Life-in-Christ

Knowing Christ & His Message through Scripture, the Catechism, & the Catholic Church

Our hearts are restless, and will continue to be restless, until…

Today the Church celebrates the Feast of St. Augustine (August 28th): A short synopsis of his life is provided below (courtesy of The Catholic Encyclopedia).

As we celebrate his feast & his life, a question worth asking is “Why does someone who lived over 1800 years ago remain relevant for both disciples & non-disciples of Christ?”  The saints have a timeless wisdom that is often captured in some of their most poignant thoughts.  St. Augustine is no exception.  One of his most repeated thoughts is:

“Our hearts were made for You, O Lord, and they are restless until they rest in you.”

Meditation: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UoW9m-67MME

We are made for God & it is for this reason that the Catechism of the Catholic Church begins with the Prologue titled: The Life of Man—To Know and Love God … “God, infinitely perfect and blessed in himself, in a plan of sheer goodness freely created man to make him share in his own blessed life. For this reason, at every time and in every place, God draws close to man. He calls man to seek him, to know him, to love him with all his strength…” (read more).

We need to ask ourselves daily – what are our hearts seeking after? If we start to feel agitated, discouraged, “unhappy,” perhaps it is because we are no longer resting in God; no longer seeking to know Him & to love Him.

Am I spending time with God?
Am I seeking to grow in my love for Him?
Am I seeking to know Him more deeply?
When am I “happiest” and most at peace?
How do I define “happiness”?
Whose voice do I listen most intently to – God’s or the culture & media?
At the end of my life, what will happen? Do I trust in God’s promise of eternal life, love, & happiness -with Him?

“FATHER,… this is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.” 1 Jn.17:3.

 

St Augustine of Hippo (354 – 430)
He was born in Thagaste in Africa of a Berber family. He was brought up a Christian but left the Church and embraced the Manichaean heresy, later seeing how nonsensical it was and becoming a Neoplatonist instead. He led a wild and dissolute youth. He took a concubine by whom he had a son, Adeodatus. He had a brilliant legal and acedemic career. At length, through the prayers of his mother, and the teaching of St Ambrose of Milan, he was converted back to Christanity. He was baptized in 387, shortly before his mother’s death. He returned home to Africa and led an ascetic life. He was elected Bishop of Hippo and spent 34 years looking after his flock, teaching them, strengthening them in the faith and protecting them strenuously against the errors of the time. He wrote an enormous number of works: the Office of Readings has many extracts from them. He was declared a Doctor of the Church by Pope Boniface VIII in 1308.  May we turn to St. Augustine today, and ask him to help us to see that God indeed made us – & we will only be truly at rest when we rest in Him (God).

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Eternal Life … Do we desire it?

A young man approached Jesus and said,
“Teacher, what good must I do to gain eternal life?” Mt 19:16-22

For Reflection:

  • Read the entire Scripture passage: Mt 19:16-22
  • Listen: What is God saying to me?
  • What do I need to let go of?
  • Action: What does God want me to do?

 

August 20th: Feast of St. Bernard of Clairvaux –
St Bernard wrote numerous sermons, retreats & prayers including the “Memorare.”

Another famous and popular work of his is titled “On Loving God”
Click for Book Link
Click for MP3 Link

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Saint for our times…. St. Maximilian Kolbe

St Maximilian Kolbe (1894 – 1941)

