Monthly Archives: March 2012

Praying in Tough Times: Seeking God’s Help and Finding Hope

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The Raising of Lazarus

In the Gospel, we see that the sisters of Lazarus sent word to Jesus saying, “Master, the one you love is ill.” They knew that Jesus had performed many miracles, and they were expecting that he would respond to their request, especially since Lazarus was a close friend. Jesus knows Lazarus is about to die, but instead of going to him immediately he waits two days, knowing he will have died by the time he arrives. In this Gospel we see the mysterious way that God sometimes answers our prayers. Jesus could have prevented Lazarus’s death, but the greater miracle was to raise him from the dead to give God glory and to increase the faith of those who believed in him. It is interesting to note that this great miracle only increased the faith in those who believed in him. The Pharisees and the chief priests who opposed him hated him even more and looked for an opportunity to kill him.

Seeking Help from God

Martha teaches us how to approach Jesus in prayer. She says, “…I know that whatever you ask from God, God will give you.” She doesn’t ask Jesus to raise Lazarus from the dead, she asks him to approach God on her behalf and she is confident that God will respond to that prayer according to His own will. When we pray, we should always keep God’s eternal plan in mind. Our life on this earth is only temporary, and we should not desire anything that could jeopardize our eternal happiness and that of the people we love. That is why prayer is not only about petition; prayer is first of all about a relationship with God. We pray every day throughout the day because God loves us and we love Him. It is this kind of persevering prayer that allows us to trust in God in the most difficult situations, because we believe all that He has revealed to us through the Scriptures and the Church.

When we approach Jesus with our petitions we also could say, “Lord, the one you love is seeking your help.” Certainly the Lord loves us all and wants a personal relationship with each of us, but his response to our prayer may sometimes seem mysterious. We must believe without a doubt that the Lord hears our prayers and that he will answer them in a way that is best for our soul. There is no one who will be able to avoid all the miseries of this live and then enter into heaven without purification. If we read the lives of the saints, we will see how God related to those who loved Him in a heroic way. They all experienced trials and tragedies, but never-the-less were filled with great joy and hope. Their lives are a testimony to the presence of God.

A Model of Christian Suffering

Blessed Chiara Luce Badano, before her cancer.

One example is Chiara Luce who was beatified by Pope Benedict XVI in September of 2010. She was a very active teenager from Italy who was very popular and loved life, but loved God more. At age 17 she was diagnosed with one of the most serious and painful forms of cancer, and instead of being depressed she became a source of inspiration for others as she saw her pain as sharing in the sufferings of Christ. When she eventually lost the use of her legs, she said, “If I had to choose between walking and going to heaven, I would choose going to heaven.” When she was dying she said to her family, “Goodbye. Be happy because I am happy.” Chiara died at age 18 in 1990. She was exposed to the same things as our youth of today, and yet she chose a deep and eternal relationship with Jesus Christ that brought her temporal and everlasting joy in the midst of great suffering.

Chiara was assisted in her heroic choices by the example of her family and by the Folcolare movement of which she was a member. She was connected to people who also loved God and made Him their priority. Her deep faith didn’t just happen; it was a consequence of the choices she made in her short life. She took to heart the words of Jesus, “I am the resurrection and the life, he who believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and whoever lives and believes in me shall never die.” Do you believe this?

Keys to Our Perseverance

All of us, whether we are cradle Catholics or coming into the Church this Easter, need the same kind of support system that Chiara had. There are plenty of opportunities in your parish to be connected to people who love God and want to be faithful to what He has revealed through the Scriptures and through the Church. In your parish, you may find Bible studies, prayer groups, faith-sharing groups, marriage enrichment, retreats and much more. Coming to Mass on Sunday, as important and powerful as that is, does not complete our Christian responsibility. Jesus wants a personal relationship with each of us that demands our participation.

To believe in Jesus is to have the same kind of trust as Martha, Mary and Chiara Luce. Is our hope in eternal life stronger than our attachment to anything on this earth? That kind of hope is a consequence of a commitment to daily prayer, to living the sacramental life, reading the Scriptures, reading the lives of the saints, and sharing our faith with others. It is that kind of hope that will free us from anxiety.

