A.C.T.S.: A Wonderful Format for Prayer

A.C.T.S.: A Wonderful Format for Prayer
By Jerrome Placido

When was the last time you told someone, “I love you”? We’ve heard the phrase about 50 times on the last hit comedy-romance. It’s a theme popular for most of the songs playing on the radio, and it’s something we dream of saying to a special someone. But when was the last time we said those words to God?

When was the last time someone made you cry because of something they did or didn’t do? When was the last time you made someone cry for the same reasons? Think about the swirl of emotions that goes through someone in the midst of heartache or disappointment. How often do we go through that surge of emotions when we offend the one who loves us most?

During this last leg of the Lenten season we should reevaluate two of our goals in all our practices. We must increase in both Love and Repentance. How do we do that?

One major obstacle would be to see God as He truly is. What’s that? Well… God. Yes God is our friend, our companion, greatest example of love and sacrifice, our Provider and Redeemer but above all of these He is God. How can one grow in love or feel sorry for having offended Him if he doesn’t realize who He is. The danger of this is for those already matured in their spirituality or for those just beginning. It’s the danger of becoming over familiar with God and lukewarm in our spirituality. How sad it is when one realizes that he has not said to God, “I Love You” in quite some time. Even the gestures which show love and reverence like a simple genuflection become outward signs of nothing within.

But you see the beauty of our faith is that daily we are given so many different ways to express our love for God. So when one does nothing at all to express his/her love and falls into the trap of tepidity God becomes greatly offended for He first loved us and desires only that we love Him in return. But how can we love God if we do not recognize Him for who He is.

I remember the very first confirmation retreat I did, we had one talk entitled “Jesus is my Homeboy.” There were a few violent reactions and some negative responses but at the time I had a hard time understanding why. But it wasn’t the talk which brought concern to some of the participants more than it was the way in which we referred to Jesus. Not to say that it was wrong, but I can now see the fear and caution now that others saw. It was a concern in the way one views Jesus and how we approach Him.

There’s the concern that one might be intimidated or simply clueless on how to speak to God, the common response would be to speak to Him as if He were any average Joe we meet on the street. It’s great for starters but we have to realize that our relationship must progress to something more, something deeper. Let’s not forget we are the redeemed and He is Redeemer, we are creatures and He is Creator.

That’s why the common format used for prayer is A.C.T.S. (Adoration, Contrition, Thanksgiving, and Supplication). We first make an act of adoration, that is acknowledge that it is God who we speak to, who deserves reverence, awe and adoration. Then we make an act of contrition, understanding that no one can remain blameless in His sight and so we recognize before God that we have offended Him and express sorrow for doing so. Thanksgiving is then needed because He gives us so much already and before we can ask for more it is right and just that we thank Him for all He has already given us. Then we pray in supplication, that is, we ask God to supply for us all that we need materially and spiritually and have faith that we are heard and He will give us what is best for us.

But it’s not only in prayer that we show our love for Him; let us maintain always that presence of God. That is, realize that He is always with us, in a special way when we receive Him truly present in the Blessed Sacrament. So with that in mind, and with a growth in our love for Him, let us realize that when we offend Him, we in a certain way forget ourselves, forget that we are the creatures who owe everything to our Creator. We finite beings offend God who is infinite and his pains run deeper than we can ever imagine when He see’s man, His greatest work, rebel against His infinite love and mercy by our disobedience to His will and commands. How can we be sorry for our sins or show Him the love he deserves when we forget who He is, and forget that He’s ALWAYS there.

The challenge is to not forget the object of our love, and to grow in that love for He has never for a moment forgotten us. We can easily fall into the trap of indifference but the solution is to entrust ourselves to the Blessed Mother who knows perfectly how to love our Lord, for she loves Him endlessly and that love is ALWAYS new.

That is why I suggest before praying in the ACTS format, entrust your prayer to her who prays for us and with us. It’s nothing new, there is no saint who was not Marian and many of our modern day saints in the making now already have made it their personal practice, rather than ACTS let us follow a MACTS format (Marian, Adoration, Contrition, Thanksgiving, and Supplication).

“To Jesus through Mary.” – St. Louis de Montfort

Is God Crossing my Stars? Part 1

Is God Crossing my Stars: A Quick Question of Fate and Predestination (For Teens!)
Part 1: Background
By Joe Martinez

So, last weekend I was on a bus ride to the mountains for a Confirmation retreat with a local parish. One of my friends was on the trip and since the journey was so long we started talking about various theological (i.e. Catholic/religious/Jesus involved) things--not that we need an excuse to do that.

So, my friend asked me to explain to him what I knew about a certain theology called 'Predestination.' Now, I want to say right from the start, that I am not talking down this theology. But it's important that the Catholic viewpoint on this topic is known. So, I'm going to tell you what I told him (with a few extra details) so that if you happen to be a Catholic looking for info, you'll be a little more knowledgeable and if you happen to be a protestant or a nonchristian reading this, you'll understand Catholics a little more.

