If you are looking for my blog titled, The Contemplative Catholic Convert, you are at the right spot.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Bad Things and Good People (repost)



When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. (1 Corinthians 13:11)


When I was 12 or 13 I prayed a nightly prayer as I prepared to go to sleep: “Oh, God, please God. Don’t let anything happen to me, Andrea (my sister), my father or my mother.” Night after night. For two or three years, if my memory is reliable.
I don’t know how I came up with that prayer, how I formulated it in my pre-adolescent mind, or why I prayed it each night. I never heard my parents pray, other than once a year during Rosh Hashonna when mom prayed over the Yahrtzeit candles for her deceased mother.  Now that I think about it, more than 50 years later, I probably learned to pray from watching movies on television.

“Oh God, please God, don’t let anything happen to me, Andrea, my father or my mother.

In more recent years, however, I’ve wondered what might have happened to my fledgling faith if something bad did happen to me, Andrea, my father, or my mother. As a child who thought like a child and reasoned as a child, would I have put aside my childish faith? Would I have been angry at God, thought Him impotent, or uncaring, or absent, for permitting something serious to fall over us? I’ve talked with many people in the last 40 years of my walk with the Savior to whom exactly that had happened. They’d prayed fervently, sometimes day after day for years for a loved one, or for themselves, for good to happen – and the opposite occurred. Death. Divorce. Loss . . . .
Although this is speculation on my part – I like to think if something bad had happened to one of us, and I laid aside my youthful faith, I like to think that when I became a man I would have recovered from my earlier rejection of God. I like to think I would have grown to know God for who He really is: Not impotent, but almighty. Not uncaring, but the very essence of love. Not absent, but always with me, never leaving me, never forsaking me.

Why do prayers sometimes – some might say many times – why do they go unanswered? Why do loved ones – even children -- die in accidents, or by illness, or murder, or suicide or . . . . ?  Why do lovers separate?
Why do bad things happen to God’s people?

Once upon a time, I thought I knew why. I could cite a dozen reasons, and come up with as many scriptures to explain God’s actions or inactions. But now, after so long walking with Jesus, I confess I am no longer sure why He does what He does, or does not do what He does not do.

For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror,’ St. Paul continued in his 13th chapter of 1 Corinthians. ‘[But] then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.”

After all the decades of unanswered and sometimes desperate prayers I’ve lifted toward heaven, I now believe faith in God – faith that abides despite dead loved ones, or divorce, or long and arduous sickness, or any other terrible trial that falls so often over so many of God’s children – I now believe a stick-to-it faith in God is nothing less than a supernatural gift He gives to those who still seek Him, even after terrible and unyielding disappointment.

I believe abiding faith is as great a supernatural gift, it is as great a grace, as that of being healed of sickness, or resurrected from a dead relationship. It’s the kind of grace that enables us to put childhood thoughts and reasoning behind, and fix adult eyes on things unseen, or unknown -- and simply be content with that.

I wish I had a better answer – for myself, and for those who ask me the often unanswerable question, “Why?”

And so I continue to pray, “Oh, God! Give us your gift, give us your grace to say – even from the depths of our personal hell: “Jesus, I trust in you.”

Monday, November 21, 2016

Freedom

St. Paul stated, “It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery.” (Galatians 5:1)

The Christian who knows what the Bible says is free from the bondage that comes with biblical illiteracy. Knowledge of Scripture sets us free from chains of guilt that ALWAYS accompanies a poorly formed conscience, poorly formed because of ignorance of God’s word.

Why do you think Satan feeds nuanced lies to those in the church pews about the alleged dangers of reading the Bible for oneself? Why do you think the devil tells us the scriptures can only be understood by the clergy?

He tells us those things to keep Christians in chains, in slavery to his poisonous deceptions.

Christian, and those of you who fear God, it's time to enter the joyful freedom of those who love God’s word, who study God’s word, who KNOW God’s word.

It was for freedom that Christ set us free!

Monday, November 14, 2016

What Am I Doing?



