Light in Darkness

A sherpa is faithful to his post while ready to spring into ordinary, sundry tasks at the summons – even a whisper, gentle or compelling – to tend to a need, calling to be met. Such sherpa behavior develops from a foundation built on habituating the ironclad wisdom in acknowledging God and taking next right steps. Thereby, the sherpa allows God to make of him a sign of hope, hope surely shining from God’s Light, beaming from within to those nearby. From God’s Infinite Goodness, His Light within us penetrates all of creation, piercing the darkness with His Love, giving renewed life to the dictum:

“Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” (Romans 12:21)

For we know:

“The Light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it.” (John 1:15) and “You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hidden. No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:14-16) 

            We, at sea in this Storm, are called to               BE Christ’s Light in the darkness.

In pondering all of this, I think each of us has had times or projects in our lives when we have focused, gathered determination and thrown great energy into a special project at hand, everything from spring cleaning, to preparing and playing a sport for a season, to studying for a degree or some sort of certification, to practicing for a performance or spiritual event, to writing an article or book.

I like to think of navigating the Storm as a very special project of Olympian proportion in its spiritual import. Our prayers – including the prayer of accomplishing ordinary duties and tasks, offered with love – have worldwide influence, albeit, they are hidden in the bosom of the Church. For those who remain in this community, I am determined to honor what Charlie began by abiding with the Holy Spirit, seeking guidance and light for ways to encourage that we not be overcome by weariness, sleepiness, or suffering in the current darkness. I, personally, continue to believe in the broad sweep of things to come as expressed in the archives of this site. At the same time, just how every detail plays out remains totally in God’s Providence as Charlie conveyed in his piece, Through a Glass Darkly. Remembering, too, how often Charlie expressed that if people dismissed the prophetic elements and embraced the core message as a way of life, those people would be well prepared for what we are now living as the world becomes darker and darker, saturated in growing chaos, confusion and division.

These thoughts lead me to an invitation for your consideration, a special project in which to consider engaging in this season of intensifying Storm. The prayers and practices for the project are named in the following video of a talk given by Anthony Mullen, the National Director of the Flame of Love Movement in the United States. In these last months as I have been blessed to communicate with Tony, I have discovered a person deeply mission-minded, working tirelessly to urge others to embrace specific prayers and practices given through Church approved sources. When I listened to his talk, presented on Divine Mercy Sunday, I asked him for permission to post it here. He granted that permission without endorsement of the prophetic elements at this site.

I especially appreciate Tony’s description of how he came to faithfully fast from meals… he started small – one meal – asked for the gift, the grace to continue and, then, incrementally added more fasting. So it could be for us with the practices and prayers about which he speaks: Begin where we are and, gradually, add another and another, for these gems given from heaven win souls for Christ and are accompanied by promises, such as true and lasting peace and the hastening of the full Triumph of Our Lady’s Immaculate Heart.

I came late to consistently praying the Flame of Love prayers and have become very grateful for them. When I was inspired to pray the aspiration given by Our Lady and personalize it with the dear one’s name, I wrote to Tony asking him what he thought about that. His affirmative reply stirred greater fervor for he wrote: “Yes, you can and should do that. Our Mother wants to show the power of the Grace, so by all means use it to blind Satan’s influence on (the person of concern).”  So, I have been praying: “… spread the effect of grace of Thy Flame of Love over _____ and all of humanity…” And I witness to God’s Goodness as I see Our Lady shift attitudes and details in the lives of those for whom I am invoking her promise in the power of the Grace. Amen. Alleluia!

 

 

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Waiting on the Lord with Hope and Thanksgiving

 

Praying in thanksgiving for all who united in making the Novena(s) to Our Lady of Fatima and the Blesseds, now St. Francisco and St. Jacinta. Pondering, still, on how God often works with us in a process to meet our needs and guide us to living in His Will for each of our lives. Especially holding in prayer, those who are deeply suffering at this time when our Mother’s adversary is wreaking havoc all over the world, in personal trials, in families, in countries and in our Church. How our world needs us to persevere!

We know God hears each and every prayer, that prayer brings change and that God answers us in ways so far above and beyond our own limited thinking. My friend, Elizabeth, often speaks of God’s Infinite Imagination and I love that expression of truth. Happy to discover a recent article by Msgr. Pope, I find it to be fine encouragement for us to persevere in prayer with hope while thanking God, in advance, for whatever He is accomplishing in our lives as we wait upon Him.

In my younger years, I often prayed in ways which reflected that I was directing God in how to answer my requests. I’m so grateful for the spiritual mentors in my life who taught me the wisdom of leaving solutions totally in God’s Providence, for HE is the ONE with the Infinite Imagination and HE is the Source of Pure Love from whence our answers come. While Jesus asks, in the Scriptures: “What do you want me to do for you?” (Luke 18:41) The details of how He brings us the best-for-us answer(s) are wisely left to Him. And when He deems to respond by denying what we asked Him to do, we can be sure He is inviting us  to move through alternative doors with a threshold leading to peace and joy. Here, I think of Charlie’s image of God ever going for the triple bank shot (and beyond) to bring into our lives many more blessings for which we didn’t even ask. “If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!” (Matthew 7:11)

It is trustful surrender, with complete openness to His ways and answers, which allows us to bend to God’s Will and experience happiness and joy, even amidst tremendous challenges. Such spiritual muscle strengthening will serve us well in the most difficult days yet to come in this Storm. The Prayer of Miraculous Trust calls us to choose trustful surrender. Many can attest to the power of this prayer. And I have found the Surrender Novena will actually build up our trust in God, thus, immersing us in His Peace.

Before reflecting with Msgr. Pope on God’s mysteries knitted into answering our prayers, you might consider checking out two links:

*Our poor country is crazed in these days, giving evidence that Our Lady of Fatima’s exhortation to pray the Rosary, daily, for peace is as important today as it was 100 years ago. If you’re interested in a great resource for analysis of current news, consider checking out a site from which Charlie often referenced articles: National Review. When I asked him for help in this area, he especially noted the knowledgeable, reasoned, and insightful writers, Victor Davis Hanson and Andrew C. McCarthy.

*On several occasions, Charlie featured the “Walls of Jericho Prayer Project.” There is a new initiative, currently in preparation mode, for June 5-11, 2017, which can be found at the website.

Now, Msgr. Charles Pope’s article, originally posted at his site which he shares with another author: Community in Mission:

(Again, it is I who asked him for permission to reprint his work. He offers no support for the prophetic elements of TNRS site.)

 

SOME REASONS GOD LEAVES THINGS UNRESOLVED

Msgr. Charles Pope, May 10, 2017

One of the great mysteries of God’s providence is that He often leaves things unresolved or unattended to for a very long time. Despite our fervent prayers, He often doesn’t rush to fix everything and He has His reasons for this.

Perhaps it is that we often grow through struggles. We discover strengths that we did not know we had.

Suffering sometimes brings wisdom; we can learn more by living with our questions for a while rather than getting quick answers.

Suffering can spur creativity. Many movies, works of literature, paintings, and poems, are the fruit of struggle and speak to the drama of life and the conflicts we endure.

Suffering sometimes fosters growth. There’s an old saying, “Things do by opposition grow.” Another one says, “Calm seas do not a mariner make.”

