Tuesday, 16 January 2018

Being Blessed by giving..a story from Eygpt (Desert Fathers)

A monk had a brother living in the world who was poor, and so he supplied him with all he received from his work. But the more the monk supplied, the poorer the brother became.

So the monk went to tell an old man about it. The old man said to him, If you want my advice, do not give him anything more, but say to him, Brother, when I had something I supplied you; now bring me what you get from your work. Take all he brings you, and whenever you see a stranger or a poor man, give him some of it, begging him to pray for him.

The monk went away and did this. When his secular brother came, he spoke to him as the old man had said, and the brother went sadly away. The first day, taking some vegetables from his field, he brought them to the monk. The monk took them and gave them to the old men, begging them to pray for his brother, and after the blessing he returned home. In the same way, another time, the brother brought the monk some vegetables and three loaves, which he took, doing as on the first occasion, and having received the blessing he went away

And the secular brother came a third time bringing many provisions, some bread, and fish. Seeing this, the monk was full of wonder, and he invited the poor so as to give them refreshment. The he said to his brother, Do you not need a little bread? The other said to him, "No, for when I used to receive something from you, it was like fire coming into my house and burning it, but now that I receive nothing from you, God blesses me.

Then the monk went to tell the old man all that had happened, and the old man said to him, Do you not know that the work of the monk is of fire, and where it enters, it burns? It helps your brother more to do alms with what he reaps from his field, and to receive the prayers of the saints and thus to be blessed.

Sunday, 14 January 2018

The Pilgrim Road

The other day I had a test-drive in a lazy-boy chair; the soft leather aroma filled the air as my bones sunk into the sumptuous foam. It raises your legs as it reclines, and has an array of remote controls:-like Captain Kirk’s chair on the bridge of the Star Ship Enterprise. Unfortunately for the salesman, I suddenly remembered Sir Ernest Shackleton and his men fighting for survival in the Antarctic ice floes a century ago and called to mind a Japanese saying that “luxury is a menace to authentic manhood”.

The current generation of men seem bent on making life soft, convenient, safe and comfortable. Philosophies akin to the American dream point to an earthly paradise and rest after labour with the unspoken suggestion that a cure for sickness, old age and death can’t be far away now. Life’s meaning has become focussed on success, wealth and ease and the avoidance of all woes and challenges. Any obstacle or adversity or departure from the carefully crafted comfort zone is met with horror and ultimately disappointment. 

As a pilgrim people passing through life on the journey to our ultimate goal and destination, we have the opportunity to achieve a different kind of success. I read an insight that changed my thinking about my own trials and sufferings; that the difficulties we encounter are really a way that God initiates us into an authentic Christian manhood. He wants to see us reach our full stature as men and as sons and so will put us through whatever is necessary to achieve that. Even those things which happen to us, which can only be regarded as evil, can be transformed by grace (and time) and become our glory; “We know that all things work for good for those who love God”(Rom 8:28) We can resist this process or embrace it; but it will be lighter if difficulties are accepted as if from God’s hand because then we can prayerfully work through them in partnership.

Viewed from this perspective, and looking back on my own life, from childhood to the present, I can see how my heavenly Father led me through different challenges, trials and adventures; many I rather enjoyed, others are filed under ‘hideous abominations’ but in either case I grew through them, learned and relearned lessons, was hurt and healed and taken together it’s the hardships that form our characters the most. In time they are remembered fondly because of the fruit they bore and ultimately this toil is part of heaven’s price, and as we endure to the end our thrones await us!

Friday, 12 January 2018

Your Sins are Forgiven .. a story from America

Let me introduce myself and tell you a little about me. My name is Thomas and I was born into a Catholic family in 1956 and presently live in Northeast Ohio. I am a steel worker, (since 1989) and I presently live on the grounds of a Catholic National Shine as a Hermit of sorts. I rent a vacant retirement apartment from the Shrine and help in various ways. It really is quite beautiful and peaceful.

It was a real struggle for me to leave my prior worldly lifestyle to accept the invitation by the Rector of this Shrine to move out here. Since coming to live at the Shrine, I have had many wonderful spiritual experiences or awakenings, if you will. It is a literal Sanctuary where the evils and temptations of the world dare not encroach! It is my little slice of Heaven on Earth! I have consecrated my life to Jesus as slave and servant of the servants of God, whoever they are! 

Once married, (although not in the eyes of God, but just legally), I have been divorced since 1987. I never remarried. At the time of my divorce, I was a Chief Petty Officer in the US Navy. I spent 13 years in the Navy, but left so I could get custody of my three daughters upon my divorce. Later, my mom told me that while I was in England, (before my divorce) she was vacuuming the floor and she had an overwhelming burden to stop and immediately pray, Mary, bring him home now! I was in Southern England, drinking and drinking and when I would sober up, I would drink some more. My wife and children had returned early to the states and I was to remain another year in the UK. My marriage was in trouble, but I was oblivious! When my mom intuitively sensed trouble for me, my wife and our daughters, she prayed. I was home in three days on some sudden military temporary errand and I never returned! My life was about to be turned every which way but loose. 