He was born on 8 January 1894 in occupied Poland: he joined the Franciscans in Lwów in 1910, and was ordained eight years later, as his country became free and independent for the first time in over 120 years.
  He believed that the world was passing through a time of intense spiritual crisis, and that Christians must fight for the world’s salvation with all the means of modern communication. He founded a newspaper, and a sodality called the Knights of Mary Immaculate, which spread widely both in Poland and abroad.
  In 1927 he founded a community, a “city of Mary,” at Teresin: centred round the Franciscan friary, it attracted many lay people, and became self-supporting, publishing many periodicals and running its own radio station.
  In 1930 he went to Japan, studied Buddhism and Shintoism, and through the Japanese edition of his newspaper spread the Christian message in a way that was in harmony with Japanese culture. In Nagasaki, he set up a “Garden of the Immaculate,” which survived the atomic bomb.   He also travelled to Malabar and to Moscow, but was recalled to Poland in 1936 for reasons of health.  When the Germans invaded in 1939, the community at Teresin sheltered thousands of refugees, most of them Jews.
  In 1941 he was arrested and sent to the concentration camp at Auschwitz, where he helped and succoured the inmates. In August of that year a prisoner escaped, and in reprisal the authorities were choosing ten people to die by starvation. One of the men had a family, and Maximilian Kolbe offered to take his place. The offer was accepted, and he spent his last days comforting his fellow prisoners.
  The man he saved was present at his canonization.
Maximilian Kolbe’s martyrdom is the least important thing about him. We are none of us likely to find ourselves in a position to emulate his sacrifice, and speculation as to the heroic way in which we would have behaved in his place is a pernicious waste of time. What is important is that he acted the way he did because of who he was – or, rather, because of who he had become. It is because of who he had become that we revere him as a saint: he would have been a saint (though perhaps not canonized) even if he had not been martyred. And that process of becoming is something we can all emulate. We can all become people for whom doing the right thing is obvious, natural, and easy. It requires no heroism, no special gifts: just perseverance, and prayer. (Universalis: August 14)
The most deadly poison of our times is indifference. And this happens, although the praise of God should know no limits. Let us strive, therefore, to praise Him to the greatest extent of our powers.
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Families – standing strong together

Pope Francis recently addressed over 500,000 people at the opening of the 37th National Convocation of the “Renewal of the Spirit” in Rome. Speaking about families he noted:

Families are the domestic Church, where Jesus grows; he grows in the love of spouses, he grows in the lives of children.

That is why the enemy so often attacks the family. The devil does not want the family; he tries to destroy it, to make sure that there is no love there.

Family is the best place to progress - they allow for our imperfections, & love us anyway!

May the Lord bless families and strengthen them in this time of crisis when the devil is seeking to destroy them.

How is life in your family?

Is your home a place of safety & security – both physically & emotionally?

Is your home a place where mistakes can be made, but members still know they are loved?

Is God part of each day? Do all members know the love of Jesus, and that He is there for all of you – in good times and in bad – in plenty & in need?

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Lesson learned…

Let the children come to me…

 Psalm 51 (the great penitential Psalm) offers us a way to approach God when we have made mistakes…

Have mercy on me, God, in your kindness. * In your compassion blot out my offense. O wash me more and more from my guilt * and cleanse me from my sin.
My offenses truly I know them; * my sin is always before me. Against you, you alone, have I sinned; * what is evil in your sight I have done…

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

As I was praying this Psalm the other day, my mind went to an image of my son, Joshua, saying his nighttime prayers.

He usually starts his prayers with the sign of the cross, then prays the Our Father, a Hail Mary, the Glory Be, then the rest of his prayer time depends on how the “Spirit” is moving him. However, he always ends his prayers by telling Jesus that he is sorry for all the bad choices he has made that day (together we try to come up with 1 or 2 specific examples-depending on the kind of day he has had); he tells Jesus what he is thankful for (this comes much easier; then, tells Jesus good-night & that he loves Him.

Joshua’s prayers are quite simple, but right on target. I am not saying they are perfect, but I think as adults, we can certainly learn from his style. Let me offer a few reflective questions for your, and my own use:

  1. Do I pray every night before I go to sleep?
  2. Do I make an act of contrition – not just a rote memorization, but actually look back over the day & tell Jesus I am sorry for the “bad choices” I have made? Aren’t sins really the “adult” word for “bad choices?”
  3. Do I thank God for all the gifts and blessings of the day? There is always something to be thankful for…
  4. Do I have a personal relationship with Jesus? So much so, that it is natural for me to say “Goodnight” to Him?
  5. Again, do I have the kind of personal relationship with Jesus, that I am comfortable with and it is natural for me to tell Him that I love Him?

