Friday, April 27, 2012

A Big Question

Can you please help me understand why a few of the Catholic blogs with the largest presence on the Internet use their sites to battle endlessly about what they deem important "issues" in the Church instead of using them to draw people closer to Christ? They have the means at their disposal to bring the beauty of Catholicism to millions and instead spend half their time in petty arguments. The other half is spent on defending their position (with a definite lack of charity) in the combox.

Don't they understand what damage they do?

My guess is that they do not. The fact that they spend so much energy in defense of themselves and what they've written rather than reaching out to others makes me wonder if they are truly writing for God.

I read a few posts today by some of our leading Catholic writers. After reading them I asked myself this question:

If I were a Catholic thinking of coming home to the Church or a person interested in Catholicism what would these posts say to me? Or, what if my feet were not yet firm in the faith? Would these writers draw me closer to God?

The truth is that they would repulse me. I leave these sites with my heart heavy because, though they may think otherwise, they are doing Catholicism a grave disservice.

Don't get me wrong. I follow some wonderful sites that have a large number of followers and I have them listed in my sidebar. My problem is that there are a handful of Catholic sites with a huge amount of readers who are teaching people (by their example) that Catholics are petty and uncharitable.

I write this because I want people to understand that this is not the true face of Catholicism.  Here are some sites which better portray Catholicism in all its unique beauty:

Word on Fire  - Fr. Robert Barron's site (a favorite of mine)
Catholics Come Home
Coming Home Network
Catholic Spiritual Direction
Catholic Prayer life
Come, Holy Spirit
Peter Kreeft

There are many more than the ones I mention above...but this is a good start. Enjoy!

Monday, April 23, 2012

Utterly Encompassed

You are utterly encompassed by God. He is in you, around you, beside you, above you, below you. This is the total truth. We have become blinded to such a degree that most of us have lost this sense of His Presence. The eyes of our souls have dimmed to an alarming degree and there are those who have absolutely no sense of God's presence whatsoever.

And yet He is ever there. Always. You could not even take a breath without Him.

Imagine this:

A human person is totally surrounded by and caught up in the love of God and yet completely unaware of this Divine Presence. Why? We are taught as children that God is love and He is everywhere. We are taught about the indwelling of the Trinity. So, why?

What happens to a person that causes them to lose this sense of God's love?

Sin happens. The eyes of the soul darken and grow dim from lack of light. Our spirit dulls. The duller our spirit grows the less aware we become of God and the more aware we become of ourselves. Not a healthy awareness of ourselves as existing in God, for God, and with God, but an unhealthy awareness that has negative effects on both ourselves and others.

Enter the kingdom of "me, myself, and I". This is the name of the kingdom where most of us exist (to lesser or greater degree) these days. Maybe not everyone, but certainly the majority. You can ask how someone can be so certain that this is the truth and my answer will be very simple:

"By their fruits you will know them." (Mt 7:16) I am not being pessimistic. I know God has things well in hand. But the simple truth is that if we look around us we can see that humanity, on the whole, is producing some very bitter fruit indeed. Yes, there are those who are producing good fruit but the majority of us are off kilter in some way that's hard to pinpoint completely. In some aspects, I think part of the problem is that we don't put God first in our lives. We think we do, but we don't really. We think of things from the perspective, "How will this affect me, personally?" We become the center of our own universe and  whenever this happens, the result is suffering. Whether upon ourselves or others, if we don't acknowledge the fact that God is the source of all good and the center of existence, well...we bring suffering upon each other. This is part and parcel of living in the kingdom of "me, myself, and I".

In reality, there is only one kingdom. And that is God's. Because we have free will God allows us to live in our pretend kingdoms if we choose to but these kingdoms have no basis in reality. Eventually these kingdoms fall because they have to. In the sentences below I am speaking about a state of being and not necessarily a final destination. I am simply saying that God certainly gives us plenty of hints as to how we are doing. For instance, I know I am in a state of purgation right now and have been for years.  Yet, in this state I get tastes of Heaven too. God is good.