Perhaps if He rushed to solve things and intervened frequently God would remove too much human freedom, which He both respects and sees as necessary for us to be true sons and daughters rather than slaves.

Finally, and most mysteriously from our perspective, fixing one thing often affects many others. We have caused a great deal of “collateral damage” in our culture as a result of trying to fix things too quickly. Whatever our good intentions, many of our welfare programs have harmed families and parishes, from which help through charity traditionally came. Some of our advanced technologies have had harmful effects on the environment. And despite our many labor-saving devices, most of us are busier than ever. Yes, fixing one problem sometimes leads to more problems, or at least brings unintended consequences.

Yes, there are mysteries to God’s providence. Despite our many and seemingly reasonable requests that things be fixed (and quickly!), God in His wisdom often delays and leaves things unresolved. He has His reasons, but most of the answers as to why are none of our business.

Be careful before you rush to fix things in your life or in the lives of others. Fixing is often required, but proceed slowly and carefully; learn patience. Learn from God, who can fix everything instantly but usually does not.

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Faith and Reason and Miracles

In these days of making the novena together, encompassing all our intentions in prayer, I discovered an article by Fr. Dwight Longenecker too great to keep to myself.

Fr. Dwight Longenecker says the Miracle of the Sun happened in Fatima on October 13, 1917. We have documentary, eyewitness, and photographic evidence that 70,000 people ‘saw’ the sun spin, felt it was yanked from the sky and that it plunged to earth. Everyone said they saw the same thing. Everyone was so frightened they screamed and ran for their lives. Clearly something happened, what was it? The answer given by believers is more rational than the answer given by atheists.

Fatima and the Atheists

Fr. Longenecker takes on Richard Dawkins’ faulty refutation of the Miracle of the Sun. Father quotes Dawkins from his book, The God Delusion:

“On the face of it, mass visions, such as the report that seventy thousand pilgrims at Fatima in Portugal in 1917 saw the sun ‘tear itself from the heavens and come crashing down upon the multitude,’ are harder to write off…It is not easy to explain how seventy thousand people could share the same hallucination. But it is even harder to accept that it really happened without the rest of the world, outside Fatima, seeing it too – and not just seeing it, but feeling it as the catastrophic destruction of the solar system, including acceleration forces sufficient to hurl everybody into space. Obviously the sun did not dance and plunge to the earth. We know the sun is billions of times bigger than the earth. If the sun plunged to the earth there would be no earth. Clearly there was no miracle of the sun at Fatima…”

In delicious thinking, sweeter than lemon meringue pie, Fr. Longenecker rebuts:

Dawkins is relying on the Scottish philosopher David Hume’s pithy test for a miracle. Hume wrote, “No testimony is sufficient to establish a miracle, unless the testimony be of such a kind, that its falsehood would be more miraculous than the fact which it endeavors to establish.”

Hume’s test applied to Fatima would be to observe that it is very improbable that 70,000 people could simultaneously be deluded, or simultaneously collude in a mass lie. It is also very improbable that 70,000 people experienced the same hallucination.

However, all of those improbabilities are far more probable than the alternative: That the Sun was suddenly yanked sideways in its orbit, spun around and crashed to the Earth destroying the balance of the whole solar system with nobody outside Fatima noticing.

This is typical of the dull literalistic “reasoning” of the atheists. We who believe in the miracle of the sun have also taken science classes. We do understand that the sun is much bigger than the earth.

We also know that if the sun were really spinning that everyone on earth should be able to see it. We also know that if the sun plunged to earth we would all be toast.

Yet we believe in the miracle of the sun.

Scientists are supposed to objectively and rationally examine the evidence. At Fatima we have documentary, eyewitness, and photographic evidence that 70,000 people ‘saw’ the sun spin, felt it was yanked from the sky and that it plunged to earth.

Everyone said they saw the same thing. Everyone was so frightened they screamed and ran for their lives. Clearly something happened, what was it?

Obviously the sun didn’t literally fall to the earth. But 70,000 people saw it fall to the earth. The miracle therefore occurred somewhere within the process of perception.

We see with our eyes, but what do we see? Whatever we see is transferred to the brain and the brain interprets what we see. It is well known that if we do not have the mental capacity to “see” certain things they are invisible to us.

There’s more detail in Father’s article and it’s worth the read here, entitled: Fatima and the Atheists, published at Crux on May 8, 2017. And I love his references to what people saw:

Marian researcher Donal Foley records, that the poet Alfonso Lopes Vieira who lived over 30 miles away from Fatima witnessed the phenomenon. He wrote, “On that day, 13th October, 1917, without remembering the predictions of the children, I was enchanted by a remarkable spectacle in the sky of a kind I had never seen before.”

Foley tells the story of a young boy, Inacio Lourenco, who was a schoolchild of nine when he saw the miracle at a village about 12 miles from Fatima. He described how the children and their teachers were attracted outside by a commotion in front of the school to see the miracle of the sun. He tells of how he could look at the sun, which looked like “a ball of snow revolving on itself,” before it suddenly came down in a zigzag toward the Earth.

As he says, “During those long moments of the solar prodigy objects around us turned all the colors of the rainbow. We saw ourselves blue, yellow, red, etc. All these strange phenomena increased the fear of the people. After about ten minutes the sun, now dull and pallid, returned to its place. When the people realized that the danger was now over there was an explosion of joy and everyone joined in thanksgiving and praise of our Lady.”

The miracle was also seen by sailors on a British ship off the coast of Portugal. Foley recounts an experience in England. He gave a presentation on Fatima at a college in England and was told by one of the teachers that her grandfather saw the miracle from his ship and wrote about it to his wife – “without obviously understanding what it meant or its significance.”

And finally, what most convincingly shows that the miracle was not only in the minds and perception of the witnesses is the fact that the crowd at Fatima felt the heat of the sun as it approached them, and their clothes and the ground – which had been soaked by torrential rain – were dry at the end of the miracle.

The descriptions of the Miracle of the Sun bring memories of how this miracle still occurs. I first saw it at Medjugorje in its HUGE HOST appearance with the colorful rays, spinning in praise of God and His Plan. Again I gazed upon it in Betania, Venezuela and even from our own backyard during a Marian Movement of Priests Cenacle. The similar look at each occurrence, no matter from where it was seen, reminds me of how the apparitions of Our Lady are connected and how our Mother has worked unceasingly to bring us back to God. Most of all, they remind me that God loves us so much that Jesus gave us His Mother, from the Cross, and it pleases Him to draw us to Himself through her Immaculate Heart. She, united perfectly to God’s Will, has maternal concern for billions of souls, each and every one of us, as if each was her one and only precious child, for her Son came to redeem all of humanity, throughout time, as St. Paul said: “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.” And I am reminded that the Miracle of the Sun points to THE Miracle of THE Son, available to us every day, with spiritual food that nourishes, heals, transforms and fills us with grace upon grace upon grace.

