Sunday, January 18, 2015

Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity

"Is that really Jesus?" a young boy asked his mother during the Consecration at Mass recently.  His wise mother replied, "Yes, that's Him on the altar."

“When I come to a human heart in Holy Communion, My hands are full of all sorts of graces which I want to give to the soul.”  ~Our Lord to St. Faustina


Recently, I had attended a funeral Mass where some of my non-Catholic friends were present.  They have a deep and abiding love for Jesus.   But like many non-Catholic Christians, they don't fully understand Catholicism, and it's often misunderstandings that rouse fear in the imagination, fear that can often regretfully lead to anti-Catholicism. When the time arrived to receive Holy Communion, I was sad and disheartened to see them receive Our Lord in the Eucharist even though they do not believe in the Real Presence of Christ and they most likely assumed that they were just receiving a meaningless wafer.  I know that they didn't intend to do anything hurtful or wrong, but simply did not understand the immensity of the Eucharist.

I felt a deep sorrow for Jesus at the thought of anyone receiving Him in the Eucharist without believing that He was truly present in the Host.  For a long time I wanted to say something to my friends, to try to evangelize and catechize them and to somehow help them to come around to the belief that it was truly Jesus' Body and Blood that they had ingested.  But after discussing it with a holy priest and good friend, I came to understand that it was better to remain silent, yet continue to pray for them and for all of those who don't realize the great gift of Christ coming to us Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity in the Eucharist.

Since then it has occurred to me that perhaps Jesus wanted to come to them in the Eucharist that day.  My friends have endured a tremendous amount of suffering in recent years, more than most people could bear.  Maybe he wanted to love them in this very special way so as to bring them some peace and healing through the tremendous gift that was now residing within them without their awareness.  They might not have believed in the reality of His presence in the Host, but He believed in their love for Him, and for Jesus, perhaps that's enough.   His mysterious, mystical ways are not for us to understand, and yet we believe in faith that His goodness knows no bounds-not the bounds of denominations or lack of faith.  He loves us all and wants to be united to everyone.

I have never felt called to be an Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion, always feeling completely unworthy of that honor, but recently I have been asked to help in this capacity at my parish more and more often, and so I find myself standing beside the priest holding the Lord in my wretched hands and offering Him again and again to the long line of people hungry for His Love.  With each host that I place within the hands or mouth of the communicants, I try to remain aware of the grace that flows from the Host to the person standing before me awaiting the Body of the Lord.  I see the look of joy evident on the faces of those who receive and the anticipation for the future on the faces of those too young to receive.

Following Communion, the church sits in silence savoring the presence of the Lord within each person.  For those few precious moments there is a brightness emanating from so many souls now made into tabernacles containing the Body of Our Lord.  We have been Christed.  We hold Him so intimately within our bodies.  How can we not be gentle and tender and loving with ourselves and with others as we carry Him forth into the world?

Anima Christi

Soul of Christ, sanctify me.
Body of Christ, save me.
Blood of Christ, inebriate me.
Water from Christ's side, wash me.
Passion of Christ, strengthen me.
O good Jesus, hear me.
Within Thy wounds hide me.
Suffer me not to be separated from Thee.
From the malicious enemy defend me.
In the hour of my death call me
And bid me come unto Thee
That I may praise Thee with Thy saints 

and with Thy angels
Forever and ever.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Bishop Donald Hying's Installation Mass

"What a blessing it is, our Catholic faith.  What a blessing it is, Jesus Christ and his Church and His Holy Word."  ~Bishop Donald Hying

The day that the invitation arrived in the mail, I was so overcome with joy that I could hardly contain myself.  Although Bishop Hying had asked me a few weeks earlier if my husband, Paul, and I would come to his installation in Gary to which I immediately replied "YES", there was something special about receiving that beautiful invitation, holding that card in my hand,  that made me realize that this was real, and that reminded me once again how deeply blessed I am that God would bring such a special, saintly and holy man into my life.  Although we had attended his episcopal ordination a little over three years ago I was still surprised that he would include me in this historic and beautiful event.  He is so holy and saintly and his life is so amazing that I feel very insignificant in comparison, and yet, his humility would never allow him to let on to me or to anyone else that he is anything other than ordinary.