If these false worlds we create don't fall?  Hell happens. Why? Because it is a refusal of God's Kingdom over our own.

If they partially fall?  Purgatory

If they do fall completely?

Heaven reigns in our hearts.

In Him we live and move and have our being. (See Acts17:22-31)

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Opening the Floodgates of Mercy - He is With You

Trust in Jesus. Someone out there is suffering unbearably - please read my words at the bottom of this page. God is with you.

"My daughter, tell the whole world about My inconceivable mercy. I desire that the Feast of Mercy be a refuge and shelter for all souls, and especially for poor sinners. On that day the very depths of My tender mercy are open. I pour out a whole ocean of graces upon these souls who approach the fount of My mercy. The soul that will go to Confession and receive Holy Communion shall obtain complete remission of sins and punishment. On that day all the divine floodgates through which grace flow are opened. Let no soul fear to draw near to Me, even though its sins be as scarlet. My mercy is so great that no mind, be it of man or angel, will be able to fathom it throughout all eternity. Everything that exists has come forth from the very depths of My most tender mercy. Every soul in its relation to me will contemplate My love and mercy throughout eternity. The Feast of Mercy emerged from My very depths of tenderness. It is My desire that it be solemnly celebrated on the first Sunday after Easter. Mankind will not have peace until it turns to the Fount of My Mercy."     Diary 699

These are bold, powerful words. Jesus speaks of pouring out a whole ocean of graces for those who ask for His Mercy. He also states that all the divine floodgates through which grace flow are opened. He also speaks of His tenderness a number of times here and that no soul should be afraid to come to Him no matter what they've done in their lives.  He is calling all sinners and saying, "Do not be afraid! My mercy is greater than your sins! I want you to come to me!"

I'd like to address these words to anyone out there who may be in mortal sin and suffering deeply:

The words that Jesus spoke to St. Faustina are true. I know because I was one of these poor souls. One day I cried out to God from the depths of my being and my soul was brought into the Presence of  this great mercy. My soul was plucked out of my body and brought before the Sacred Heart of Jesus where I was enveloped in the rays of mercy that emanated from the heart of Jesus. I had no knowledge of St. Faustina, her diary, or the Divine Mercy image when this happened. To be honest, at that point I had very little knowledge of God, period. It had been many years since I had gone to church. The point I'm making is that He grabbed a soul deep in the muck of grave sin for no reason...except mercy. I believe the reason I was shown the manifestation of this great mercy was so that I could tell others that this is the very same thing that happens to them when they cry out for His mercy. I truly believe that one day when we die we will see how often this mercy was poured out upon us.

God's mercy is greater than your sins. Believe me, I should know.

I am also addressing words to someone out there who is contemplating suicide. During the past few weeks while praying the Mercy Chaplet I have been made aware that I am in prayer in a special way for this person. I want to tell you that God understands your deep suffering, loves you, and wants you to bring Him your suffering and despair. I am having a tremendous witness in the spirit as I write this. He knows your pain and wants to help you. Please go to Him. Please. I have no idea why I am writing this on my blog but I trust the Lord's leading. You are not alone.

Lord, I bring to you this day all mankind, especially those who are suffering. On this Feast of Divine Mercy I ask you to open the floodgates of Your Mercy upon the whole world.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

The Kingdom of Light

" For Thine is the Kingdom, the Power, and the Glory."    (Doxology from the Didache)

In a recent post I spoke of how we create "ugly little kingdoms" for ourselves. We are like selfish little despots ruling over our kingdoms with iron fists. Woe to those who don't abide by the rules of our kingdoms! The rules of these kingdoms may be enforced by anger, intimidation, manipulation, silence, withholding love, impatience, grumpiness, a sickly sweetness, sarcasm, verbal abuse, judgments...and the list goes on and on.  The manifestations of these kingdoms can be very subtle or quite obvious. 