I don’t know about you, but I feel excitement as we approach the centenary celebration on Saturday. St. Theresa of Avila encouraged using images to stir our love and fervor for the Lord in prayer. In Missoula, we will bring a statue of Our Lady of Fatima from our home to our chapel while also bringing the statues of the two little shepherd children to be canonized on Saturday, Blesseds Francisco and Jacinta. The wreath of multi-colored roses is ready for Our Lady’s crowning, the music’s prepared (perfect day to recount the story with all fifteen verses of the Fatima hymn, The 13th of May, interspersed throughout the Rosary and Mass), Consecration to the Immaculate Heart of Mary sheets are set and people will stream in, filling every seat. Also remembering, at this time, the joy of a procession, in 2001, in the plaza of the Fatima Sanctuary with the Ave Maria prayed in a panoply of languages. On Saturday, let us unite our preparations and celebrations, be they in churches or homes, on streets or in deserts, on mountaintops or down by the sea, with those who will gather in gratitude, in a few days, with Holy Father Pope Francis in Fatima.

Our Irish friend Jaykay told us:

Blessed First Saturday to all (already Sunday over here) and May 13th coming. We’ve organised our parish public rosary and procession through the town. May Our Lady of Fatima help us all through these times. J.

Our friend Barb Wattery extended this invitation:

I wanted to let the Denver area folks know that my parish, St. Vincent de Paul, will be holding a Marian Procession, with the Knights of Columbus carrying our Blessed Mother, this Saturday, May 13 (100 years) after the 5 pm mass, starting approximately 6:00 – 6:15 pm. We will be processing through the neighborhood around the parish, reciting the rosary, Divine Mercy Chaplet, Litany of our Blessed Mother, concluding with a concsecration to our Blessed Mother. The route and prayers will take approximately 1 hour. This is the work and planning of our wonderful Respect Life coordinator, Lee Ann. If there is anyone in the Denver area, all are welcome. I would love to meet other TRNS’rs.

Our friend Kathleen Murphy announced:

A Fatima Eucharistic Rosary Procession will take place in Pittsburgh on May 21 at 1:30 p.m. Presided over by Bishop Winter, starting at Epiphany Church the theme for this 81st Eucharistic Procession will be ‘CELEBRATING 100 YEARS OF FATIMA.” Here are the details:
SUNDAY, MAY 21, 2017
EPIPHANY CHURCH, 164 WASHINGTON PLACE, PITTSBURGH, PA 15219
After Liturgy of the Word there will be a PROCESSION with the BLESSED SACRAMENT and Statue of Our Lady of Fatima through Pittsburgh. The Holy Rosary will be prayed and the Divine Mercy Chaplet. There will be Benediction and the Crowning of our Lady of Fatima.

How about you? Are you getting ready? May the full Triumph of the Immaculate Heart of Mary soon be upon us!

                                     Immaculate Heart of Mary, pray with us and for us!

 

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Life in Abundance, Hope for the Weary

(Are you weary as the Storm continues to darken our days? Take heart! For Jesus says:

 “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11: 28-30)

And in today’s Gospel passage:

The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep.  The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep hear his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow him because they know his voice. They will not follow a stranger, but they will run from him because they do not know the voice of strangers.” (John 10:2-5) 

So again Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep. All who came before me are thieves and bandits; but the sheep did not listen to them.  I am the gate. Whoever enters by me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture.  The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” (John 10:7-10)

The narrow way can become very wearying… but not because of God’s doing. Rather, we suffer weariness, sometimes, through the wounds perpetrated on us by the sins of others and, sometimes, by wounds self-inflicted by our own sinfulness, in what we do and in what we fail to do. Jesus the Good Shepherd, Divine Mercy Himself, is ready to bind up all our wounds as only THE Good Shepherd can do. It is a life-giving, worthy endeavor to work with Him, for as He says, He wishes to bring us life in abundance.

I’ve been pondering much concerning how we can best be sherpa-ready when the darkest darkness comes upon us. I love remembering how the early Christians went to Sunday Eucharist e.x.p.e.c.t.i.n.g. miracles and they got ’em. Just returning from Sunday Mass, today, after asking, with fullness of faith, for several miracles, I must acknowledge, too, that God so often works in a process as He brings to fulfillment His Plans for our welfare in each individual life.

He came to redeem every aspect of our lives, even, and perhaps especially, our very weaknesses and failures. He LOVES us so much that He enters into our messes with His Infinite Redemption, calling us to do our work with Him… the work of prayer, the work of silence with Him (How will He ever be able to speak to our souls, bind up our wounds, refresh and restore us, prepare us and fill us with every good gift without our participation in doing our work of being silent with Him in contemplation?), the work of self-knowledge (We all have blind spots so it can be beneficial to share our concerns with those we trust and who know us well, who can reflect in gentle ways, what we may not readily self-perceive in our blindness. When what is hidden is brought to Christ’s light, we can respond to Jesus who, again and again, asked those to whom He ministered when He walked the earth: “What do you want Me to do for you?” Jesus, the same yesterday, today and forever, continues to ask this very question of each of us. With self-knowledge, we can ask Him to heal a weakness, a compulsion, or a frailty while gratefully expecting the Good Shepherd to meet our need, for nothing is impossible for God and reconstruction is but one of His specialties. He WILL raise us to New Life, interiorly, if we but ask and are willing to do our work with Him. Then, stronger sherpas shall we be.), and the work of reaching out to others, even as we suffer, becoming wounded healers as we beam hope to those around us in our next right steps.

The gifted, insightful Msgr. Charles Pope continues to draw my attention to contemplation. He highlights well some major aspects of the spiritual sickness of our times. It is I who asked him for permission to reprint his work. He does not in any way support the prophetic messages expressed here. Please, let us pray for Msgr. Pope and all the faithful shepherds of the Lord’s sheep.)

Are You Smarter Than a Sheep

By Msgr. Charles Pope – May 6, 2017

The Fourth Sunday of Easter is traditionally called Good Shepherd Sunday, for the readings focus on how our risen Lord Jesus is our shepherd, who leads us to eternal life. Of course the flip side is that we are sheep. We sometimes miss the humor of the Lord calling us sheep. He could have said we are strong and swift as horses, beautiful as gazelles, or brave as lions; instead, He said we are like sheep. I guess I’ve been called worse, but it’s a little humbling and embarrassing, really. Yet sheep are worthwhile animals and they have a certain quality that makes them pretty smart. Are you smarter than a sheep? Well, let’s look and see how we stack up as we look at this Gospel in three stages.

I. The Situation of the Sheep In this Gospel the Lord is speaking to Pharisees and almost trying to reassure them that He is not like other false shepherds, false messiahs who have led many astray. Jesus says, Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever does not enter a sheepfold through the gate but climbs over elsewhere is a thief and a robber. … All who came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them … A thief comes only to steal and slaughter and destroy.

The times in which Jesus lived were ones of social unrest and political turmoil. There were heightened expectations of a coming messiah who would liberate Israel from its Roman and Herodian oppressors. Given the climate of the times, most had emphasized the role of the messiah as a political and economic liberator who would come and wage war and victoriously reestablish the Davidic Monarchy in all its worldly glory.

Josephus, a Jewish historian of the time, may have exaggerated (but only a little) when he spoke of 10,000 insurrections in the years leading up to the Jewish War with the Romans (66 – 70 A.D.). Even as early as Jesus’ lifetime there had been conflicts and bloody uprisings led by numerous false messiahs. It is most likely these whom Jesus refers to as thieves and robbers. It is also likely why Jesus resisted being called Messiah except in very specific circumstances (Matt 16:16,20; Mk 8:30; Mk 14:62).