It was with great anticipation and excitement that Paul and I took advantage of the arrangements that were being made for Bishop Hying's friends from Milwaukee to ride together on Coach buses to Gary, Indiana for the luncheon and Installation Mass on January 6th, 2015.

Unlike his episcopal ordination day when the temperature in Milwaukee was 102 degrees, the day of his installation was bitter cold with wind chills well below zero.  We found the comfort of riding on the warm bus to be very welcome.  A bonus of the bus ride was the opportunity for all of the passengers to pray the rosary together for Bishop Hying and then to watch his most recent film, CRUX, by Ahava Productions.  I highly encourage purchasing this magnificent film, to enjoy, and then to share with a friend.  It's available as a download or on a dvd at the Ahava Productions website.

When we arrived at the hotel where the luncheon was held we were delighted to see Bishop Hying waiting at the door to greet us!  A quick handshake and hug, and a peek at his ring to see if he was wearing his new one yet (he wasn't-he was still wearing the ring that his family gave to him at his episcopal ordination), and we moved along to the hall for a most delicious lunch that was awaiting us.

The luncheon was over all too soon, and once again 80 excited pilgrims climbed back onto the buses for the 30 minute ride from the suburban hotel to Holy Angels Cathedral in Gary.  As we approached the Cathedral I peered through the dirty bus windows and was struck and dismayed by the extreme poverty of the neighborhood surrounding the Cathedral.  Roofs were caved in on houses, and windows were boarded up or smashed, even the windows of a hospital.  When the steel industry left Gary in the eighties, it seems that it took much of the spirit of the city away, as well. The only business that appeared to be open was a little liquor store.  And our beloved Bishop Hying will be living and working right in the midst of that, which I'm sure is right up his alley as he has a great love for the poor and suffering.  He will bring a light to that neighborhood, God's light of joy and love, a light which seems to be sorely needed in Gary.  And yet, despite the decay of the buildings, it was obvious through everyone we met in the Diocese, that there is a love and beauty in the hearts of the people of Gary, a love that will surround Bishop Hying and fill his time in Gary with joy and happiness.

an abandoned Frank Lloyd Wright home (source)
The abandoned Ambassador Hotel in Gary (source)
Holy Angels Cathedral photo courtesy of Kevin Driscoll,  Catholic Young Adult Ministry-Diocese of Gary
Finally we arrived at Holy Angels Cathedral and the beauty and immensity of it caught me by surprise, especially since I had seen pictures of it online.  It is so much more beautiful in real life and pictures just don't do it justice.  What a contrast to the neighborhood!  The Cathedral, built in 1906 and designated a cathedral in 1956 when Gary became a diocese, was beautiful and well-maintained. My eye was immediately drawn to the soaring blue of the stained glass windows.  Paul and several other men on the bus were asked to carry a few boxes of Bishop Hying's belongings into the rectory. I went into the Cathedral, planning to save a seat for Paul and wave to him when I'd see him enter.  I was quickly escorted to a seat in the front of the Cathedral on the side of the altar.  When Paul joined me, he mentioned that Bishop Hying was waiting inside the rectory in a room filled with his boxes. Always quick with a humorous comment, the bishop joked that he didn't plan to unpack any of them, but would just use them for furniture!

photo courtesy of Terry Boldin

 Bishop Hying offers a huge smile to his family as he passes them during his entrance into the Cathedral.
Photo courtesy of Darlene Hying 