Let's use road rage as an example of someone whose heart is full of anger. Have you ever been stuck in front of a person who is in a rush to get somewhere? They honk, make gestures, and yell because you have interfered with the rules of their kingdom. The honking and gestures are ways of intimidating you through fear to get you moving faster. This person truly believes that his life is more important than the person's in front of him. We see this on the road so much these days.

Our kingdoms aren't always as obvious as this. Ever held onto a grudge for a while? Ever get home to a messy house, pat yourself on the back for not saying a word about it, meanwhile your heavy sighs are saying it all for you? Ever sit in church and grumble in your head about the noisy children in front of you, "Good grief! Why don't they stay at home if their children can't behave in church! And what's with these new Mass changes?!"

Still not subtle enough? How about this:
Have you ever gone through a day without thinking about yourself once? (Not counting normal care of the body or prayer and examination of the conscience.) I attempt it and fail every time. Were it not for our fallen natures we would be quite unaware of ourselves. Instead we wear masks and facades because we are overly aware of ourselves and fear showing ourselves in our utter fragility. And yet it is this very fragility that calls out sweetly to the Lord. Who could fail to help a child?

Which brings me to the next point:
Only the REAL you can enter Heaven. The ego is the false self and cannot enter God's Kingdom. This false self is what the Lord is trying to rid us of. There are no masks or facades in Heaven. God purges us and tears down our false kingdoms because He LOVES us, not to hurt us. He knows these things have no place in Heaven. He doesn't want an impostor pretending to be someone they are not running around His Kingdom. Besides, this would cause immense suffering in that person because they are in the presence of God which allows no falsehoods to stand.  He wants His child that He created in all his or her unique spiritual beauty. The real you is utterly acceptable to Him and deeply loved and cherished, for He created you. You are one of a kind and irreplaceable.

God can always see the real person inside of us. He seeks this person, even if he or she has become so covered in the muck of sin that they don't seem recognizable to others. He knows and recognizes them and wants to heal them. I often hear people say, "God loves you just the way you are." Yes, He certainly does love us, but maybe the truth is:

God loves us too much to leave us just the way we are.

Like so many today, I have walked in darkness. When the Lord called me out of this darkness, I heard Him. I have seen so many glimpses of His Kingdom  since then.... but the truth is I am still as yet unable to stay in it permanently. I KNOW the joy of His Kingdom but because I am still in a state of purgation I lose sight of it often. The purging is good, I am assured of God's healing but I often wish it were finished. I joke around and ask the Lord, "Is today the day?"

The point of this post is that we CAN begin our heaven on earth. As I said in Kingdom of Darkness, hell is a state of being as well as a place. The same is true of heaven. With God's grace, we can reach the holiness to which He calls us to and dying would be as simple as walking through a door since heaven already reigns in the heart.

First we must renounce our own kingdoms. I do this every day. We all have personal agendas whether we are aware of them or not. These agendas keep us from being truly free.

So what are we asking for when we pray? Are we asking for God's Kingdom to come? Or are we really saying "My kingdom come, my will be done."

Something to think about.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Reality? Whose? Mine or yours?

I'm an old man who has known a great many problems, most of which never happened.
                                                                                          -Mark Twain

This quote from Mark Twain never fails to bring a smile to my face. Can anyone relate? A  portion of my troubles in my more recent past (adult years) have never even existed but I worried enough about them that they felt real.  It took me years to realize that my thought life was the big problem and even today I catch myself occasionally falling back into negative thinking patterns. It stemmed from my childhood when I lived under constant stress and continued into my adult years. I had no clue how to live without fear and anxiety as they had been my constant companions on my journey into adulthood. It's a big problem for those who have been raised in dysfunctional families - you still carry the baggage even after the stressors are gone. Kind of like living with chronic PTSD and always wondering when the next bomb will go off.