Yes, we can learn a lot from children. Often times the lessons we teach children are not meant for them alone. “Let the children come to me…for to such belongs the Kingdom of God!”

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Does your child know?

When a child is given to his parents, a crown is made for that child in Heaven, and woe to the parents who raise a child without consciousness of that eternal crown!”
Fulton J. Sheen, Life Is Worth Living

How can Christian parents teach their children to love God? How can they build strong spiritual foundations? Parents can instill a spiritual foundation in their children through the Bible, prayer, church, and teachable moments.

Through the Bible

It is never too early. or too late, to begin reading the Bible to your child. Consider these tips for teaching the Bible to your children:

  • Read Bible stories to your children from age-appropriate books.
  • Apply biblical truths to your children’s lives. (e.g. You were created by God. God loves you. You can talk to God.)
  • Put Scripture verses to familiar tunes and sing to your child.
  • Use drama to explain Bible stories by acting out scenes and stories from Scripture.
  • Handle the Bible with reverence, read it in your personal time with God, and take it with you to church.

Through Prayer

Teach your child that there are many ways to pray, places to pray, and wo

rds to pray. Pray at meals and bedtime but do not stop there.

  • Pray together regularly as a family when someone is sick.
  • Thank God when good things happen to your family and when He answers prayer.
  • Pray open-eyed prayers as you drive your children to school.
  • Pray “photo-album” prayers. Pull out family photo albums and thank God for the people in the photos.
  • Take walks through your neighborhood and pray for your neighbors as you pass by their houses.
  • Pray for missionaries by using maps of the world. Locate countries where missionaries are serving. Pray for the missionaries and the people they are helping to learn about God.
  • Sit at the mall and silently pray for people as they walk past you.

Through Church

Attending church regularly indicates that this is a

time of importance to your family. Church is a time of fellowship, encouragement, and learning.

  • Attend church regularly as a family.
  • Go to Sunday School/Religious Education classes to learn biblical & moral truths in fun and creative ways.
  • Experience worship service as a family.
  • Participate in the ministries of the church as God leads.

Through Teachable Moments

Everyday moments afford numerous opportunities to teach your children a Christian worldview – a way to see everything in life through the lens of Jesus Christ.

  • Allow children to make mistakes themselves. Show them love and grace as God has shown you.
  • When outside, look around you and thank God for creating natural beauty.
  • When a rainbow arches across the sky, teach your children about Noah and the flood and God’s promises.
  • During a visit to the zoo, ask your children to stop, ponder, and thank God for His wonderful creatures.

t is essential for Christian parents to build spiritual foundations for their children by teaching them to love God & His Church. Through Bible study and a respect and reverence for the authority of Scripture, through family prayer and Church attendance, & through Christian worldview lessons taught every day, you can give your children a solid foundation built on Christ. The greatest inheritance you can leave your child is to teach him to love God.

As Fulton Sheen reminds us: When a child is given to his parents, a crown is made for that child in Heaven, and woe to the parents who raise a child without consciousness of that eternal crown!”

Does your child know?  It’s not too late…

Scripture:

1 “Now this is the commandment, the statutes and the judgments which the LORD your God has commanded me to teach you, …, 2 so that you and children… might (know) the LORD your God, & keep all His statutes and His commandments which I command you, all the days of your life, and that your days may be prolonged... 4 “Hear, O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD is one! 5 “You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. 6 “These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart. 7 “You shall teach them diligently to your children and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up. 8 “You shall bind them as a sign on your hand and they shall be as frontals on your forehead. 9 “You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates. Dt. 6

*Credits to Denise George for sections utilized in this blog.

 

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Mommy, why doesn’t God talk?

I talk to God...

I have always tried to teach my son, Joshua, different ways to pray. In addition to teaching him meal prayers, traditional prayers (the Our Father, the Hail Mary, etc), my husband & I will read the Bible with him quite frequently. We also encourage him in spontaneous prayer – speaking to Jesus from his heart.