Jesus also warned that after He ascended, false messiahs would continue to plague the land:

For false Christs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and miracles to deceive even the elect—if that were possible. See, I have told you ahead of time. “So if anyone tells you, ‘There he is, out in the desert,’ do not go out; or, ‘Here he is, in the inner rooms,’ do not believe it’” (Matt 24:24-26).

Ultimately these false Christs did arise and mislead many; the results were horrible. Josephus wrote that 1.2 million Jewish people lost their lives in the Jewish War with the Romans.

So this is the situation of the sheep. Jesus speaks of the dangers of false saviors, unambiguously denouncing them as thieves and robbers. We, too, are in a world in which erroneous philosophies and false messiahs seek to claim our loyalties and engage us in error.

Perhaps it is the false claims of materialism, which says the right combination of wealth and power can bring meaning and happiness. Sadly, many of the “prosperity Gospel” preachers compound this by their silence about the cross and sin.

Perhaps it is the error of secularism, which exalts the State and the culture, putting their importance above God. Many in the Church and in the Protestant denominations (both clergy and lay) follow false shepherds and call others to do so. They seek to more closely align their faith with politics, instead of their politics with faith; they show more allegiance to the “party” than to the Faith; they do not prophetically address the errors associated with their political point of view; they see their political leaders as shepherds than they do their bishops or priests. Many also follow the false shepherds of culture, looking to them for moral leadership rather than to God, the Scriptures, or the Church. If Miley Cyrus says it, it must be so, but if the Church says something, there are protests and anger. Yes, false messiahs are all around us in the secular culture. Sadly, many Catholics and Christians follow them like sheep to the slaughter.

Perhaps it is the arrogance of modern times, which claims a special enlightenment over previous eras (such as the biblical era), which were “less enlightened and tolerant.” Here, too, many false shepherds in the clothing of trendy preachers and theologians have sought to engage God’s people in this sort of arrogance: that we moderns have “come of age” and may safely ignore the wisdom of the past in the Scriptures and sacred Tradition.

Perhaps it is the promiscuity of this age, which claims sexual liberty for itself but never counts the cost in broken lives, broken families, STDs, AIDS, high divorce rates, teenage pregnancy, abortion, and so on. Sadly, many so-called preachers and supposedly Christian denominations now bless homosexual unions and ordain clergy who are practicing the homosexual “lifestyle.” Many also support abortion and contraception, while saying little or nothing about premarital sex.

Yes, the sheep are still afflicted; false philosophies and messiahs abound. Jesus calls them thieves and marauders (robbers) because they want to steal from us what the Lord has given and harm us by leading us astray. Their wish is ultimately to slaughter and destroy.

Do not be misled by the soft focus of these wolves in sheep’s clothing, with their message of “tolerance” and humanitarian concern. A simple look at the death toll in the 20th century from such ideologies shows the wolf lurking behind these foolish and evil trends that have misled the flock.

As to these false shepherds, remember that not one of them ever died for you; only Jesus did that.

II. The Shepherd and His Sheep – Having rejected false shepherds, Jesus now goes on to describe Himself as the true Shepherd:

But whoever enters through the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. The gatekeeper opens it for him, and the sheep hear his voice, as the shepherd calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has driven out all his own, he walks ahead of them, and the sheep follow him, because they recognize his voice. But they will not follow a stranger; they will run away from him, because they do not recognize the voice of strangers.

This passage tells us not only of the true Shepherd, but also his true sheep. The true Shepherd is sent by the Father, who is the gatekeeper and has opened the way for the Son and true Shepherd. The Father has confirmed the Son by signs and wonders and by the fulfillment of prophesies in abundance.

Of the true sheep, the Lord says that they not only recognize His voice, but also that they will run from a stranger because they do not recognize his voice.

In shepherding areas, flocks belonging to different shepherds are often brought together in fenced-off areas for the night, especially during the cooler months. One may wonder how shepherds can tell which sheep belong to which shepherd. Ultimately the sheep sort themselves out. In the morning a shepherd will go to the gate and summon his sheep with a chant-like like call. Those that recognize his voice will run to him; those that do not will recoil in fear. Now that’s pretty smart, actually. Sheep may not know how to go to the moon and back, but they do know their master’s voice.

So the question for each of us is this: are you smarter than a sheep? Sheep have the remarkable ability to know their master’s voice and instinctively fear any other voice, fleeing from it.

In this way, it would seem that sheep are smarter than most of us are! We do not flee voices contrary to Christ; instead, we draw close and say, “Tell me more.” In fact, we spend a lot of time and money to listen to other voices. We spend buy big televisions so that the enemy’s voice can influence us and our children. We spend a lot of time watching television, listening to the radio, and surfing the Internet. We are drawn so easily to the enemy’s voice.

Not only do we not flee it, we feast on it. Instead of rebuking it, we rebuke the voice of God. We put His Word on trial instead of putting the world on trial.

The goal for us is to be more wary, like sheep, to recognize only one voice, that of the Lord speaking though His Church, fleeing every other voice.

III. The Salvation of the Sheep – The text says, Amen, amen, I say to you, I am the gate for the sheep. I am the gate. Whoever enters through me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture. … I came so that they might have life and have it more abundantly.

Here, then, is the description of the Christian life: acceptance, access, and abundance.

Acceptance – The text says that we must enter through the gate, and the gate is Christ. We are invited to accept the offer of being baptized into Christ Jesus. In today’s first reading from Acts, Peter and the other apostles are asked by the repentant and chastened crowd, “What are we to do, my brothers?” Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit …. “Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.” Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand persons were added that day. Yes, we are invited to enter through the gate, to be baptized into Christ Jesus. He is the gate and the way to the Father.

Access – In accepting baptism, we enter through the gate and have access to the wide, green pastures. Jesus describes this entry as “being saved.” Most of us tend to think of salvation rather abstractly, as if it is the result of a legal process through which one goes from being guilty to having the charges dismissed. That, however, is only a very partial understanding of salvation. The Greek word σωθήσεται (sothesetai) more fully means to be safe, rescued, delivered out of danger and into safety. In the New Testament it is used principally of God rescuing believers from the penalty and power of sin—bringing them into his into His safety and grace. Being saved is much more than changing legal categories; it is new life! It is power over sin; it is being kept from the poison of sin and its terrible enslaving effects. Salvation is also related to the concept of health (salus = health and well being). For the believer who accepts Christ’s offer, there is access to the protected pasture; there is supply or provision of grazing land as well. The Lord feeds His faithful and brings them strength. Yes, there is access to God’s many gifts.

Abundance – The Lord concludes by saying that He came so that we might have life more abundantly. This is the fundamental purpose of all he did. Abundant life is really what is meant by eternal life. Eternal does not refer merely to the length of life, but even more so its fullness. And while we will not enjoy this fully until Heaven, it does begin now. We, through Christ our good shepherd, gradually become more fully alive. I am more than fifty years old and my body in some physical sense is less alive, but my soul is more alive than ever! I have more joy, more confidence, more peace, and more contentment. There are many sins with which I now struggle less. I have a greater capacity to love and to forgive. The Lord has granted this by giving me access to His grace and His pasture, and feeding me there. I am more abundantly alive today than I ever was in my twenties. Yes, the Lord came that we might have life more abundantly; I am a witness of this. Eternal life has already begun in me and is growing day by day.