It wasn't until my late twenties that I realized that I was carrying a boatload of repressed anger. I had no clue what I was dealing with before then and even when I did realize it, I still had no idea what to do with it. I can tell you one thing though - if a child has enormous amounts of repressed anger and can't express it they can end up with a lot of phobias. Children from dysfunctional households cannot aim their anger at the very people that they depend on the most so they try to find "acceptable" ways of dispersing this internal turmoil a bit so they can function. I "hated" a lot of things when I was young for no good reason. After all, better to hate a thing than a person, right? This wasn't conscious by any means. As an adult I came to the conclusion that most of the things I hated and feared were not harmful to me. An example is milk - I loved milk as a young child but developed a great aversion to it as I got older. By the time I was a teenager I was allergic to it. A fluke you might say but I'm not convinced because the more anger I repressed the worst my milk allergy got. Oddly enough, as I worked through a lot of this anger as an adult the allergy improved to the point where eating and drinking dairy products rarely bother me much anymore. As laughable as it may sound, forgiving cured the allergy. The symbolism of a having a "milk" allergy didn't escape my notice either.

I wanted to put up this post before Kingdom of Light because it seems to lead up to it and also puts my post Kingdom of Darkness into perspective. I know many of you were wounded as children and this is something I can relate to very much. The "kingdom" I was raised in had little resemblance to the Lord's Kingdom. One of the consequences of living this way was "stinking thinking". This has always been the bane of my existence. 

In earlier posts I spoke about capturing our thoughts in Christ and renewing our mind with the help of his grace. It's an ongoing battle. The "shrew" would still  like to put in her two cents about everything. I still have to gag her to get her to shut up. The shrew likes to comment negatively on life in general, though she has mellowed with age. She was far more fierce in her younger years, I think she got burnt out. Still, she occasionally likes to butt her head into my thoughts.

All humor aside, our thought life has a lot to do with what we think of ourselves and how we think of and treat others. Unhampered, it can run ourselves and others into the muck if we let it. We have the grace to stop our thoughts and change their direction by gently moving our thoughts toward the Lord. For instance, if we find ourselves judging a person (not an action, it is okay to judge an action) our thoughts can carry us far away from truth. No one knows another person's heart but God. When we notice our thoughts bringing us into a direction we don't like, it's helpful to think of Jesus crucified. Takes the wind right out of our sails! Or say your thoughts about yourself are harmful (like cutting yourself down or digging into a painful past all the time), it's helpful to remember how much God loves you. I say do it gently because it needs to be done with love. You have to treat yourself with the same mercy that God treats you with. God is incredibly merciful to us and so, we too, must treat his creation lovingly...which includes ourselves. It takes many years to build up negative thought habits and it can take some time to change this. If you are too harsh with yourself - it is fighting negativity with negativity rather than the greater sword of God's love. Our greatest weapon is praise. Praising God leaves no room for the shrew :) I like to think of this not as positive thinking but rather....Christian thinking.There are times when our minds can greatly hold us back. We are told we are new creations in Christ... but our thoughts disagree. God's word is truth but sometimes things change over a period of time instead of instantly. Living in a world which idolizes instant gratification, we certainly have our work cut out for us. Plus, we can be our own worst enemies. The best advice I could ever give anyone is to capture their thoughts in Christ. Especially those who are troubled. Let me explain what I mean:

Even before my AHA! moment in the Lord's presence I was aware that my thinking was all messed up and that not everyone thought the way I did. My thought life reeked. Yes, "stinking thinking". This doesn't just happen to alcoholics, it happens to many, many people. As a matter of fact, I think most people have at least occasional problems in this area. I rarely drink (though I had my moments when I was younger as you may have read). People tend to connect this type of thinking with addictions only but I believe that most people have this; some more than others. I tried to overcome this through various means when I was younger but nothing stuck. Probably because I was not in a state of grace. After God removed the scales from my soul, I still had to work on my mind. I'll probably have to always do this. God has my hand now, so it is much easier.