And then the Mass began!  Magnificent music accompanied the 25 bishops, and I don't know, probably about 70 priests and deacons, to the altar.  I stood on tiptoe straining my neck to see everyone, wishing I could stand on top of my pew for a better view, but of course, I didn't.  Most touching was the sight of Cardinal George who has been suffering from the effects of cancer.  From my vantage point I could see him pretty clearly throughout the Mass and my heart just ached for him. When Bishop Hying raised the host during the consecration and prayed "This is my Body, broken for you" I couldn't help but feel as though Cardinal George, kneeling at a prie dieu with his head in his hands, obviously drained, was physically praying those words with his whole body.  What a beautiful witness to suffering, very much like Pope John Paul II, that his presence contributed to the Mass. Please keep him in prayer.

Cardinal George is on the right
photo courtesy of Terry Boldin

I was very much struck by the fact that Bishop Hying read his homily.  In the seven years that I have known him, he has never read his homilies, but has always delivered them from memory, using only a few notes or perhaps coming up with what he was going to say on the spur of the moment.

Near the end of his moving Epiphany homily he said, "I'll let you in on a secret.  I'm completely deaf in my right ear.  So I'm glad the angel is on the left side of the Cathedra so I'll hear what the angel is saying to me."  Beautifully touching was when Bishop Hying mentioned that Bishop Melczek, his predecessor, would always be our bishop, our father, our brother and our friend and will be remembered during the consecration prayers at Mass as Bishop-emeritus, so that the diocese will continue to pray for him.  To the priests he said, "You will always have my heart and my cell phone number."  And to the lay leaders,volunteers and lay faithful he said "How I wish I could sit down in the kitchens of every home to get to know all of you and have a chat. That will happen I hope, one person, one kitchen, and one cup of coffee at a time."
the homily

reading his text
photo courtesy of Terry Boldin

photo courtesy of Terry Boldin

The entire Mass was filled with beauty and joy, and, although it lasted a full two hours, the time just flew, and all too soon we were once again climbing aboard the bus to head home.  My heart, so overjoyed for the good fortune of my friend, Bishop Hying, and God's obvious love for him in calling him to serve the Diocese of Gary, was suddenly sorrowing.  It was all over and I didn't have a chance to give him a final hug good-bye, as the bus needed to remain timely in its departure from Gary.

I'm grateful that Gary is a short three hour drive from Milwaukee and am hopeful that I'll be able to make future visits to Bishop Hying.  I pray that his time in Gary, which he remarked during the Mass that he sincerely hopes will be at least for the next 25 years, is filled with blessings and joy. Everyone we encountered in the Diocese of Gary was warm and welcoming to the visitors from Milwaukee and I am certain that Bishop Hying feels very welcome there, as well as deeply and immediately loved by all, for LOVE NEVER FAILS.

It's worth your time to watch the entire installation Mass below or here at this link, and in particular, to listen to Bishop Hying's beautiful homily.  The commentary offered throughout is fascinating and informative.  You will need to click ahead to 1:56:03 for the beginning of the Installation Mass.

I also encourage you to read this touching good-bye tribute from Archbishop Listecki found here and this well-written and interesting interview with Bishop Hying written by Jerry Davich of the Chicago Post Tribune found here.

Friday, December 26, 2014

Myrrh Bearing Women

"The priest is God saying, "I'm here and I'm not leaving you." ~Jacob Boddicker, SJ

Myrrh Bearing Women by Christi Jentz

I've had the great honor of organizing the Monthly Prayer Request for Priests calendar for the Archdiocese of Milwaukee since September 2010.  The calendars are arranged in alphabetical order, listing all of the active and retired priests of the Archdiocese as well as requesting prayer for the Archbishop, bishops, religious order priests, seminarians and those in discernment for the priesthood on days that are fitting to their particular vocation.