So when we begin our prayer, we could say, “Jesus, the one you love is asking, and I know and trust that your Father will give you whatever you ask Him.”

This was Deacon Tom’s homily for the 5th Sunday in Lent (Year A – Scrutinies), preached at St. Matthew Catholic Church in San Antonio, Texas.

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Women: Be the Light!

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In this very challenging time in which we live, where our faith is being put to the ultimate test, God wants us to remember that He sent His Son into the world to be Our Light and to remove the darkness forever. He also told us:

You are the light of the world. A city set on a mountain cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and then put it under a bushel basket; it is set on a lampstand, where it gives light to all in the house. Just so, your light must shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father. (Matthew 5:14-16)

Jesus wants each and every one of us to be the light for HIM first but also be that example for others. If we all could take up our crosses and learn to be the light for others, we could set this world on fire!  We need to come together and support each other now more than ever.

Women especially have challenges with this task since many of us are chatty, gossipy, jealous, and insecure by nature.  Many women I know would rather go with the flow than choose to go against it.  I am very blessed to know a handful of strong, virtuous, holy women who choose to be the light for me and for many others.  It is not easy to be the light in the midst of this very turbulent time. Yet, the time is upon us to not only hear this message but live it.

I know as a wife, mother, daughter, sister, and friend there are many times I still feel dark moments.  There are struggles and challenges that are placed before me that seem unbearable.  As I march through these challenging times, I believe the Lord wants all of us women to be the light for one another.  I have felt recently the Lord shows me that when I am having those dark moments to look to the light (strong, virtuous, holy women) He has placed in my life to help light my way out of the darkness.

If we as women would be the light for one another by comforting and supporting each other, we could be unstoppable.

Written by Elizabeth Boyle-Contreras (Catholic Women’s Conference Steering Committee member)

The Best Part of the Catholic Men’s Conference?

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by Mario Perez, Catholic Men’s Conference Steering Committee

Why attend an all-day Catholic conference when there are a million other things to do?

For the past three years, I’ve had the privilege of seeing the Catholic Men’s Conference come together from behind-the-scenes as a steering committee member. After long hours of planning and many months of meetings, seeing everything come together the day of the conference makes it all worth it.

On those two days, I always find joy on hundreds of men’s faces. There are the men who were impacted by something they heard one of the speakers say. Or the man who comes up and says, “Thanks. Because of this conference, I am growing in my relationship with Christ.” Or the man who says, “I had not been to the Sacrament of Reconciliation in years, but I went because I attended the conference.”

The theme of the conference is “Master, I want to see,” taken from the Gospel of Mark. Why do we stick with this theme year after year? Because the fact is that many of us men are blind, searching for something that we are not sure of. This conference helps guide men to what they are searching for, and that is Jesus Christ.

What’s my favorite part of the conference? It’s seeing the participants leave. No, really – I love to see them leave with smiles on their faces, filled with all the knowledge that they gained over the last two days (and filled with the Holy Spirit).

Do you want to be a part of this conference? There’s still time to register here: http://CMCSanAntonio.com Men, what are you waiting for? Join us this March 23-24 for a great event. Ladies, encourage your fathers, husbands, brothers, sons to attend this event.

Many great things have come out of this conference for six years, and I’m sure this year’s conference will be no different.

Talking with Mom – What I Learned from My Marian Pilgrimage

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Statue that St. Bernadette had in her home, which she said most resembled her apparitions of Our Lady.

I try and talk to my Mom every day.  I enjoy talking to her and telling her about my problems, or just telling her about how my day went.  She’s a great listener and she totally loves me.

The truth is: you can also experience the same with your Mom, too.  I’m talking about Mary; Jesus’ mother who is also our mother, too.  I grew up talking to Mary whenever I had a problem, or if I was thankful for a prayer answered.  It wasn’t until after I went on a pilgrimage to Fatima, Lourdes and Paris that my relationship with Mary, my mother changed.  She became real for me when I went to three places that she appeared: Fatima, Lourdes and Rue du Bac.  I was very fortunate to go on this pilgrimage last year with a group of 58 people with the Pilgrim Center of Hope.  It was an enriching, life-changing experience.