After my conversion I REALLY became aware of just how negative my thought life was. Removing this thinking (with God's grace) became a daily thing. At first I literally had to do this on a constant basis. It was like retraining the mind. Out with the old with the new. Pay attention to your thoughts for a while. When you notice negative thoughts creeping in, call on the Lord. For those who were raised in very dysfunctional households, remember this:
You are not what others think you are, no one knows you but God. We become layered with other people's misconceptions of us until we cannot even see ourselves. Throw out everything that others have told you about yourself and ask the Lord to reveal your true self. It may be gradual (or not) but God will show you that only His perception of you is the true one. And you are His child. Counterattack your unloving thoughts about yourself with the knowledge that He loves you. He loves you with an infinite love. Believe in this. It is total truth. Let Him love you; you were created to live in this love.

 None are excluded from this love. He never walks away from us - we walk away from Him.

You are free in the name of Christ. Believe this. It sometimes just takes a bit of time for this truth to sink deeply into our hearts and minds.

"Do not conform yourself to this age but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and pleasing and perfect." Romans 12:2

It pleases the Father to give us The Kingdom.

P.S. (This is a mixture of an old post and a new one. I thought they fit well together and would also be a good lead up to my next post.)

Thursday, April 5, 2012

The Two Gardens and The Olive Press

A post about heaven just didn't seem fitting for today so instead I offer these two posts from my first year as a blogger.

The Two Gardens:

The fall began in the Garden of Eden; our redemption began in the Garden of Gethsemane. Adam and Eve fell through the sin of pride, " will be like gods". They went against God's will. In the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus, in his humanity completely surrendered his will to the Father, bitter though this cup was. After Adam and Eve sinned, they hid from God. When the soldiers came to arrest Jesus, he did not hide. Rather, he handed himself over in complete conformity with God's will. Both gardens contained betrayals. In Eden, Satan tempted Adam and Eve and they betrayed God. In Gethsemane, Judas betrayed Jesus (God) with a kiss. It is in Eden that Jesus and Mary are mentioned for the first time in Gen. ch.3:15.
"I will put enmity between you and the woman,
and between your offspring and hers;
He will strike at your head,
while you strike at his heel."

In both gardens was a rejection of God by humans, but in the second garden was also the ultimate acceptance and abandonment to the will of the Father - the beginning of the atonement that ends on the cross, where Jesus, the new Adam, returns the fruit stolen (an act of pride and rebellion) from the tree by giving his human will to the Father in the greatest act of humility ever seen on this earth. It is under the cross where Mary (the new Eve) unites herself intimately in this act of humility by giving the beloved Fruit of her womb to the Father, never asking why....just suffering with her Son.

The Olive Press:

At the base of The Mount of Olives lies Gethsemane, the garden where Jesus suffered His agony. An intense spiritual agony beyond human comprehension. The word Gethsemane means "olive press" and it was in this garden that Mercy was pressed to the fullest limits. An interior crushing so severe that Our Lord "fell to the ground and prayed if it were possible the hour might pass by him". And so begins the ultimate struggle with darkness as the weight of humanity's sins fell upon Him. A seemingly endless parade of human sin and corruption closing in upon Him. Pressing. Crushing. What did He see in this dark hour? Did He see the very depths to which human nature could sink? The pit of depravity, perversion and vice upon vice? Likely He saw this and worse, for the pressure grew so great that He sweat blood. Hematohidrosis.

Jesus suffered in his humanity, because it was human nature that needed redemption. And yet, despite the intensity of his suffering He still prayed, "My Father, if it is not possible that this cup pass without my drinking it, your will be done." And Our Lord drank the cup of staggering to its very dregs, knowing that by the acceptance of this chalice even greater suffering would come upon him . Then, strengthened by an angel, He stood up and went to meet his betrayer.

