through and reminding us he is The Good Shepherd who will never abandon us, his sheep.
     So when you and I encounter such unexplainable violence and pain, let us turn from anger and revenge to be bound together in prayer and support keeping our eyes fixed on our God waiting to see where He will bring forth newness of life.

"We hold this treasure in earthen vessels, 
that the surpassing power may be of God and not from us. 
We are afflicted in every way, but not constrained; 
perplexed, but not driven to despair; 
persecuted, but not abandoned; 
struck down, but not destroyed; 
always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus,
so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our body." 
2 Cor 4:7-10

Read more:

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Humanae Vitae

In 1968, Pope Paul VI issued an encyclical on birth control. There were numerous reports that the Pope would approve the use of artificial contraception. However, Pope Paul VI in his famous encyclical, Humanae Vitae, reaffirmed the traditional Catholic teaching on birth control and abortion and now over 40 years later it is regarded by many as prophetic.

He warned of four results if the widespread use of contraceptives was accepted:

1.     General lowering of moral standards
2.     A rise in infidelity, and illegitimacy
3.     The reduction of women to objects used to satisfy men. 
4.     Government coercion in reproductive matters. 

Does that sound familiar? 

It sure sounds like what's been happening for the past 40 years.

5th Sunday of Ordinary Time Reflection

I thought I would share a reflection I put together based upon the readings from the 5th Sunday of Ordinary Time. It is based on the readings:  Job 7:1-4-7, Psalm 147, 1 Corinthians 9:16-23, Mark 1:29-39. I hope there is something that speaks to you. Enjoy.

I have come to realize that at times in each of our lives it is far easier to focus our attention on the negative rather than the positive or on the challenges rather than the blessings. I know that each of us have our share of struggles and certainly there are some whose difficulties seem unbearable. However, in my personal journey of faith and throughout my ministry, I have learned that whenever there are painful and challenging moments there are equally, if not more so, abundant blessings to be seen and experienced. The temptation for all of us is not to simply stare at the negative nor just see what's wrong with me and my situation, but to see what God is doing to fill each of our lives with blessing and strength.

I'm not naive to think this is easy to do, especially when one's world is crashing in like we hear from Job in the first reading today. I, like Job, can easily turn to anger or want to give up when things aren't going my way or when things are not happening according to my plan. Yet, we as Christians can never lose hope. We cannot turn to despair. We must not think that God has forgotten us or takes pleasure in our sufferings. Our faith enables us to trust, to open our eyes to what God is doing and to believe, profess and proclaim with certainty the words of Psalm 147, "Praise the Lord, who heals the brokenhearted." Our God looks to heal us! As the Psalm continues, "He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds."

I believe that God binds our wounds and heals us by sending us the graces and blessings needed to help us persevere in the face of adversity. To not give in or give up! The Gospel today reminds us that God is present and that God looks to heal us. Jesus' purpose was to proclaim this message of hope. Jesus shows us the healing and saving presence of God. Despite our struggle, pain, disappoint, or challenge, God is inviting us to enter into it and await with confidence His redeeming love. God is looking to turn the struggle into victory, the pain into joy, the disappoint into opportunity, and the challenge into triumph.

We, like Jesus, must be rooted in prayer. Prayer will not necessarily remove the pain, but will remind us of God's presence and love despite the cross we bear or sufferings we experience. Prayer will help us to see God's blessings in the midst of any storm. May we use this day as an opportunity to reflect not on where we think God should be acting, but to see where God is present providing us His blessing. May St. Paul inspire each of us with the reason why we persevere, "All this I do for the sake of the gospel, so that I too may have a share in it."