So, are you smarter than a sheep? If you are, then run to Jesus. Flee every other voice. Enter the sheepfold and let Him give you life.

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Live It Redux

The archives at this site are worthy of review and, in revisiting some old posts, I thought this piece by Charlie would be a fine one for reflecting on our ever active, ever ready-for- high-gear sherpa skills. I took the liberty of emboldening and italicizing text for emphasis.

Live It

jesus-and-peter-walking_on_water

By Charlie Johnston

It is striking to me that many of those who should worry least about the Storm worry the most while most of those who don’t worry at all have a lot to worry about.

Imagine you have outfitted a canoe to navigate through a chain of lakes and streams. It is best to lay out a plan on how to steer through the various streams and what direction to take in order to reach your desired destination, for you are in control…you are driving, as it were. That is normal life. Now imagine that same canoe at the beginning of a great series of rapids you are not familiar with. The first thing to understand is that you are not driving, but being driven. In this case, having a plan on where to steer and what direction to take will likely cause you to capsize – for you do not know what turns and dangers are coming or when they will appear. Instead, you are called to react quickly and skillfully to whatever turns and obstacles arise as they arise. Survival depends on how well you respond to challenges in the present moment.

Right now we are in the early stages of an intensifying series of spiritual rapids. I get a host of letters and comments these days telling me, with great grief, that no matter how someone plans something, it is not coming out right…or about deepening divisions in families…or in shock at the latest outrage perpetrated by the ruling and chattering classes. As St. Peter said, “Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal, which comes upon you to prove you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice in so far as you share Christ’s sufferings that you may also rejoice and be glad when His glory is revealed.”-I Peter 4:12,13. I have told you that these things must come – and so they have begun. I have told you that your only source of security is to abandon yourself to God, then do what is right in front of you, trusting that He will ultimately bring all things to right. Yet some have used what I have said to devise their own plans to avoid the consequences of all this – and now are frightened that their plans are not working out. If you are in that place, be thankful it is happening to you now, for it is simply God gently relieving you of the illusion that you can rely on your efforts rather than His Grace. Do not think I am chiding you: I had decades to learn this. As I have occasionally said, I hope you are all quicker learners than I was, for events have reached a pass where you must be. But if you have such sorrows now, be thankful that you are close enough to what you should be that God finds it profitable to reprove you and bring you along to a real trust. Save your sorrow for those who have no idea there is anything to be sorrowful about, for by the time many of them learn, it will be too late for them to correct their course without a heroic effort.

Are there painful divisions in your family and among your friends? There are the same in mine – and in almost every family I know. And those divisions have ratcheted up dramatically this year. But I told you late last year that they would. You will not convince anyone by becoming more manically insistent on what you believe. Rather you must imitate the farmer.

Consider the farmer: he plants a seed, then must wait up to a week for a sprout to appear. It is a month before a real plant takes shape – and even longer than that for fruit to appear. He conjures neither the plant nor the fruit, but merely waters the ground – and in due time, God raises up a plant which bears fruit. When you speak with confident joy about what you believe, you plant a seed. Once you have done that, simply live what you say you believe with the same joy. When you do that, you water the ground. But to continue to try to push on the unwilling what you believe is to constantly root around where you planted, disturbing the ground and perhaps choking the tender plant before it can take firm root. The farmer must trust God for the increase after he has planted the seed. So must you. Every day that you spend arguing the faith instead of living it with confident joy after you have planted the seed, you are actually withholding water from that tender plant even as you dig around its roots. Stop trying to frantically conjure fruit and trust God for the increase.

I will tell you now something that may seem like a boast, but if it is, it is a boast on the sure confidence we can place in the Lord’s providence. Only once in my life have I ever encouraged someone to become Catholic or Christian. I just don’t do that. My friends and family know what I am and how I live. I meet people where they are and, if they are of good will, share ordinary joys and conversation with them. All know what I believe in, but we are more likely to talk about sports, politics, movies or whatever than God at any given moment. (If you truly believe in God, all good things you discuss are ultimately about God, whether you name Him or not). Even before I went public with these things, when God was mentioned it was brought up far more often by my friends – even those who do not believe – than by me. This was simply because all people knew they could talk to me and get a conversation or an explanation without a harangue to go with it. I truly believes God reads hearts – and if there is good will there, He will bring it to fullness in His time. My task is to encourage the good will that is already there, not to stifle it by haranguing my friends. Even so, there are dozens – at least a hundred I know of from before I ever spoke openly of this – who cheerfully and spontaneously credit me with a major role in their conversion. Why? Because however peculiar I might have seemed at any time, I always lived what I spoke with cheery confidence. I meant it, not just spoke it…and many wanted some of that cheery confidence for themselves. Long faces and strident arguments make for meager evangelization.

So it is all the more critical that as things get darker, you live your joyful confidence visibly and lightly. If you speak of joy but your countenance is ever clouded with worry or panic, your life gives the lie to your words. Live it. That is the witness that transforms lives. When you feel it, live it. When you don’t feel it, live it. When you are exuberant, live it. When you are exhausted, live it. If I had a dime for every convert who told me that my consistent easy confidence drew them into the faith, I would not be rich – but I would have a LOT of dimes. Live it.

Your friends hear what you say, but they also see your face. In the midst of the Storm, while Peter kept his eyes on Jesus, he walked on the water, too. When he was distracted by the terrors of the storm, he began to sink. Your friends see your face and know whether you have confidence in the Jesus you speak of, or whether you have been panicked by the storm around you. If it is the latter, know that however polite they might be to you, they have already decided the peace they seek is not here. Live it – and you will be a true evangelist. In these times, every time you give way to panic or stridency, you dishearten those you are called to evangelize. Your serene and joyful confidence IS the lifeline for multitudes around you.

I know this is hard. Even now, I often say to the Lord, along with the father of the troubled son, “I do believe. Help my unbelief.”Mark 9:24.

Love those around you and live it always.

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Our Lady of Fatima, Pray with Us and for Us

Tomorrow we begin a novena to the soon-to-be-canonized Blesseds Francisco and Jacinta and a copy of the novena can be found here. Another novena which begins tomorrow appeals to the intercession of Our Lady of Fatima and is found here. For those who may not yet be aware, we are making either or both novenas, in solidarity, for all the intentions of those in our TNRS community.

Beautifully, this culminates on the day before the centenary celebration of Our Lady’s first apparition at Fatima. Pope Francis will be there, in Fatima, to commemorate this blessed event when Our Lady first revealed that Jesus, Himself, requested the devotion to His Mother’s Immaculate Heart in order to draw souls back to the Covenant of Love which our Father made with us. Our Mother’s words are jewels to remember that we may be refreshed and renewed in commitment to heed her words and bring them to life. They are as needed now as when they were first imparted.

On May 13, 1917, Our Lady asked:

“Are you willing to offer yourselves to God and bear all the sufferings He wills to send you as an act of reparation for the conversion of sinners?” Lucia, as spokesman for all three, readily agreed. Our Mother replied, “Then you are going to have much to suffer, but the grace of God will be your comfort.”