On this pilgrimage, our first stop was Fatima.  We visited the same places where the three visionaries – Lucia, Francisco and Jacinta – stood.  We got to see their homes, their parish church, and Aljustrel.  In the evening, we took part in a rosary procession with the Our Lady of Fatima statue. This was very special.

One important message our Mother Mary gave here in Fatima was to pray the rosary daily.  Did you know that

when you pray the Rosary, say after each mystery: “O Jesus, forgive us our sins, save us from the fires of hell, lead all souls to heaven, especially those who have most need of your mercy.”

was told to the children by Mary herself? It was!

Next stop was Paris.  It was neat to see the Eiffel Tower, but what was really cool was to be at Rue du Bac!  This is where the Blessed Virgin Mary appeared to Sister Catherine Laboure several times and said to her, “Have a medal struck upon this model.   Those who wear it will receive great graces, especially if they wear it around their neck.”  Mary appeared to Catherine several times before she said this, and each time St. Catherine had a vision of Mary, what she saw is what is now on the ‘Miraculous Medal’ some of you wear today.

Our last and final stop was in Lourdes.  Here, we walked in the footsteps of St. Bernadette. We visited the homes she lived in, and also saw the famous Grotto where Mary appeared to Bernadette.  Mary’s main message here was repent. (How relevant this message is right now, during the season of Lent.)  Mary appeared to St. Bernadette 18 times.  At one of those apparitions, Bernadette was instructed by Our Lady to drink from the spring.  Bernadette recalls,

Since I couldn’t see it, I went to drink from the river.  She told me it wasn’t there I was to drink and with her finger pointed under the rock.  I went there and found only a little brackish water.  Put my hand into it but was unable to take any.  Then I dug with my hand and so was able to take some.  Three times I threw water away since it was dirty; then, the fourth time, I managed to drink.

This is where the healing waters come from.  In Lourdes, they have baths where you can literally submerge yourself in water, and many people have been healed here.   We also had the opportunity to experience these baths in Lourdes.  This is an experience I will never forget.  I, too, believe in the miraculous healings that take place here.

Even though this trip took place last year in October, it still is fresh in my mind.  Just yesterday, some of us who went on this pilgrimage got together for a reunion. It was wonderful to share the many blessings that have happened to us all as a result of this pilgrimage.  Some were miracles. Others like me talked about how their relationship with Mary had changed.

I’m not saying that in order to obtain a relationship with Mary, our mother you have to go on a pilgrimage.  No, absolutely not!  I’m saying to you that Mary our Mother is always available to you!  All you have to do is start talking to her… believe me she will listen to you!  She loves you just as much as she loves her son!

7 Practical Principles for Discerning God’s Will in Our Lives

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It’s a common question: “What does God want?” How do we know? Lent gives us the perfect opportunity to learn the answer, as we enter ‘into the desert’ with Jesus, listening to God’s voice in prayer and penance. Here are some practical principles (based on Peter Kreeft’s book “Making Choices”) to help you discern God’s will for your life:

ONE: LOVE GOD!

The first principle is embarrassingly simple: LOVE GOD. If you love God, you will love his will; if you love his will, you will want to do his will; if you want to do his will, you will want to know his will (in order to do it); and if you want to know his will, you will! Jesus said that all who seek, find. This refers to finding God and his will. Not all who seek wealth, glory or even health will get it, but all who seek God will find Him! Our faith is important, a child-like faith, trusting in God, our Heavenly Father.

TWO: LISTEN to the HOLY SPIRIT.

Open yourself up to the Holy Spirit. God guides us when we want to do His will. We must have an attitude like Mary, the Mother of our Lord: “I am the Lord’s servant, and I am willing to do whatever he wants.” (Luke 1:38) Ask Mary to intercede for you. Ask her to pray for you to be docile to the Holy Spirit.

THREE: GET RID of OBSTACLES.