During the past four years I've taken occasional phone calls from priests and lay faithful with questions about how the calendar is organized.  One such phone call was from Fr. Paul Weishar, a retired priest who, at the time of the phone call, was coming upon his 92nd birthday.  He was wondering why his name wasn't listed on his birthday and when I explained the alphabetical listing of the calendars he remarked that retired priests are often forgotten and nobody seems to care about them anymore.  How terribly heartbreaking!  Since that phone call, I exchanged a few more phone calls and letters with Fr. Paul and forwarded his name to our Archdiocesan priest who ministers to the retired priests asking him to contact Fr. Paul and to pray for him.

Earlier this month, I heard that Fr. Paul had passed away.  I was grateful that my supervisor allowed me to adjust my work schedule so that I could attend his funeral.  When I arrived at the quaint, little church, I was so happy to see my friend, September S. and her lovely daughter, Lauren, already there.  Like me, September feels it deeply in her heart to pray for deceased priests, whether she knew them well or not.  And, it wasn't long afterward that our friend, Erin Berghouse, the founder of Ahava Productions, joined us in prayer as well.  Sweet Erin had stopped at the parish to drop something off for the pastor, Fr. John Burns, who told her that a funeral was just about to begin for a priest.  She said that as she was walking back to her car, she was struck by the fact that she just happened to stop at the parish immediately before a priest's funeral and decided that the Holy Spirit must have had something to do with that timing and she decided to stay and pray for him.

Following communion as we were kneeling in thanksgiving, I was overcome with the image of the Myrrh Bearing Women in my heart.  I felt that here we were, modern-day Myrrh Bearing Women, offering the myrrh of our prayers at the tomb of an alter-Christus, Fr. Paul Weishar.  My hope is that in the final years of his life, Fr. Paul could feel the prayers that were offered for him and that now, in his death, the prayers for his soul will continue.  May we all offer the myrrh of our prayers for our priests both living and dead, for what would we be without them and the sacraments they so lovingly and willingly bring to us?

Eternal rest grant unto Fr. Paul Weishar, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon him.  May his soul, and all of the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace.  Amen.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Advent Retreat with Bishop Donald Hying

“Christianity starts not with us looking for God but with God looking for us.”  ~Bishop Donald Hying

The always humble Bishop Hying and Fr. Tim Kitzke doing the dishes following dinner at my house last August.  Bishop Hying always insisted upon doing the dishes whenever he'd come to dinner.  He's certainly well-qualified to speak about humility as he did during his recent Advent reflection shared in this post.

This Advent I treated myself to an afternoon retreat of Reflections on the Advent Gospels with Bishop Hying at St. Joseph’s Parish in Wauwatosa.  It was a bittersweet occasion in which I had an opportunity to learn from a spiritual giant and a beautiful friend, in person, one more time, before he leaves Milwaukee to become the Bishop of Gary, Indiana on January 6th.  I felt compelled to take notes so I wouldn’t miss one bit of his wisdom.  I've certainly learned an awful lot from him in the past seven years that I've been blessed with his friendship and I'm hopeful that I'll continue to reap many spiritual benefits from all that he has taught me over the years.  What I’ve gleaned from his Advent talk follows.

Being Present to Now

Bishop Hying often speaks of St. Bernard’s Three Advents:  the Advent when we prepare for Christ’s birth, the Advent when we prepare for the final coming of Christ and the Advent of the Present Moment.  He said that it’s easy to always be somewhere else in our mind and not to be fully engaged with where we are.  But it’s essential that we try to focus on the present because this moment will never come again.  We’ll never be in this same particular place with these same particular people again.  The greatest enemy of the spiritual life is the intensity of the stimulation around us.  The secret of the saints is that they were profoundly engaged in the present moment.  It’s in the present moment that God speaks to us.  On Mount Horeb God doesn’t tell Moses, “I was” or “I will be”.  He says “I AM.”