I have taken Joshua to Eucharistic adoration, Holy Hours, Gospel revival prayer services, and other places that highlight the ways that we, as Catholics, express our prayer/communion with God. I have done this in order to expose him to various ways we can communicate with God.

Why doesn't God talk to me?

Driving in the car the other day, out of the blue, he asked, “Mommy, why doesn’t God talk?” Fortunately, since this isn’t the first time I have heard this question, I was able to have a pretty good discussion with him. My mind, however, did flash back to all those times I had been asked a similar question, minus the “Mommy” salutation. College students, high school students, parents, catechists, friends, family members, colleagues, & even strangers have asked this question.

God does talk-we just have to know how to listen...

This question needs to be considered in relation to Evangelation. We hear a lot about Evangelization & the New Evangelization these days – the sharing & bearing witness to God, to a personal God who loves us & reveals Himself to us in the Divine Person, Jesus Christ. This is a simple explanation of what Evangelization is. It is what we, as Catholic Christians, are called to by our Baptism. If we are going to take this call seriously – then we had better be prepared to answer this question framed a little differently: Not, “Why doesn’t God talk?” Rather, “How does God speak to us? How does He speak to me? How does He speak to you?”

There are different ways He speaks to us, but the key is – are we listening? As I explained to my son, to hear God speak requires a special kind of listening. A listening where we are quiet – quiet in mind & heart; a listening where we ask in the different things & events that are occuring in our lives, “Jesus, what are You saying to me – here and now?”

So what are those ways that God speaks to us?

  1. The Bible- Scripture is the Word of God. St Jerome said, “Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ!” Here we encounter the God’s Word – God speaking & communicating to us.
  2. Other people – Family, friends, strangers, ministers… we are a community of people and God will use people, especially those who are friends with Him, to speak His word to us.
  3. The Liturgical Life of the Church – Mass, the Sacraments – these in a real, direct, & intimate way are God speaking to us personally, & within the community of believeers. He draws us deeper into a relationship with Him.
  4. Events – often times, when we are praying about what we should do – we look back at events (both happy & sad) that have occurred & clearly see that God has been trying to communicate His plan to us.
  5. Saints, spiritual writers – the Saints are friends of God, as are spiritual writers. God will use their writings to speak to us and guide us or confirm things/thoughts/ideas for us.
  6. The Church – Her ministers, Her teachings – all of these help us to know what God is saying – through the teachings of Christ – they can clarify & confirm what we think we have heard God say.
  7. Directly – God may speak directly to use through a small still voice – that we hear in the silence of our hearts. Or we may actually hear an audible voice, although this is rare. He may also speak to us directly through an inspiration – gently or almost in an irresistible way.

Speaking- heart to heart.

With all of this being noted, it is important to realize that what we are talking about when speaking with God. is prayer. It is being in union with God -as St Paul says – praying always. Prayer is recipricol – ” a lifting of one’s mind & heart to God” - it is an action between God and us humans – a covenant relationship… we both speak and we both listen…God does talk —However, let us make sure we are listening… read more.

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What is reqired of a Christian?

What does this practically mean?  In short, we are called to love the sinner, but hate the sin.  Jesus us tells us that weeds & wheat will grow together (mt 13:24-30).  We will always be surrounded by good and bad.

However, we have no obligation to put ourselves in a situation that will cause us to sin, or to be morally or physically at harm.  As a parent, the same applies: Christianity does not insist that you expose your family to anything that could harm them or cause them scandal.

Just because Jesus warns us that the weeds will grow with the wheat, He does not require that we partake of the weeds.  Quite the contrary – the wheat is to be harvested & used; the weeds are to be separated & burned.

Society & other Christians will tell you differently, nevertheless, love (as in loving another), can and should be done at a distance, if harm, hurt, or scandal will occur by close proximity.