You see, even though I was your basic heathen, drunkard, atheist; I felt the unmistakable presence of a Heavenly Mother, Par Excellence, arranging or rather, re-arranging my life so that I could be the custodial parent for the girls. I stopped drinking and went through the ugly process of the divorce. I started experiencing a strange thing that repulsed me at first, but that invisible Mom would not permit me to do what I had an urge to do RUN! Someone, or something was messing with a very private part of me my soul! Someone was speaking to my soul, convicting me of the miserable life I had been living, and calling me to renounce these former ways and follow a new path. Someone was telling me to Do whatever He tells you. And so, I began to see in my minds eye, whole thoughts, some in the form of personal helps, some in the form of poetry, many surrounding the theme of Love a new kind of love I had not known. Unconditional Love for everyone, even my Ex-wife. A very strange change for me! Like some kind of nut, I began leaving notes all over the house, on the mirrors, the refrigerator, the doors..Love, Love or Love Unconditionally 

One thing led to another, and I was guided to the little closet we Catholics call The Confessional; and as I began, Bless Me Father, for I have sinned, its been 20 years since my last confession I burst into tears, telling Jesus, (even though I was with this Priest), I have sinned , my God, I turned my back on You and lived only for myself! It was my literal experience and living out of the Prodigal Son, seeing the miserable state I was in, returning Home to my Father! When this Catholic Priest spoke the words, I absolve thee in the name of Jesus Christ, it really was Jesus telling me, Your sins are forgiven, go and sin no more. Thus began my new life and is how I eventually wound up here at this Shrine after raising my three daughters, now a steel worker living a celibate life of service to Jesus and His Heavenly Mother who refused to let go of me during my darkest days. I have had a lot of time to study Comparative Theology and Religion. I have accumulated way too many books, tapes and papers. Prepared for something of an Apostolate, not for the sole purpose of promoting the Catholic Church, but for the main purpose of bringing souls to Jesus Christ through a ministry of love, unconditional love.

Thursday, 11 January 2018

The Angels Prayer .. a story from Portugal

One day in the autumn of 1916, the shepherds of Fatima took their herd out to graze. After their meal, they went to pray precisely where the Angel appeared to them the first time.

While they recited the prayer that the Angel had taught them

(My God, I believe, I adore, and I love You! I beg pardon of You for those who do not believe, do not adore, do not hope and do not love You!),

their faces to the ground, a light appeared above their heads. The children saw the Angel again who this time held a chalice in his left hand; the Host rested above it with drops of Blood dripping down into the chalice. Leaving the chalice and the Host suspended in the air, the Angel prostrated himself on the ground next to the children and repeated this prayer three times:

 "Most Holy Trinity, Father, Son, Holy Spirit, I adore You profoundly and offer You the most Precious Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ, present in all the tabernacles of the earth, in reparation for the outrages, sacrileges, and indifference with which He Himself is offended. And through the infinite merits of His Most Sacred Heart and of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, I beg of You the conversion of poor sinners."

Then standing up, the Angel took the chalice and the Host into his hands and gave Holy Communion to Lucy, and the Blood of the chalice to Jacinta and Francisco, saying: "Take and drink the Body and the Blood of Jesus Christ, horribly outraged by ungrateful men. Make up for all their crimes and console your God." He then prostrated himself one last time with the children and repeated the prayer to the Holy Trinity (above) three times.

Monday, 8 January 2018

‘Who is Missing and what have we lost?’

The stalwarts of the prolife movement continue the fight for life on many frontlines these days and yet we still don’t see the big picture.

I heard a discussion the other day which made me jump; it was not focussed on the numbers aborted or the horrifying array of methods or the blindness and callous hearts of the people involved. It asked the question ‘who is missing from our world?’ 

In every age and nation, God has always provided what (and who) was needed at any given moment in history. Whilst everyone has their own unique role, the destiny of some is far reaching in their impact. Scientists like Alexander Fleming who discovered Penicillin, social reformers like Florence Nightingale who formalised the nursing profession, or statesmen like Churchill holding back the tide of Nazism and of course our own Saviour.

There is anecdotal evidence to suggest that during a discussion between Hilary Clinton and Mother Teresa, the former asked why she thought there had been no female President of the United States; to which Mother Teresa responded “she was probably aborted”.  

Perhaps many of today’s problems remain unsolved, like cancer, AIDS, wars, etc. not because the solutions were not sent to earth but because the ones to provide them ended up in a bucket in an abortion clinic instead of fulfilling their destiny.

Whether we realise it or not, our societies are impoverished to an ever increasing extent; we have no way of evaluating it but we are all unknowingly suffering the consequences of it.

As Ireland stands on the precipice, with its abortion referendum looming, I hope the people will remember those who gave them the gift of life, the sacrifices they made for them, the love extended to them and vote to 'protect' the next generation, many of whom may otherwise not see the light of day.

