Friday, June 29, 2012

Catholic Pride

The Archdiocese of Milwaukee is offering many special Fortnight for Freedom events where the faithful can gather to pray for our religious freedom during these times that try the soul.  Last weekend Archbishop Listecki offered a special Mass where he courageously proclaimed that we will not obey the government in following the health care mandate that refuses to allow us as Catholics the freedom to follow our consciences. He told us to "proudly puff out our chests and live our Catholic faith, not only inside of our church buildings, but freely in the public sector as well.  We are always Catholic, everywhere, not only when we are inside of a church, and we should always live our faith in all that we do.  We will not let the government try to redefine what it means to be a Catholic!"  His words had a profound effect on me and I everyong at Mass and we left the church with our heads held high.

On the Vigil of the Feasts of St. Peter and St. Paul, Bishop Hying presided at a special rosary and Mass for a full church of faithful Catholics at Holy Angels Parish in West Bend, Wisconsin.  (Photo courtesy of and copyrighted by Eve Anna Urlackis.)  His words resonated deep within this Catholic heart.  He began his homily with a question: "What is it about the Church that is so threatening?  The answer comes in examining the life of Christ.  Jesus raises the most fear in others when he speaks of himself as the Messiah, because if Jesus is Lord, then no one else can be.   We proclaim that Jesus is Lord and if this is true then no civil leader can claim that title for himself."

He went on:  "There is a hidden grace in this current struggle to fight for our religious freedom.  Sometimes we have to make a choice and if we are faithful, the choice has to be for Him and for Her.  We are called to witness to our faith, not in a strident way, but rather, in a way that is serene but bold, convicted and courageous, loving and truthful."

Holding up St. John Fisher and St. Thomas More as examples of fidelity to the faith under tyrannical persecution by the government, he encouraged us to to follow their example in always putting God first in every situation.  He said, "St. Thomas More's daughter begged him to just sign the paper that would save his life even though it meant that he would have to deny his beliefs to do so.  She told him that he wouldn't have to mean it when he signed, that he could cross his fingers behind his back.  But his conscience would not allow him to do it.  And as he was led to his execution he said, "I die the King's good servant and God's first."

In light of the gospel passage  for the vigil of St. Peter and St. Paul (John 21:15-19) he explained:  "The crux of what it means to be a follower of Christ is found in reflecting upon the Greek definitions for love: Philia is the love of one friend for another, Eros is the love between husband and wife, and Agape is the love that Christ shows on the cross.

When Jesus asked "Simon, do you love me?"  it was the Agape love that He was asking for.  Yet Simon responded with Philia love, as in "Jesus, You know we're good friends."  But when Simon was crucified he recalled this moment with Christ, and it was then that he finally got it.  When he was hanging upside down it was the first time that he saw everything right side up.  He was finally willing to lay down anything and everything for Christ.

Do we want to live the Agape of love or do we just want to say, "Jesus, we're good friends?"

As he concluded his homily the hearts of everyone in the church were stirred and convicted by his words.  While the altar was prepared for the consecration, the church swelled with voices filled with love for Church and love for country as we sang "Faith of Our Fathers, holy faith, we will be true to thee til death."

For more information about upcoming events within the Archdiocese of Milwaukee for the Fortnight for Freedom, visit the Archdiocese of Milwaukee website here.  You may also be inspired by this powerful editorial written by Bishop Hying which was published in the June 27th Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

Catholic Church does not conform to society


In his column "Catholic reformers may be out of luck," Bill Keller lamented the resistance of the Catholic Church toward the changing of her teachings (Crossroads, June 24). Such a stance reveals a fundamental misunderstanding of the church's nature and identity.

The Catholic Church understands herself to be both a mystery and a sacrament, born from the wounded side of the crucified Christ, guided by the Holy Spirit. We do not generate the truths that we teach; they come to us as a revelation from God, mediated through the Scriptures and tradition. Keller seems to view the church as a political party that simply needs to rework its platform in order to stay current with contemporary culture.

When Catholics speak of reform, we start with Jesus and ask how we can change ourselves to conform to the ideals of the Gospel mediated through the teachings of the church. When Keller speaks of reform, he begins with the concerns of liberal United States culture and asks how the church can change herself to conform to those concerns.

Such vastly different starting points will never easily converge. The beauty, truth and goodness of Catholicism speak for themselves. One could only leave the church through ceasing to believe her teachings or not understanding them. May all of us be genuinely guided by the Holy Spirit.