Bishop Hying spoke about the difference between Kairos time and Kronos time.  Kronos time, he said, is like when we go to work and the day drags because we’re not enjoying what we’re doing.  Kairos time is like being on vacation or spending time with someone we love.  Six hours of Kairos time can feel like only one.  The Mass is Kairos time where we are united with all of heaven.  We are never alone at Mass.  All of the angels and saints are right there with us.  When we step into the Eucharist, we step into the vast eternity of Christ.  The mystery of the Christian life is to see the unfolding of our lives as Kairos time.  We live in a culture that is spiritually asleep.  If we can abide in the present moment then life unfolds as it is meant to be for us.

“How do we live in the world but as a monastic at heart?” he asked.  John the Baptist reminds us that our faith must be public and inculturated.  Our faith is personal but it can’t be private.  If the apostles kept their faith private we would never have come to know Jesus.  The generations that follow us are dependent upon our public testimony.  In the New Evangelization we look at people who are already in our lives and give witness to them.   We need to cultivate the soil of another person’s life and bring them into a community of faith.  We are to lay the groundwork for Jesus to begin His work like John the Baptist did for Jesus.

Humility as a Way of Life

Bishop Hying went on to speak about humility.  He said that virtues are like a salad buffet and humility is the plate you put everything else on.  If you don’t have humility, nothing else will stick.  Humility is knowing who we are and knowing both our greatness and our littleness.  How do we respond when we’re not noticed or recognized or when someone else gets thanked for something we did? 

Humility sets us free.  We don’t have to try to be anything more than we are.  God is more humble than we are.  If I can’t let God be God in my life, then I always have to be strong and right and in control.  How freeing it is to acknowledge my weakness and my need for God and to let the Lord carry me!  It’s freeing to say “I don’t know what I’m talking about, I’m a sinner, and I’m weak and needy and uncertain.”

St. Paul spoke of the thorn in his side and how, when he asked God to remove it, God told him he had to keep it so that he’ll know that power is made perfect in weakness.  Allowing God to be God allows us to be us.  Humility is a gift.  It’s a gift to be hidden, unknown and misunderstood.  At the end of the day it doesn’t matter what others think of us, it only matters what God thinks of us.

Bishop Hying compared the Annunciation and the Agony in the Garden as examples of humility and openness to God’s life-changing plan.  Both Mary and Jesus are asked to accept something impossible.  Mary said yes to the Incarnation and Jesus said yes to our salvation. They both occur while they are radically alone and they are both asked to embrace the impossible and say yes to it.  It’s tempting to think that everything was easy for them because of their holiness and who they are, but their humanity had to tempt them to say no, and yet, they both said yes. 

For this reason we honor Mary because in her we see perfect discipleship. In her maternity, which is predicated on her faith and attentiveness to God’s impulses and initiatives, she gives herself to that plan.  In the Immaculate Conception she is a stainless piece of glass, immaculate with no stain.  The light shines through her.  Because of her clarity, we don’t see the glass but are overwhelmed by the light of Christ that shines through her.

The bishop asks, “In what ways am I still striving to be God, to be at the center of attention, more important than I am?  How can this Advent take that desire away from me?  Like John the Baptist, we need to say, “I am not the Christ.”  What is it in my life now that God is inviting me to embrace, that seems difficult, and that I should say yes to?  We need to ponder this question all our lives because God is always asking something new of us.  The saints were so free of self that they allowed God to use them however He saw fit.

Advent is realizing that in the Incarnation of Christ everything has changed for us.  If we can understand this and accept it, if we can be truly present in the now, and live our lives with humility, then Christmas becomes more fully what it was meant to be.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Our Lords the Poor

 "For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me....Amen,I say to you, whatever you did for one of the least brothers of mine, you did for me." ~from Matthew 25:31-46