In my eyes, the two greatest sufferings of Jesus were His Agony in the Garden and on the Cross when He felt completely forsaken by the Father and endured what one might call, "a living hell", for love of us. He became sin and took on all the sins of the world for our sake. That is why it is so horrifying when someone refuses the salvation that He gained for them; it's like a slap in the face of Pure Mercy.

Most merciful Jesus, I thank you for everything you suffered for us all. May all souls open their hearts to receive the mercy you long to pour upon them. May your sufferings in Gethsemane obtain the grace of repentance for all souls caught in the grip of mortal sin, for it was here in Gethsemane that mercy was pressed to its limits and it was here in Gethsemane that we learned that this mercy has no limits. Amen.

 The "cup of staggering" is a term used in various biblical translations of the O.T. and refers to the Lord's wrath. In this post I used it in reference to Isaiah ch. 51 where the Lord speaks about the ransom of His people. See also The Cup of the Lord verses 17-33 . This "cup of staggering" is also mentioned in other books of the Bible. Jesus, Himself, took this cup from our hands and drank it to its bitter dregs.

Monday, April 2, 2012

The Kingdom of Darkness

Can you see it? The spiritual darkness in this world continues to increase. I wrote a post about this a few years back and added some thoughts to it:

I'm going to be very blunt. Should the era we live in concern us? YES.

The Holy Spirit is putting out a world wide "wake up" call and very few are heeding it. There really is no need to "discern the times". It is written, as clear as a bell, everywhere we look. One would have to be completely blind spiritually not to see the writing upon the wall at this point. Unfortunately, many of us ARE blinded. Sin blinds the mind, soul, and spirit of a person.

Despite the clarity of the picture around us, God, in his goodness, is going to allow this picture to become even clearer. The demarcation lines between good and evil will continue to grow greater and soon no one will be able to walk between these two lines but will choose one or the other. There will be no middle ground.

I have written about this numerous times and in no way has this sense of the "spiritual emergency" our world is facing lessened. If anything it has grown stronger.

We should pray daily to the Holy Spirit for the light of His truth to pierce the darkness of our times and for the grace to stand firm in our faith despite the obstacles around us. In this way we can become "little beacons of light" for others.

I reposted this because I cannot stress enough the importance of staying close to the Lord in the coming years. I will go so far as to say it is critical to do this. There can be no "fence straddling". And prayer is a must because it pierces the darkness. Carry your spiritually crippled brothers and sisters. Lay the wounded in the arms of the Lord.

Why is it of such importance that we do this?

Let me explain. God's kingdom is a kingdom of truth. We may think we know truth but it takes a very pure soul to see the reality of God's kingdom instead of our own kingdoms.  We form these  "personal kingdoms" of our own because of sin, both original and personal. Each person tends to think that these little kingdoms they make are "real"...but they are not. We all do this to some degree. In other words...we crown ourselves and seat ourselves on the throne of our personal kingdoms.  In His kindness, God knocks us off these thrones on a regular basis because pride is the worst sin of all. I've been knocked off my "throne" so many times that I've lost count. God purges us if we allow Him to.

What happens if people do not allow this dethroning of the god of self to take place?

Hell happens.

Seriously. God is very merciful but doesn't force people to accept Him.

Hell is not only a place, it's a state of being, and those who do go to hell start their hell on earth. Just as heaven is a state of being as well as a it is with hell. When a person enters hell they have already been living in that state spiritually. There are numerous signs but because of pride many refuse to see it.

Now to the point I'm trying to make:
What happens when millions or even billions of people refuse God's grace time and time again?

Hell on earth, my friends. Hell on earth and an immense amount of suffering as we are forced against our will to live in each other's hells. Think of the number of people who were forced to live in Hitler's hell.

And we said we'd never forget.

"And this is the verdict, that the light came into the world, but people preferred darkness to light, because their works were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come toward the light, so that his works might not be exposed. But whoever lives the truth comes to the light, so that his works may be clearly seen as done in God."   John 3:19-21

Next post - The Kingdom of Light