Most Reverend Donald J. Hying
Auxiliary Bishop, Archdiocese of Milwaukee

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Smoldering Wick

"A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not quench."  Isaiah 42:3

Each day I strike the match and lift the flame to the wick of the blessed candle watching it flicker, nearly go out, and then, suddenly burn strong as the fire takes its full effect.  I breathe a prayer over the flame and then walk away, trusting that my prayer will burn strong, carrying the heat of my love to heaven, to the Heart of God.

But the next day, I return to find that the flame has gone out.  The wax has completely evaporated and all that is left is a metal stub in the bottom of the glass votive holder.  My prayer has gone cold.

My spirit is often the same way.  I begin the day in silent prayer and He floods my soul with His peace.  The flame is lit.  As the day wears on I work hard, full of energy and ambition, completely on fire for the Lord and willing to do whatever it takes to serve Him.  I go about my daily duties and am soon confronted by difficulties-conflicts with co-workers and family, challenging paperwork that is beyond my abilities, weariness and frustration from too much to do.  The peace of my early morning prayer seems so distant.  Like that prayer candle, my flame has dimmed and I am left with a chill in my soul.

Tomorrow I will begin again-I will strike the match and light the wick of the candle.  And God will strike the match and ignite the wick of my soul. It's a never-ending cycle, this life of faith.  I pray that God will always fan the flames of my love for Him whenever the cold breezes of life threaten to snuff them out.  I long to burn strong forever, warmed by His love every day of this life into eternity.

Friday, June 15, 2012

World Day of Prayer for Priests

This is a day of great joy!  What a blessing it is for us to have an entire day set aside to offer loving prayers for priests, and it is an even greater blessing that this day occurs on the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus!   I know that you pray for so many priests every day and that you have a tender love for those priests who have touched your soul through the Sacramental life of the Church, and yet, today, your prayers and my prayers are united into one great gift of love!

Would you please join me in offering additional prayers for our priests today on this World Day of Prayer for Priests?  On this Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, pray for them within His Sacred Heart, uniting your prayers with His own, who loves them with such a pure and undivided love to which we can only hope to emulate.  In striving to pray within His Sacred Heart, you may benefit from reading this story about Fr. Jim Kubicki, SJ and his book A Heart on Fire: Rediscovering Devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, which can be found at this link.  O Sacred Heart of Jesus, make our hearts, and the hearts of all priests, like unto Thine!

From the Congregation for Clergy:

"O Lord, shatter and bring to naught all that might tarnish the sanctity of Priests"

Today’s world, with its ever more painful and preoccupying lacerations, needs God- The Trinity, and the Church has the task to proclaim Him. In order to fulfill this task, the Church must remain indissolubly embraced with Christ and never part from Him; it needs Saints who dwell “in the heart of Jesus” and are happy witnesses of God’s Trinitarian Love. And in order to serve the Church and the World, Priests need to be Saints!

O my Jesus, I beg You on behalf of  the whole Church:
Grant it love and the light of Your Spirit,
and give power to the words of Priests
so that hardened hearts might be brought to repentance and return to You, O Lord.
Lord, give us holy Priests;
You yourself maintain them in holiness.
O Divine and Great High Priest,
may the power of Your mercy
accompany them everywhere and protect them
from the devil's traps and snares
which are continually being set for the soul of Priests.
May the power of Your mercy,
O Lord, shatter and bring to naught
all that might tarnish the sanctity of Priests,
for You can do all things.
My beloved Jesus,
I pray to you for the triumph of the Church,
that you may bless the Holy Father and all the clergy;
I beg you to grant the grace of conversion
to sinners whose hearts have been hardened by sin,
and a special blessing and light to priests,
to whom I shall confess for all of my life.
(Saint Faustina Kowalska)

Thursday, June 14, 2012

I Won't Give Up

I had thought of my parish as a sanctuary where I could flee from the problems of life.  I had hoped to find comfort and solace in that environment.  Instead I found the cross.

I wanted to shake the dust from my sandals, thinking that I needed to break free from a big part of who I am; I wanted to leave my parish where my family and I have been members for 20 years.  It's the only parish my children have ever known.   I was filled with frustration and anger and resentment and hurt and I wanted out. Things were said that didn't sit well with me and I thought that the only answer to my anger and hurt was to leave and start over fresh somewhere new, someplace where I wouldn't have to face any difficulties over differences from the way I believe, from the way that I thought everyone should believe.  I wanted to belong to a church where everyone believed and spoke just like me.  The thought of leaving felt like a divorce or a death.  My husband and children and I were grieving and we really didn't want to leave.  But I was stubborn and leaving was the only solution, in my opinion. We began to visit other parishes and schools to find someplace new to call home.  It seemed so strange to be in this position because so often in the past I was the one begging others to stay and I was the one mourning over the loss of friends who have left the parish.