"There are some people whom God takes and sets apart.  There are others he leaves among the crowds, people he does not "withdraw from the world."  These are the people who have an ordinary job, an ordinary household, or an ordinary celibacy.  People with ordinary sicknesses, and ordinary times of grieving.  People with an ordinary house, and ordinary clothes.  These are the people of ordinary life.  The people we might meet on any street.  They love the door that opens onto the street, just as their brothers and sisters who are hidden from the world love the door that shuts behind them forever.  We, the ordinary people of the streets, believe with all our might that this street, this world, where God has placed us, is our place of holiness.  We believe that we lack nothing that we need.  If we needed something else, God would have given it to us."  ~Servant of God Madeleine Delbrel

Samantha Vosters and Shannon Seegers  (Photo Credit:  Tom Klind)
My family and I are blessed with the friendship of a lovely young woman, vibrant and joyful, who has committed her life to serving the poor, working at our parish's Riverwest Food Pantry.  On the Feast of Christ the King, Samantha Vosters made a personal vow of poverty, chastity and obedience giving her heart completely to Jesus and the Church as a laywoman, modeling her life after Servant of God Madeleine Delbrel, a Frenchwoman who was also committed to serving Christ through the poor.

During Mass at St. Casimir Church, concelebrated by three priests with a standing room only crowd, Samantha vowed to remain poor and pure and to follow God's will in her life as she gives herself more completely to serving the poor.  Those in attendance included not only Sam's family and close friends, but also all of those in the parish and community whom Sam serves in her work.  The love that the congregation has for Sam, and the admiration that they feel for the good that she does, was palpable.

photo credit:  Tom Klind

In his homily, the priest, a personal and long-time friend of Sam's, was visibly choked up as he shared the story of how, when he first came to know Sam, he felt that she was simply a happy and joyful person, full of laughter and smiles, and he didn't see much beyond her good-natured personality.  But when he came to see her heart, he knew that she was someone truly special with a deep love for the Lord and a desire to give her all to Him.  I was moved to tears by the priest's emotion.

But it was during the offertory that I really became emotional.  It's the custom at our parish for members of the congregation to come forward bringing gifts, both food and financial donations, leaving them at the foot of the altar for the poor within our community.  As people were moving forward, I noticed an elderly woman walking very slowly and deliberately, not to the altar with a gift, but to where Sam was sitting with her parents.  Sam turned to the woman, grinned her huge smile, and stood up to embrace the woman.  They held each other long before the woman finally released her hold and shuffled slowly to the back of the church and out the door.  It was a deeply touching and beautiful scene, evidence of the kind of love that Sam so freely gives and receives day in and day out in her life devoted to giving to the poor.  And I knew that it wasn't just any elderly woman embracing Sam, but it was Christ in the distressing disguise of the poor, giving love and gratitude for a saintly young woman who has already, and will continue, to give her life for her brothers and sisters in need.

"The poor are not only brothers and sisters to be loved in a brotherly way because they are our brothers and sisters, they are also "our lords the poor" because the poor man is Our Lord.  He is the sacrament of our encounter with Christ, of our love given to Christ."  
~Servant of God, Madeleine Delbrel

Friday, November 21, 2014

The Hiding Place

“In darkness God's truth shines most clear.”  ~Corrie ten Boom

“Dear foolish of me to have called for human help when You are here.”   ~Corrie ten Boom

My sisters and I are big on reading and sharing books, but when  Cindy put Corrie ten Boom's Her Story into my hands, I groaned.  Three volumes in one book, 497 pages, is one heavy reading list!  But she assured me that I'd love it and it didn't take long before I realized that she was right!

Corrie ten Boom was a Dutch Christian who was born and died on exactly the same date, April 15th, living 91 years, from 1892-1983. The first biography of the volume, The Hiding Place, tells the story of Corrie's experience during World War II, assisting Jews as they escaped from the Nazis, and eventually being captured, along with most of her family, and sent to prison camp.