I stepped forward without much thought to receive the Eucharist as the priest said, “The Body of Christ."

“Amen,” I answered as he placed the wafer in my mouth. I made the sign of the cross and moved toward the minister holding the cup.

“The Blood of Christ,” she said.

“Amen.” I reached for it, but then stopped mid-reach.

“What am I doing?” the thought flashed into my mind. “Do you realize you just now received the holy Body of our Savior?”

My mind focused on that image.

People began stacking up behind me, so I quickly sipped Christ’s Blood and moved toward my pew. But the moment stayed with me.

“What am I doing?”

When the prophet Isaiah saw the Lord, he fell on his face in fear (Isaiah 6:5). When Moses approached God in the bush aflame with Holy Presence, he removed his sandals and “hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God” (Exodus 3:5-6). When St. John saw the risen and glorified Christ, he fell to the ground as if dead (Revelation 1:17).

And I had just been in the very presence of God, I had just received His holy body and blood, nearly as an afterthought. 

I knelt in the pew and watched as my fellow Catholics moved slowly in line toward the Eucharist. Some chewed gum. Others glanced casually around the sanctuary. Many crossed themselves so rapidly, their hand nearly blurred as it brushed their forehead, chest and shoulders.

And I saw myself in them; Casual. Detached from the sacred moment.

What am I doing? 

Oh, Lord! I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof. But only say the word, and my soul shall be healed.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

To What Purpose November 8?


Anyone with a modicum of understanding of the God of Scripture knows God delivered us from judgment on November 8. He answered the prayers of multiple thousands of Christians and other God- fearing Americans. Our national sins of abortion and flagrant sexual immorality alone – not to even mention our other national sins – our sins stink to the highest heaven just as Sodom’s sins sent their stench to God’s nostrils (Genesis 18-19). 

Yes, God had mercy on us this time by not giving us what we deserve.

At this point we ought to be reminded of St. Paul’s comment to the church at Rome: Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, forbearance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance? (Romans 2:4)

Christians and other God-fearing Americans ought to take serious and measured heed of what the apostle wrote.

The Church has enough to repent of to keep us on our knees for the next four years. And I IMPLORE US to not sit back now and think our work is done until next time. Such an attitude would be very unwise and very costly.  God is not One to be mocked.

Perhaps that is one reason the Holy Spirit made it easy for us to find model prayers of repentance. I call it the DEN prayer models: Daniel,Ezra,Nehemiah. Look at chapter 9 in each of the three Biblical books and you will find model prayers in which every pastor, deacon, priest, bishop, rabbi, and Sunday School teacher/catechist could lead their congregations. And the DEN prayer models also can serve as templates for individual prayers as well.

You and I must not fail to recognize and openly acknowledge the gift of grace (Grace: God giving us what we do not deserve. Note the difference in the definition of Mercy I listed at the beginning) – we must not fail to recognize and openly acknowledge the gift of grace God extended to us on November 8. We must not be like the ten lepers healed by Jesus – of whom only the one returned to give Him thanks. (Luke 17:11-19)

Christian, and you who fear the God of the Bible, God still calls us to national repentance. We kill 3500 babies in the womb each DAY in American abortion centers. We have elevated sexual perversions to the law of the land. We have turned our backs on the truly needy among us (I use the phrase “truly needy” on purpose). We are carelessly and cavalierly permitting our children and grandchildren to be taught God is merely an ancient myth useful only within the four walls of a church or synagogue. We have enthroned the ‘dollar’ to the place of worship and shoved the Creator to the periphery of our day to day lives. And those are only the beginning of our sins for which God will judge us if we do not repent.

What the prophet wrote in 2 Chronicles 7:13-14 still holds true, and may God help us to never lose sight of that promise – AND that implied warning: If I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or if I command the locust to devour the land, or if I send pestilence among My people, and My people who are called by My name humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, will forgive their sin and will heal their land.

God has done His part. He has granted us His mercy. Now we must do our part.

 Christian, and those of you who fear God – how then will we live?
What a somber and sober choice lay now before us.