Why, with such powerful help available, does discernment seem so difficult? Not because there’s not enough power, but because there are obstacles that we put in the way. What is that obstacle? SIN. But the obstacle is not sin as such, but unrepented sin. None of us can avoid sin. Saints are simply sinners saved. When sin is unacknowledged and unrepented, it sticks to our spirit and blinds our minds. Repented sin is like garbage put out for the divine garbage man to take away. Unrepented sin is like garbage left in the kitchen that stinks up the air around all the food. Sometimes we rationalize sin rather than repenting of it and it blocks our discernment.

For instance, a married person committing adultery may say that they have fallen in love with someone and feel that God must then be leading them to divorce their spouse to marry this other person. But God has made it clear. He said “You shall not commit adultery.” We can be sure that this person’s idea is not God’s will for him or her, but the obvious sexual sin is a serious obstacle. It also damages his/her relationship with God; this also affects the Body of Christ! Once our will is out line with God’s will, only 3 things can happen:

– – – turn, repent and restore the relationship with God and with it the power of discernment OR
– – – we keep walking away from God, knowing what we are doing but do it anyway; OR
– – – we walk away but rationalize it because we can’t endure the truth that we are turning our backs on God, on Truth, on the source and standard of all goodness, including our own.

To repent is a matter of the HEART, the MIND and the BEHAVIOR. Once the heart repents, we start the journey; the heart is the captain of the soul. When the mind repents, we bring every thought to Christ. When we repent through behavior, we are on the road to recovery; a life of good virtues will help us live a healthy life!

Think of this analogy: The WILL is the Captain, the MIND is the navigator, and the BODY (hands and feet) are the engines of the ship. The whole ship needs to turn (in other words, to repent).

FOUR: GET RID of UNFORGIVENESS.

How important is forgiveness? So important that Christ commanded us to mortgage our very salvation on it. An unforgiving heart is so at odds with the heart of God, whose very nature is to forgive, that it cannot discern God’s will. So before trying to discern God’s will, be sure you aren’t holding a grudge against anyone.

FIVE: MAKE IT a HABIT.

Discernment is a habit, not a quick fix. When we become Christians we are not called to abandon common sense. The New Testament writers often encourage us to think and never discourage us from using our minds. Today, we are so used to “instant gratification.” We must learn to be patient with nature’s and grace’s slow rhythms of growth. How do we do this?

Virtues in reality are habits of doing good. Choosing the good, using our common sense—it’s a daily effort. We wake up each morning realizing it to be a new day and a new beginning and also a continual journey of what already has been experienced. The way we progress is to try to consciously do the opposite of our weakness. If we are impatient, let us try to be more patient…another words exercise that virtue. “No pain no gain” has some truth to it!

Cultivating habits is like cultivating crops; it takes time. Habits can fertilize other habits.

SIX: BE PRUDENT.

“Prudence” means practical wisdom. It is a matter of reason, intelligence, and practical wisdom. Sometimes we ignore this intellectual ingredient when we relate ONLY to the heart and the Spirit. For example: “I feel I love this person very much so I am going to agree to have premarital sex.” This is not being prudent or wise! We must use our minds to discern between good and evil. God wills for us to use our own reason in making specific moral decisions. (Grace builds on nature).

When discerning, always consider the three main factors involved in any given question or problem:
A. God’s objective moral law, revealed in Scripture and the Church’s authoritative interpretation of it.
B. The situation God providentially arranges for you.
C. The testimony of your own conscience, especially the inner peace that you have, is a mark of the Spirit’s presence.

SEVEN: LISTEN when you PRAY

Discerning God’s will is the fruit of a healthy relationship with the Triune God. The fruit of prayer. But remember: prayer is a dialogue with God. The scriptures tell us how God spoke many times to people. So many times WE do all the talking and hardly listen!

What do you think about this: you go to your doctor and tell him/her… “I have problems with my back, I have constant headaches, my blood pressure is high almost everyday. These are my problems and pains Doctor. OH! I also need my allergy shot!” Then having gone through my list I look at my watch and say, “Oh my goodness, I have to go..well thanks for listening!” The doctor would say.. “Wait just a minute, you didn’t let me tend to you.”

Prayer is very important part of our relationship with God. Prayer is the life of a new heart. (Catechism of the Catholic Church #2697)