Now I've read quite a few harrowing tales of WWII and concentration camps such as Elie Wiesel's Night, Etty Hillesum's The Interrupted Life, The Diary of Anne Frank, Franz Jagerstatter's In Solitary Witness, and Fr. Alfred Delp SJ's, Advent of the Heart. And I've read and studied many other stories of martyrs such as St. Maximilian Kolbe and heroes such as Irena Sendler, but this book moved me in an entirely different way than any of those.  Not only was I filled with horror for the terrors imposed upon humanity by the Nazis, and great admiration for those who defiantly fought against them while standing up for their beliefs and saving the lives of many, but through Corrie ten Boom's story, I found myself examining my conscience over and over again, and with each search of my heart, I found myself coming up woefully short of the beautiful ideals that Corrie and her family lived by in such dark times.

Growing up, Corrie ten Boom learned from the wisdom of her parents and siblings, and especially from her sister, Betsie, that Jesus and His love overcome every evil in the world.  Corrie was so moved by the example of her sister who kept a peaceful and loving countenance all while suffering in the concentration camp, that she went on to dedicate the remainder of her life to promote healing, not only for the Jews and others who suffered at the hands of the Nazis, but for the Nazis themselves, despite the difficulty she often struggled with in learning to forgive them for all of the harm they had done, causing her own suffering as well as the suffering of others.

It was hard to choose just one or two examples from the story that stood out enough to share here. The entire book was filled with heroic, loving situations!

I loved how her wise father gently talked her through her first and only heartbreak:  “Do you know what hurts so very much? It's love. Love is the strongest force in the world, and when it is blocked that means pain. There are two things we can do when this happens. We can kill that love so that it stops hurting. But then of course part of us dies, too. Or we can ask God to open up another route for that love to travel.  God loves Karel--even more than you do--and if you ask Him, He will give you His love for this man, a love nothing can prevent, nothing destroy. Whenever we cannot love in the old, human way, Corrie, God can give us his perfect way."

And he explained things to the young Corrie that were beyond her childish comprehension so beautifully:   “And so seated next to my father in the train compartment, I suddenly asked, "Father, what is sexsin?"  He turned to look at me, as he always did when answering a question, but to my surprise he said nothing. At last he stood up, lifted his traveling case off the floor and set it on the floor.  Will you carry it off the train, Corrie?" he said.  I stood up and tugged at it. It was crammed with the watches and spare parts he had purchased that morning.  It's too heavy," I said.  Yes," he said, "and it would be a pretty poor father who would ask his little girl to carry such a load. It's the same way, Corrie, with knowledge. Some knowledge is too heavy for children. When you are older and stronger, you can bear it. For now you must trust me to carry it for you."

I was particularly moved by the description of how Corrie and her sister Betsie, while standing outside in the cold at attention while in the prison camp, would try to move to the inside of the group of women, where it was warmer. But then, chastising herself for her selfishness in disregarding the needs of the women on the outside of the group, Corrie allowed the other women to move to the center and selflessly stood on the cold edge herself.  Not many women would put others first in such a situation, and her explanation of how she brought herself to be so selfless is astounding:  “Oh, this was the great ploy of Satan in that kingdom of his: to display such blatant evil one could almost believe one's own secret sin didn't matter.” 

Corrie's sister Betsie was particularly saintly.  She gave very little thought to her own suffering, or even the plight of the other prisoners.  Her thoughts were purely focused on Christ and on bringing His love to her enemies, as evidenced in this description:  "We had arrived at the main camp at Vught.  "Betsie!" I wailed, "How long will it take?"  "Perhaps a long, long time.  Perhaps many years.  But what better way could there be to spend our lives?"  I turned to stare at her.  "Whatever are you talking about?"  "Corrie, if people can be taught to hate, they can be taught to love!  We must find the way, you and I, no matter how long it takes."  Slowly I took in the fact that she was talking about our guards and I wondered not for the first time what sort of person she was, this sister of mine." 

And when the guards struck Betsie on the neck, causing her to bleed from the red welt, she would not allow Corrie to feel pity for her.  "Don't look at it, Corrie.  Look at Jesus only."  Christ's suffering was at the forefront of Betsie and Corrie's thoughts at all times, despite their own sufferings.