Lucia recounted that at the same moment as she said these words the Lady opened her hands and streamed a “light” on the children which allowed them to see themselves in God. The Lady finished with a request: “Say the Rosary every day to bring peace to the world and the end of the war.” With that she began to rise into the air, moving towards the east until she disappeared.

In the second apparition, Lucy asked that Mary take them to heaven.:

Our Lady replied, “I will take Jacinta and Francisco shortly, but you will stay here for some time to come. Jesus wants to use you to make me known and loved. He wishes to establish devotion to my Immaculate Heart throughout the world. I promise salvation to whoever embraces it. These souls will be dear to God, like flowers put by me to adorn his throne.” This last sentence is found in a letter written in 1927 by Sr. Lucia to her confessor.

A good place to refresh our memories about the additional teachings, requests, promises and exhortations of Our Lady of Fatima is Our Lady’s Blue Army website.

Some special intentions which we, in unity, may bring to the intercession of Our Lady of Fatima and the soon-to-be saints, Francisco and Jacinta:

For our aggrieved, fragile, fractured world, so in need of God’s Plan. For all those souls who have not yet chosen God, that the fire of the Holy Spirit will descend upon each one to choose God rather than perish.

 

 

For our friend and mentor, Charlie, that his watchful retirement, brimming with many projects and the commensurate work associated with them, be blessed with good fruit. That Charlie, himself, be blessed in every way, with grace upon grace upon grace showered upon him and infused in him for all Our Lord and Our Lady wish him to do.

 

Let us pray in special ways for David Daleiden and his colleague Sandra Merritt that they be cleared of all felony charges and  delivered from persecution. Praying, too, that all their good work, accomplished via great sacrifice and bravery, redounds to the end of the culture of death.

 

For all the intentions each TNRS reader holds in his/her heart, including our families. Please, if you wish, add your intentions in the comments to this post.

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St. Joseph and His Spouse

On this feast of St. Joseph the Worker, we pray for our TNRS community and families that anyone seeking employment would be granted a good job through the intercession of St. Joseph and his Spouse, Mary, by the power of their Son, the Child Jesus.

Dear Saint Joseph, you were yourself once faced with the responsibility of providing the necessities of life for Jesus and Mary. Look down with fatherly compassion upon _____ in anxiety due to inability to support his/her family. Please help him/her find gainful employment very soon, so that this great burden of concern will be lifted from his/her heart and that _____ is soon able to provide for those whom God has entrusted to his/her care. Help him/her guard against discouragement, so that s/he may emerge from this trial spiritually enriched and with even greater blessings from God. Amen.

Our Lady of Tepeyac

Also of note this day is the traditional dedication of the month of May to Mary. We gaze upon this image of Our Lady of Tepeyac in this post as this is how Blessed Mother wishes to be known in our times, for she *is* the Mother of Conversion and oh! how each one of us, our families and our world need to be converted.

Mindful that our readership is comprised of non-Catholics as well as Catholics, I share, again, Charlie’s elegant piece: Mary and the Saints – for Protestants as a tribute to Mary, the Mother of God, in this month of May. It will be such a joy to one day be united as one flock under one shepherd! Thanks be to God, He is already at work in His process of uniting us.

Listening to the whispers of this day, I am nudged to urge us all to either invite Mary more deeply into our lives or to, perhaps, invite her for the first time. God never forces. His Mother never forces. Our Mother’s adversary is the control freak. A first time encounter with Mary may best be engaged by asking her Son to reveal His Mother to you. I can only witness to the truth that upon asking Blessed Mother to bring me closer to her Son, I found myself in the richest relationship to Jesus through her. An Eucharistic Prayer in the Church conveys, “The Virgin Mother bore Him in her womb with love beyond all telling.” She WILL show you how to love Christ in this way. Ask and you shall receive. At the foot of the Cross, Jesus entrusted us all to her maternal care when He said to St. John: “Behold your mother.” But God doesn’t force us. It is we who must ask, invite Mary to be a mother to us.

We’ve spoken much on this site about choosing, choosing God, choosing to trust Him, choosing to believe He has a Plan. Choosing by our own power is puny compared to choosing empowered by God’s Grace. Mary is the Mediatrix of her Son’s Graces pouring upon us from His Cross – if we but ask for them. Mary our Mother awaits our asking. She is ready to intercede for all the graces we’ll ever need. Ask and you shall receive.

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Let’s Novena Together

According to Vatican Radio News, last week, it was announced that when Pope Francis makes his pastoral visit to the Portuguese town of Fatima on the occasion of the 100th Anniversary of Our Lady’s first apparition there, he will canonize two of the young shepherd children to whom Our Lady came: Blesseds Francisco and  Jacinta Marto.

Discovering a novena prayer with a litany which invokes Our Lady of Fatima and the young Blesseds Francisco and Jacinta has led me to ask you to consider joining in praying this novena, beginning May 4th, next Thursday, and ending on May 12th, the day before the anniversary of the first apparition. In addition to any personal intentions we each may have, let’s unite from wherever in the world we live, and pray, as well, for the intentions of every member of this community and our families, for no one has been immune to suffering and struggles in these days. Solidarity is both powerful and heartening.

 “Again, truly I tell you, if two of you agree on earth about anything you ask, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them.” (Matthew 18:19-20)

“The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.” (Psalm 34:18)

The novena begins with the following prayer and both litany and prayer can be found at the World Apostolate of Fatima, England & Wales website:

Most Holy Trinity, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, I adore You profoundly with all the powers of my soul, and I thank You for the apparitions of the most Holy Virgin in Fatima which have made manifest to the world the treasures of the her Immaculate Heart. By the infinite merits of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and through the intercession of the Immaculate Heart of Mary I implore You, if it should be for Your greater glory and the good of our souls to glorify in the sight of Your Holy Church Blesseds Francisco and Jacinta attaining for us, through their intercession, the grace we now implore… mention your intentions …Amen. Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory be…

Since first discovering this novena, I have received an invitation from a group from which I receive emails, Pray More Novenas. You may prefer to pray this novena to Our Lady of Fatima. Whatever your choice, please consider uniting with us at TNRS to pray for the intentions of every member of this community and our families, especially for the families with heartwrenching needs.

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Praying for the Chinese People

A great fire burns in the great land of China. Ignited by the Holy Spirit, it impels ordinary Chinese people who have encountered Christ to engage in living faith with ardor so strong, they are compelled to bring Jesus to others. Please pray for the catechists in training who go, two by two, in missionary zeal, knocking on doors of homes that they may share stories of faith with all who will listen.

Assisting and collaborating with a dedicated priest of Chinese origin, Fr. John B. Wang, I have had the privilege to, personally, share the faith with our Chinese brothers and sisters. In 2015, upon our return from the most recent trip to China, Father was inspired to begin writing catechetical materials for evangelization. Fr. Wang’s life story could readily become material for an epic biography and it is filled with events and experiences which seem, at first glance, to be isolated, interesting pieces of one man’s life.  On deeper reflection, one can see how God has threaded and woven the pieces, essential parts of the whole, to fulfill His great and beautiful purposes for one person’s life. Not to be overlooked, I firmly believe each of us either knows or can discover this to be true about our own lives.