Tolerance, & love, are acceptable, both remotely and proximately.  Where is the best place for you?  Yes, sometime situations, dictate the answer…

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Why Mary? Feast of Our Lady of Mt Carmel

All generations to come shall call me blessed! Lk. 1:48

Mary, Model of Charity

Pope Benedict XVI

Mary’s greatness consists in the fact that she wants to magnify God, not herself.

She is lowly: her only desire is to be the handmaid of the Lord (cf. Lk 1:38, 48).

She knows that she will only contribute to the salvation of the world if, rather than carrying out her own projects, she places herself completely at the disposal of God’s initiatives.

Be it done unto me according to your word. Luke, Chapter 1

Holy Mary, Mother of God,
you have given the world its true light,
Jesus, your Son – the Son of God.
You abandoned yourself completely
to God’s call & thus became a wellspring
of the goodness which flows forth from him.

Show us Jesus. Lead us to him.
Teach us to know and love him,
so that we too can become
capable of true love
and be fountains of living water
in the midst of a thirsting world.

The Church honors Mary, under various titles (“nicknames”).   Today, July 16th, the Church honors Mary under the title of Our Lady of Mt Carmel.
Under this title, we again see how Mary desires to lead us to God — to eternal life & happiness:
The feast celebrates the devotion that the Blessed Virgin Mary has to those who are devoted to her, and who signal that devotion by wearing the Brown Scapular. According to tradition, those who wear the scapular faithfully and remain devoted to the Blessed Virgin until death will be granted the grace of final perseverance & be led to Eternal Salvation with the Holy Triune God.    1 Kings 21:1-21,27-29
Almighty Lord and God,
  let the gracious intercession of our Lady of Mount Carmel help us.    Under her protection,
  may we come to the mountain of God, Christ the Lord,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, God for ever and ever.   Amen.
 
For more information about Our Lady of Mt Carmel & the Scapular, click link.
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Home & Family…

The music group Bon Jovi had a popular song a few years ago titled “Who says you can’t go home.”

Here are some of the words to the song: “Who Says You Can’t Go Home”

I spent 20 years trying to get out of this place I was looking for something I couldn’t replace I was running away from the only thing I’ve ever known Like a blind dog without a bone I was a gypsy lost in the twilight zone I hijacked a rainbow and crashed into a pot of gold I been there, done thatand I ain’t lookin’ back on the seeds I’ve sown, Saving dimes, spending too much time on the telephone Who says you can’t go home

[Chorus]
Who says you can’t go home There’s only one place they call me one of their own Just a hometown boy, born a rolling stone, who says you can’t go home Who says you can’t go back, been all around the world and as a matter of fact There’s only one place left I want to go, who says you can’t go home It’s alright, it’s alright, it’s alright, it’s alright, its alright (For rest of lyrics, click here)…

Both music and Scripture have a way of speaking to the heart. They strike an emotional chord, and often express in a unique way our innermost thoughts and feelings.

In the Gospel of Matthew, (Mt 12:46-50), Jesus talks about family – mother, brother, sister…He is speaking about more than blood relatives (as is Bon Jovi). Jesus is speaking about those who are united in belief & committment to doing the will of God. As we travel life’s journey, we are often able to see more clearly how necessary these relationships are – and how in all circumstances, they will assist us in becoming who we are called to be, and in doing what we are called to do as disciples of Christ. God places these familiar & “family” relationships in our lives to help us on our journey.

May we not be afraid to “go home,” & may we also not be afraid or hesitant to be brother, sister, mother for those in our own faith community.

While Jesus was speaking to the crowds, his mother and his brothers appeared outside, wishing to speak with him. Someone told him, “Your mother and your brothers are standing outside, asking to speak with you.” But he said in reply to the one who told him, “Who is my mother? Who are my brothers?” And stretching out his hand toward his disciples, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers. For whoever does the will of my heavenly Father is my brother, and sister, and mother.” Mt 12:46-50

Amen…

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M Crooks, Doctorate Pastoral Ministry: 2009-2012 http://xtnfamily.tumblr.com/