Saturday, 6 January 2018

Relentless Love...a story from America

Nicky was only 3-1/2 years old when his heart turned to stone. As one of 18 children born to witchcraft-practicing parents from Puerto Rico, bloodshed and mayhem were common occurrences in his life. He suffered severe physical and mental abuse at their hands, at one time being declared the Son of Satan by his mother while she was in a spiritual trance.

When he was 15, Nickys father sent him to visit an older brother in New York. Nicky didnt stay with his brother long. Instead, full of anger and rage, he chose to make it on his own. Tough, but lonely, by age 16 he became a member of the notorious Brooklyn street gang known as the Mau Maus (named after a bloodthirsty African tribe). Within six months he became their president. Cruz fearlessly ruled the streets as warlord of one of the gangs most dreaded by rivals and police. Lost in the cycle of drugs, alcohol, and brutal violence, his life took a tragic turn for the worse after a friend and fellow gang member was horribly stabbed and beaten and died in Nickys arms. As Cruz reputation grew, so did his haunting nightmares.

Arrested countless times, a court-ordered psychiatrist pronounced Nickys fate as headed to prison, the electric chair, and hell. No authority figure could reach Cruz - until he met a skinny street-preacher named David Wilkerson. He disarmed Nicky - showing him something he'd never known before: Relentless love. His interest in the young thug was persistent. Nicky beat him up, spit on him and, on one occasion, seriously threatened his life. Yet the love of God remained - stronger than any adversary Nicky had ever encountered.

Finally, Wilkerson's presentation of the gospel message and the love of Jesus melted the thick walls of his heart. Nicky received the forgiveness, love and new life that can only come through Jesus. Since then, he has dedicated that life to helping others find the same freedom.

He reaches today's youth because they relate to his background, trust his peer authority, and respond to the message of hope he delivers with both passion and conviction. As one kid said after an outreach into his neighborhood, All I knew was he was an O.G. (original gangster) and he was having this big meeting tonight.

These kids are young, hardened criminals who dont respond to parents, teachers, or the jail system. They receive a glorified message of gang activity everyday in rap music, television, and films. They need to hear a different message - and they need to hear it now! They come to our invasions looking for an alternative to the hopeless cycle of drug abuse, alcoholism, and violence. We must offer them an alternative source of security than the one they find in the gangs. They won't surrender to authority figures that have let them down all their lives. But, believe it or not, they will respond to a message about God if it comes from others who have survived their same living hell. - Cruz

Thursday, 4 January 2018

A missionary Journey ..... a story from Vietnam

When the Americans came I saw a lot of people die; at night we would get under the bed as the helicopter gunships raged above us, I saw many dead bodies every day. When I was a young man I did not know much about politics or really understand the war. I felt very sad that many innocent people died and we did not understand why the war was happening in our country.

When I was growing up, the church meant everything to us. People came to the parish for sanctuary, for help, for prayer and safety. The local priests made a great impression they were very caring men whom the people loved. After the communists took over, I could not study any longer, so I went to work in a labour camp. If you had no job and were a Catholic you were forced to work. We dug canals 8 hours a day I worked at this hard labour for 2 years. The food was poor and there was no medical care, but it was the same for all of us   you had to work for them-you had nowhere to run.

I left Vietnam in 1980, everybody wanted to get out. My escape was organised secretly and cost $2000 for a place on the boat. When I first saw the boat, I thought it was too small, not the right sort of boat for the sea, it was more of a river boat. I asked the man in charge how many it could take and he said 30, but in fact there were 77 of us on board. I will never forget the words of my mother as I said goodbye to her for the last time. She said  Here take this rosary and pray. You dont have much money but trust in God We set sail from Cantho, South Vietnam, in the dead of night.

After 3 days the engine broke down and we just drifted in the south China sea. We had no maps, no compass, nothing at all. The man who organized our escape had given scant attention to food or water for us and before long we were hungry, thirsty and very tired. We steered the ship in the opposite direction to the sun. We thought a foreign ship would see us and have pity. Some got so thirsty that they drank their own urine or squeezed rain water out of blankets they left out overnight. People looked after each other. We knew we were going to die and wanted to die with dignity and respect. We drifted for 17 days without food or water. We prayed all the time. The children kept asking for food. There was a lot of weeping and crying. I kept my hope alive by praying, in the morning, afternoon and evening and even more when the sea turned violent as it often did. I thanked God for my 22 years of life, for my family and asked for the forgiveness of my sins.

There was a young married woman on board who gave birth to her baby (I helped deliver the baby) and I pray to the Lord, Lord, I dont want the baby to die on the first day of his life. I promise you if we survive, I will be a good man Two hours later a British cargo ship, came out of nowhere and rescued us. I knew then that God answers prayers !

(Eventually arriving in England, Michael Ho, became a priest, currently based in Coventry, UK)