Monday, November 7, 2016

Never Give Up the Fight



How do we keep doing "well-doing" when it seems a struggle to put one foot ahead of the other? And perhaps more important is the question, "Why should we keep doing it?" I answer those questions in my latest message from Galatians. https://youtu.be/oMz9P0_Hi7A


Friday, November 4, 2016

Growing Old With God

(I wrote this several years ago and is excerpted from my second book, Lessons Along the Journey)
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I hadn’t slept well the night before, and weariness settled over me like a heavy rug. Nancy and I returned home from Mass, ate lunch, and were unwinding on the couch where she continued our conversation about her passion for art. But I couldn't keep my mind from drifting. As it did, my eyes focused on her face.
         

I’d noticed her changing features before, but somehow this time I saw her anew. Creases now feather her cheeks and forehead where her skin was once smooth and supple. Gone is her naturally dark auburn hair. She colors it blonde to mask the gray.
         

When I asked Nancy to marry me nearly four decades ago, I thought I knew her. I thought I loved her. Now, half-listening to her describe the colors she planned to use in her next project, I realized how little I really knew or loved her in 1975.
         

We’ve weathered many storms during our years together. Some of them were tsunamis. I don’t even like to dredge them up in my memory. Our son suffered through divorce. Nancy’s beloved stepfather died. Two years later, I lost mine. Financial crises and long periods of unemployment rocked our marriage from time to time. Friends turned their backs on us because of our commitment to Christ. And then there were a dozen military-related moves from one end of the country to the other, which forced us to leave family, friends, and familiar places.
         

Sometimes I wonder how we survived it all. God’s grace? Unquestionably. Intervening from the shadows, often without revealing His hand, our Father brought peace when turmoil overwhelmed us, and freedom when fear bound us. He quieted us when, in frustration, we lashed out at each other instead of going to our knees before our God.
         

God’s grace, certainly. But something else has proven vital to our relationship: our communication with each other.
         

I suppose better than eighty percent of our discussions over the years have been casual. You know the kind: what’s for dinner, what happened at work, the kids have colds . . . . But because of that casual eighty percent, she and I can also meet in intimate, deeply personal conversations. We are able to talk about our hopes, joys, fears and dreams because we have spent so much of our time learning about each other. That’s why I know her – and love her – so much more today than I did when we married.
         

Which brings me to the real point.
         

Thirty-nine years ago, I thought I knew Jesus. I thought I loved him. But, oh, how my knowledge of Him and my love for Him are so very different today than they were in 1972 when I first offered Him my heart.
         

Why? Unquestionably, because of God’s grace. But I am sure there is something else at work.

Early in my walk with Christ, I learned the importance of communing with Him in prayer, study of Scripture – and since 2005 when I entered the Catholic Church – in the Sacraments. Over the years, I’ve worn out three Bibles, memorized scores of Scripture texts, and can allude to a hundred more. I’ve spent time with Him in the morning, the evening, and throughout the day.
         

To be honest, most of my prayers – eighty percent? – are not what I would call passionate. You know the kind: Lord, I need a good evaluation at work. Mom needs guidance about moving from Florida. Gerry needs a job. Helen’s son is ill. But because of that eighty percent, because I communicate so often with Him, I know how to be intimate with Him when battles rage beyond my control.
         

In the first stanza of his poem, Rabbi Ben Ezra, Robert Browning wrote, “Grow old along with me! The best is yet to be. The last of life, for which the first was made, our times are in His hand who said ‘A whole I planned, youth shows but half; trust God: see all, nor be afraid!’”
         

As husbands and wives grow old together, they learn what love and intimacy with each other looks like. When men and women grow old with the King of Glory, they learn what love and intimacy with Him is like. When life’s storms rip at our foundations, when the hot breath of Satan prickles down our neck, our deeply personal knowledge of God will be our fortress. Our passionate love for Him, born through intimate communion, will be our strength. Surely, that is one reason the prophet urged: “Seek the Lord while He may be found, call Him while He is near” (Isaiah 55:6).