The pieces of Father’s story which brought him to begin writing the catechetical materials involve the time when he was asked to establish the Chinese department at the University of Montana (UM) where he was a professor teaching the Spanish language. (Are you wondering how it came to be that a Catholic priest of Chinese origin was teaching Spanish at a secular university in America? I told you it was an epic biography. Father, a direct descendant of Confucius, was a little boy of 10 when he entered the minor seminary after being trained as a Confucian scholar.  As a young man in 1949, he fled his homeland and went to Spain. Mandarin Chinese was his first language, Latin his second and he became fluent in Spanish as he finished his seminary training. After a year as parish pastor, on to Rome went he to earn a JUD, both civil and canon law. I won’t give details about his PhD’s and additional five languages he speaks so we can fast forward to his arrival in America where he began teaching in seminaries before taking a job at UM while being welcomed and incardinated into the Diocese of Helena for consultation in canon law. Father taught during the week and spent most weekends on the road, providing substitution so that his brother diocesan priests could get away for a variety of reasons.) When he was asked to establish the Chinese department, Father went on a scholarly research quest into Chinese history, culture and customs. This very knowledge, gained nearly 50 years ago, became the springboard of connecting Chinese culture and customs to Catholic Christian teaching as Father authored the catechetical writings to introduce his people to Jesus Christ. To date, Father has written six small books for the Chinese people.

The first book, Spiritual Light on the Human Life, is being distributed throughout China and requests for this book continue to come from all over the country of Father’s birth. My peanut part was editing the original English text and gathering beautiful images, reflecting a dimension of each of the teachings and stories of faith. I giggle every time I see my name snuggled in the midst of all those Chinese writing characters in the introduction of the books. (The Chinese love and giggle when I entertain them with my pathetic Chinese speaking.) Two additional books have been published and are also circulating throughout the nation.

I have wanted to share this good news with you for some time now for it is yet another example of what Phillip Frank wrote:

“It’s as if the rescue is awakening, that the birth pangs of the new dawn are starting to manifest, that the old order is breaking up and the new order starting to shine through.” 

Please, do pray for the Chinese people, the priests, the many catechists and the many good, ordinary people who do not yet know Jesus. Please pray that these materials written by Fr. Wang reach the hands, heads and hearts of countless Chinese people.

I also share this news to ask for your prayers, at this time, for dear Fr. Wang, a truly holy, faithful, Marian priest, erudite and wise, yet little and lowly with a heart that loves all so blessed to be in his presence. On Saturday night, I took him to the ER and he was admitted into the hospital with pneumonia. It’s well known that this disease in someone who’s nearly 90, can be a serious health issue. Many a night and day, Father and I have prayed, together, for Charlie and all the community of TNRS. And as much as Father is a spiritual father to me, he is also more than a friend; he is as a natural father for me. My heart is heavy yet I know God has a plan for Fr. Wang, for me, for you and for our world. May God bless, strengthen and heal Fr. Wang.

Finally, I share with you a little more of Father’s epic story. He has lived TNRS his whole life long, even in the greatest times of darkness. The following footage was produced at the outset of embarking on our China Project, as we like to call our evangelizing efforts. His dream conveyed in the video has been altered by God’s design and it continues to bear great fruit. Father didn’t like the feeling of talking to a camera so he requested that I sit across from him as the audience. Having the greatest expertise in peanut parts, I was delighted to do so.

 

Addendum: People have asked about the church to be built. The video was produced in 2014 and Our Lady Help of Christians  Church was completed in 2015, the first Catholic church built in Shandong Province since WWII. It was dedicated when we were in Zhanghua in May 2015. Just before the Lenten season this year, the parish “graduated” from being a mission to welcoming a permanent pastor so the growing number of Catholics received ashes for the first time and experienced all the beauty of Holy Week in their parish, inviting hundreds of non-Catholics to join them.

The focus, now, is on the distribution of the books Fr. Wang has written. In this is evidence of God at work in His process of gathering us as one flock under one shepherd. At the end of the video, you see information for making tax deductible contributions to this effort as the Diocese of Helena has opened a line for this purpose through their foundation office. If you are interested in supporting the distribution of the books, simply make a check out to: Diocese of Helena, POF-China and mail it to: Fr. John B Wang, 425 Ford St., Missoula, MT 59801

Father loves to, personally, respond to each one who contributes before depositing the checks in the Propagation of the Faith Account for China. Granted, he will be recovering for a while, but I have actually lived in residence with him for the last ten years, shortly after the passing of my husband. I’m ready to take up nursing duties as my NRS and have long assisted Father in everything from correspondence to editing and I fill the barber role pretty well without drawing blood. Our favored collaboration is daily and nightly prayer while dreaming aloud of the Triumph of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. I tell Father we are as Simeon and Anna waiting in the temple for God’s Plan to unfold in our time as surely as it has from every generation to another. Maranatha!

As you reach nearly the end of the video, hit pause when you see a photo with three clergymen in the front row. To the left is Msgr. Joseph Wang, former vicar general of a diocese in Taiwan and he is Fr. John Wang’s biological brother. In the center is Bishop Joseph Ma, now deceased, of the local diocese in Shandong, China. On the right, of course, is Fr. John. Just behind them is the only Caucasian in the group. This was taken in 1995 when I accompanied the Fathers Wang to their home village to fulfill a dream for which they had prayed for 50 years: the baptism of all in their family. I became godmother to the entire Wang Clan (minus the Fathers’ generation) one beautiful October afternoon. Fr. John and I actually took baptismal names from the Litany of the Saints for each family member.

My hope is that we all gain inspiration from Fr. John B Wang’s unfailing trust in God’s Will and His Providence as we move forward in the Storm. Onward!  Onward with the ordinary way and next right steps immersed in prayer, not only of petition, but also of thanksgiving for God is always near to the brokenhearted and He has taken care of each of us in every life circumstance. “For I know well the plans I have in mind for you – oracle of the Lord – plans for your welfare and not for woe, so as to give you a future of hope.”  (Jeremiah 29:11)

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A More Excellent Way

(I asked our reader, Phillip Frank, if he would consider writing a piece for our community. When I first read his beautiful reflection, I had goosebumps because I’ve been having these thundering whispers, coming from multiple sources all around me, connected to loving well. With thanks to Phil for agreeing to write for us, I now share his reflection.) 

 

“According to the Lord, the present time is the time of the Spirit and of witness, but also a time still marked by ‘distress’ and the trial of evil which does not spare the Church and ushers in the struggles of the last days. It is a time of waiting and watching.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 672).

I have noticed what seems to be a shifting. It’s as if the rescue is awakening, that the birth pangs of the new dawn are starting to manifest, that the old order is breaking up and the new order starting to shine through. I have a fruit tree that has never produced fruit before, which is now in full production. I also have a banana tree that usually gives bananas at the end of summer, now with a large bunch near full size. Our very own MP mentioned an unprecedented blooming of the desert near him. Our Snowy had a great gift given to her and her husband with a miracle and his conversion.