As we started to sever the ties by trying to disentangle ourselves from the various ministries and activities to which we were deeply involved, others reached out to us.  We heard from parish staff and parish members who asked us not to leave.  We heard words of love and understanding as well as offers of assistance to face our concerns.  One of my dearest and longest friends said, "I'm praying for you.  I'm not praying so that you stay at the parish; I'm praying so that you will be happy wherever you are."  It felt so good to know that we are loved unconditionally and that if we would leave we would be missed.  I learned that life at a parish is so much more than just the ideologies of a few but instead it's about the love of the many.  A parish is a home and its members are a family no matter how different we all may be.  But learning to get along with others involves some pain-it involves the cross.

As with all things in life, I gave my worry to God, asking Him to show us His will in this matter. And He spoke through my husband who decided that a meeting with our pastor was in order.  So we made an appointment and shared our concerns and he listened in love.  And he told us that everyone is important in a parish and that our differences are what makes a parish rich.  He reminded us of how dull life would be if everyone were the same.  He said that every piece of a puzzle needs to be in place to make a complete picture and he agreed to address the concerns that had hurt my heart.  And his words satisfied us.

So we are staying at our home parish where we belong, where we sit by side with our fellow Catholics at whatever stage of belief we happen to be in and we pray to our One God with whom we are all deeply in love.

I had thought of my parish as a sanctuary where I could flee from the problems of life.  I had hoped to find comfort and solace in that environment.  Instead I found the cross-which is just as it should be.

 Every once in a while a song touches me where no words on their own, without music, can. I Won't Give Up by Jason Mraz speaks so eloquently to the importance of holding on, of persevering in loving others, no matter how difficult life can become. These words in particular spoke to me as I prayed through this situation:
I don't wanna be someone who walks away so easily
I'm here to stay and make the difference that I can make
Our differences they do a lot to teach us how to use
The tools and gifts we got yeah, we got a lot at stake
And in the end, you're still my friend at least we did intend
For us to work we didn't break, we didn't burn
We had to learn how to bend without the world caving in
I had to learn what I've got, and what I'm not
And who I am

I won't give up on us
Even if the skies get rough
I'm giving you all my love
I'm still looking up
Still looking up.

I won't give up on us (no I'm not giving up)
God knows I'm tough enough (I am tough, I am loved)
We've got a lot to learn (we're alive, we are loved)
God knows we're worth it (and we're worth it)

You can listen to the entire song at this link.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Dip Your Paddle

In my most recent candidacy lesson for the Oblates of the Precious Blood I found this gem from Fr. Gerald Fitzgerald on mental prayer:

"Look at the beautiful face of our Mother Mary and you will say a perfect prayer. How simple it is to pray if we pray meditatively, if we take time to think of what we are saying. St. Francis of Assisi would spend all night saying only: "My God and my All." I want you to learn to pray like that, according to Divine Counsel: "When you pray, pray not long prayers." Pray meditatively; don't be racing through prayers. If you ask God, He will help you to pray. Pray as one who paddles a canoe on a quiet lake in the twilight. [Imagine] the violet banks of hills set against the gold of the setting sun; the lake almost a mirror with here and there a little fish splashing and a little bird winging its way home. You dip your paddle just enough to keep the canoe moving. So in meditation, one does well to dip one's paddle just enough to keep one's soul moving toward God."

Sunday, June 10, 2012

That's My Baby!

Ahh, the sweet and sorrowful passage of time...relentless....never.ever.stopping.

My oldest son graduated from high school yesterday and I wonder, how can this be?  He was just a baby yesterday.  Through the years of his educational career, my husband and I sat side by side as we watched countless school plays, choral performances and athletic events in which John had been privileged to participate.  It never failed that during many of these events meant to showcase the abilities of our children, one proud parent would break free from the constraints of etiquette and reserved deportment with an attention seizing shout, "That's my baby!"  Paul and I would mutter a united "Oh brother!" and roll our eyes.  Yes, even yesterday, during the high school commencement ceremony, those shouts of parental pride could be heard.  But me, I sat silently while tears of emotion welled in my eyes from the first strain of Pomp and Circumstance until the moving of the tassel.

So today, here on this blog, I'm going to be "that" parent and shout out....

That's my baby!!!!  Congratulations John!  You have made your family and friends so proud!  God has blessed us with your presence in our lives.

We celebrated this momentous occasion with a celebratory dinner at Graffito, the restaurant owned by Milwaukee Brewer Ryan Braun.  Just as we were finishing our amazingly delicious meal, dining al fresco by the riverside, Ryan Braun walked in for his own dinner.  John boldly asked him for a picture.  We couldn't have purchased a better graduation present.  John was thrilled!