I have never read about or encountered such deep faith, love and beauty. I pray that in my ordinary life, where it's doubtful that I will ever taste the deep despairing evil of a concentration camp,  that I will find the courage and fortitude to be as loving and grateful as Corrie ten Boom, despite any difficulties or hardships I may struggle through,believing that in God's hands, every situation will be used for good, for the building up of His kingdom and for His glory.  Like Corrie, I may struggle at first, but with the help of God, I will overcome the temptation to selfishness and will strive to love others in all circumstances, knowing that He resides and suffers in all of humanity, and by putting others first, I will be putting Him first.  What a wonder that kind of love and forgiveness could bring to this world, forgiveness as evidenced by Corrie's description of the time she met one of the guards after she had been released:  “Even as the angry vengeful thoughts boiled through me, I saw the sin of them. Jesus Christ had died for this man; was I going to ask for more? Lord Jesus, I prayed, forgive me and help me to forgive him....Jesus, I cannot forgive him. Give me your forgiveness....And so I discovered that it is not on our forgiveness any more than on our goodness that the world's healing hinges, but on His. When He tells us to love our enemies, He gives along with the command, the love itself.”  

If you've not yet read The Hiding Place, I highly recommend it.  Be prepared to be spiritually uplifted and challenged to grow in your faith.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

The Vatican Museums 3D- A Review


After my thrilling and highly educational trip to Kansas City with my friend, the talented artist, Christi Jentz, last summer to immerse myself in the world of sacred art, (see links 1, 2 and 3) I have kept a keen eye open for further news of the art world.  So I was terribly excited to learn that SpectiCast Distributors, in collaboration with Vatican Museums Directorate, have released an hour long 3D film of the inside story behind the Vatican Museums art collection.  The Vatican Museums 3D offers a never-before-seen view of some of the most magnificent and breath-taking art that can be found in the Vatican's collection, as well as sharing some of the stories of the artists who were commissioned to create the sacred art that has moved our hearts and souls through the centuries.

Recently I was offered the opportunity to watch an online preview version of the film.  Although I'm sure that the presentation is much more dramatic on the big-screen, seeing this foretaste was enough to whet my appetite to continue my quest to learn more about sacred art and to fuel my desire to visit the Vatican in person one day.  I was fascinated to learn a bit about the history behind Michelangelo's painting of the Sistine Chapel and Vincent Van Gogh's creation of the Pieta, among other artist's stories. The film was a marvel from beginning to end.

However, the film was not without its disappointments.  From time to time, a museum docent was shown explaining the art while an English interpretation spoke over his voice.  I found the two languages spoken simultaneously to be distracting and it made it difficult to understand the English version.  I also found the depiction of the artists portrayed by actors, as well as the loud sound-effects and music, to be unnecessary and a bit overdone.  To see the beauty of the art and to be educated through a non-visible narrator would have been all that was needed to make this film a not-to-be missed educational wonder.

The Vatican Museums 3D definitely left me hungry for more as I'm sure that it's impossible to share all of the religious art, and offer background details on its creation, in an hour long movie.  I hope that a series of feature-length films on The Vatican Museums will be coming in the future.

The Vatican Museums 3D will be shown in more than 500 theaters in the United States, none of which are in Wisconsin, unfortunately.  According to the press release, THE VATICAN MUSEUMS 3D will be in theaters everywhere beginning December 10 in partnership with Fathom Events, and will be shown in 2D and RealD 3D. Additional shows will be in select theaters December 11 and 14.   To find a list of theaters where it will be shown, as well as to learn more about the film and watch the trailer, visit this link.

Much thanks to Kevin Wandra at Carmel Communications for this opportunity to preview and share my opinion of The Vatican Museums 3D.  Enjoy the trailer below or at this link.