Maybe it’s the “false dawn” Charlie mentioned or the “eye of the storm” Mark Mallet talks about? As so many people have said, things haven’t really changed that much.
At any rate, not yet…

The Catechism tells us that…“a sound Christian attitude consists in putting oneself confidently into the hands of Providence for whatever concerns the future, and giving up all unhealthy curiosity about it.” In other words, to remember God is in charge!

Snowy Owl posted this quote from St. Faustina: “As I was praying before the Most Blessed Sacrament, my physical sufferings ceased suddenly, and I heard this voice in my soul: You see, I can give you everything in one moment. I am not constrained by any law.” (Diary, 1150).June 24,[1937].

And a similar quote posted by Mark Mallett;
“…these evil plans can yet be avoided by you, the dangers can be evaded, the plan of God’s justice always can be changed by the force of His merciful love. Also, when I predict chastisements to you, remember that everything, at any moment, may be changed by the force of your prayers and your reparative penance.” —(Our Lady to Fr. Stefano Gobbi, #282, To the Priests, Our Lady’s Beloved Sons, 18th Edition.)

We have been promised a period of peace by Our Lady of Fatima….“in the end my Immaculate Heart will triumph, and a period of peace will be given to the world”.

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI suggests we can get a little piece of heaven right now, here on earth: “…every day in the prayer of the Our Father we ask the Lord: ‘Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven’ (Matt 6:10)…. we recognize that ‘heaven’ is where the will of God is done, and that ‘earth’ becomes ‘heaven’—i.e., the place of the presence of love, of goodness, of truth and of divine beauty—only if on earth the will of God is done.” —POPE BENEDICT XVI, General Audience, February 1st, 2012, Vatican City; cf. Hymn to the Divine Will

Fr. Thomas Merton, wrote: “To say that I am made in the image of God is to say that love is the reason for my existence, for God is love. Love is my true identity. Selflessness is my true self. Love is my true character. Love is my name.”

A person who had a near death experience said that he was asked by the Lord how well he learned to love. Not how many times he went to church, or fasted or how much he tithed, but how much he LOVED. This makes perfect sense to me as our Lord came to earth not just to tell us how, but to SHOW us how to love one another. “Love one another as I have loved you.” (John 13:34)  “….but the greatest of these is love.” (1 Cor. 13-13) “Love never ends.” (1 Cor. 13-8)

It is taught that since we are incapable of loving God the way He deserves to be loved, He gave us each other and judges us by how well we love one another. In Matthew 25:31-46, Jesus speaks that how we treat others is how we treat Him. And in the Our Father prayer, we ask Him to forgive us the same way we forgive others.

I have noticed the more I give of myself to those in need the less they (and I) suffer and the better the results of His gift to me and to those to whom I give. If I share their burden, the need becomes less for us both and seems to dissipate more rapidly than if I refuse to help. It is not unlike a leaky roof. If I do the repair early on, the result is better and the fix sure. The longer I put off fixing the leaky roof, the more the leak damages the house and a greater effort is needed when I finally do fix it. When I step lively to a task the Lord seems to take over and amazing things begin to happen. It is as if a mere natural effort on my part becomes a supernatural one on His.

St. Thomas Aquinas wrote “a person in the state of grace, or divine friendship, possesses certain enduring powers, the infused virtues and gifts, that raise him to an orbit of existence as far above nature as heaven is above earth, and that give him abilities of thought and operation that are literally born, not of the will of flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.”

Now I’m no saint…but I do have faith.

Scripture says that if we but have the faith the size of a mustard seed we could command a tree to be transplanted into the sea and it would obey. I understand that we are not using OUR power of faith to send the tree to the sea, but God is using our faith so HE can transplant it into the sea and thus we become part of His great work. “He who trusts himself is lost. He who trusts in God can do all things.” (St. Alphonsus Liguori)

Faith, in itself, is evidence of the supernatural for…..“faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”(Kings 11:1)

Supernatural manifestations in the lives of the saints are extraordinary visible signs of God’s actions to assure us of the similar but hidden actions of God occurring in the normal life of the world. We who live the mundane, receive these same gifts, but hidden in the “unseen” actions of God. We may receive the physical “seen” manifestations of healing, conversion, peace, feelings of overwhelming love, etc., but we do not have the exceptional visions, voices, locutions or the charism to “wield” God’s power miraculously as do the great saints. None the less, God is very active in our lives and through our prayers He gives us the driving force of our actions in the Church, both the tangible and invisible ones.

St Augustine writes,
“To live well is nothing other than to love God with all one’s heart, with all one’s soul and with all one’s efforts; from this it comes about that love is kept whole and uncorrupted (through temperance). No misfortune can disturb it (and this is fortitude). It obeys only [God] (and this is justice), and is careful in discerning things, so as not to be surprised by deceit or trickery (and this is prudence).”

The temptation to be more than just a regular Joe is all around us. Wanting to be famous, even as a saint, is a temptation. These are worldly ideals, not heavenly ones. Lucifer was jealous of man, Adam and Eve were jealous of God, Cain was jealous of Abel, the Nephilim were “giants” (famous), men of renown, Jacob’s elder sons were jealous of Joseph, Judas was jealous of the other apostles. All wanted to “make a name for themselves” by their pride and not do the will of God. St. Augustine says to live well is nothing other than to love God, with all one’s heart, with all one’s soul and with all one’s efforts. Most of us will do this through a very normal mundane life…filled with the unseen- not seen- gifts from above.

“That the presumption and pride of worldly wisdom is more powerful in its devotees, than humility and true self-knowledge is in the children of light.” (Mary of Agreda,The Mystical City Of God.)

True saints think that they are the greatest of sinners. This is because the thinner the veil becomes between us and God, the more accurately we see ourselves in His light. And in comparison to Him, we are great, great sinners!  True self-knowledge is worth contemplating during this time. Not only will we see ourselves as we really are, but our ability to love others will increase as “those other people” won’t seem so different from us, after all, as we recognize we have these same weaknesses too and would be acting them out but for God’s grace and the gift of faith. As my mother would say…“But for the grace of God, there go I.”

Beckita posted:“As we continue on our Journey, praying, watching,  waiting on the Lord and living our lives as sherpas…”

I think we need to be practicing this Love.

Love for our God and all that is good and holy.

Love for our Church which carries the fullness of truth and in this is trustworthy.

Love for Our Mother Mary who God has given to us in this special period of time to defeat our spiritual enemy through her intercession.

Love for one another, even those who offend us, especially since we are to “love our enemies, to do good to those who persecute us.” Our Lady told one visionary that “they are my children too.” ( everyone we think could NOT possibly be!) And don’t think it is harder to forgive than not. Jesus said that his yoke is easy and his burden light (Mt 11:28-30), not because he would ask less of us, but because he knew that love renders suffering bearable and even joyful. So we still carry a “burden” to be His disciples, an “easier” one, but still a burden. Mother Teresa said of love: “Love to be real, it must cost — it must hurt — it must empty us of self.” Which is to die unto self…” Unless a grain of wheat (us) falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat (we in our fallen nature), but if it dies (to self) it produces in abundance (by supernatural grace.”)

Jesus told us in the parable of the mustard seed that great things can be accomplished by our act of faith. So let us set our little mustard seeds in with the Great Harvesters trove to become supernaturally burdened as His hands and feet and help accomplish the works of God.

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