So, you may have heard of the term 'Fate.' Right? Actually, if you haven't heard that term, you should probably go home (if you're not home) and watch a bunch of Disney movies (I don't know for sure if those have fate in them, but I hope you get my point that the idea is very widespread). I am only nineteen so if you really are a teenager, I'm not too far from your generation. And I know, that we grew up with movies and cartoons that threw this idea of fate at us all the time.

Fate seems to be (in pop culture) related to the idea of living in a world where your life is going to follow a very direct path of events and you cannot do anything to change it.

How about Romeo and Juliet? "Two Star Crossed Lovers." Freshmen study them every year. God deemed their love affair unworthy and twisted their fate to end in death, right? What is the actual Christian perspective on this?

The problem is that there is no united perspective on Fate. Many Christian churches believe outright that the world is preDESTINED to follow a path that God set for it. For all intents and purposes, it follows a fate set by God. This isn't about strict apologetics, so I won't talk about the churches that believe this here. I think you may be able to private message me or drop an email if you'd like more information on the topic for any reason. Just keep in mind that the following portion is about a different belief than that of the Catholic belief I will mention later.

Anyway, the way I've had it explained to me (and please correct me if I'm wrong at any point if you know any better) was that in a predestined reality. God has already decided the fate of every man, woman, and child to walk the earth. He has decided if you are going to go to hell already and he has decided if you will go to heaven and these two things happen because he either chooses you to be with you or not.

They work heavily off, I believe, Revelations (such as 20 and 17), where it says that the names of the chosen are written in the book of life and any who are not in that book will be thrown into the fire. There may be more textual evidence, but we can just take them at their word. I'm not here to debate scripture, this is simply to give you some background.

So, again, you are either sent to hell or sent to heaven because of where God calls you. How does that affect your life on earth? What I have heard is that if you are one who is called to heaven, no matter how much bad you do on earth, someday God will call you to Him. Someday you will have a conversion. This is why some of these churches preach simply accepting Jesus as your personal Lord and savior (some, not all) because if you accept him, you're probably one of the people he's calling to heaven. If you don't, you're probably not one of the chosen.

A minister with this kind of belief said to my friend that the idea behind this belief is it gives God more glory when he chooses you. Why would he be put through the terribleness of rejection? As it says in John 15:16, "It was not you who chose me, but it was I, who chose you." Right?

So these are some of their major contentions. Not too bad of an argument. And again, I am not trying to tear this down. However, for part two, when I bring up the Catholic perspective on fate, it is important to know the alternative choice to our belief.

Anyway, fight the good fight, people.


Is God Crossing My Stars? Part Due

Is God Crossing my Stars: A Quick Question of Fate and Predestination (For Teens!)
Part 2: Continuation

Ok, so now for part two of the Catholic explanation on Fate and relate themes.

So, this post is about the Catholic perspective on Fate. And I'll just take out the suspense and say, we don't really believe in it. I mean, it would depend on your definition...maybe...but really, we don't.

Catholics go by a theology of free will. In the Catechism of the Catholic church (which is basically like a catholic handbook) there is a quote by Saint Irenaeus: "Man is Rational and therefore like God; he is created with free will and is master over his acts." That quote sums up a good portion of what we, as Catholics, believe.

But I have to tell you that that isn't all there is to it.

Because I know how it is if you happen to be an American Catholic. We Americans, we're brought up on this idea of freedom of everything. I'm free to do go here if I want. I'm free to hang out with them if I want. I'm free to buy that if I want. And I will, cuz I'mma 'merican.

And there's not anything necessarily wrong with freedom. In fact, freedom is definitely a good thing. And I'd expect that the Catholic teaching of free will and America's free will often go along nicely (from a typical American perspective.) However, there are differences between the two just as there are differences between predestination and Catholic teaching.

So finally, what is Catholic free will like?

I once had a religion teacher explain it to me something like this--

Let's say a man captures you at gunpoint and takes you hostage. He takes you to his home and sits you down on the floor (scary huh?) He brings out two plates; one is covered with nails and the other is covered with screws. "Choose your meal," he says.

Which do you choose? He's giving you freedom right? I mean, you're allowed to make a choice of what to eat, aren't you? Why should it matter that both choices are really crappy?

Freedom is only freedom if you have the ability, as one of your choices, to choose good. If you are faced with a choice of running from the police, getting into a shootout, or doing something really horrible to yourself, can you really call it a choice?

I know I'm speaking on extreme terms here, but that's just to show my point. You can think of it on a smaller scale too. Let's say you just realized that way too much bull pucky happens at the parties you go to. You're so done with it. But you only see your choices as:
a. Don't go to the party and look like an idiot when everyone talks crap on you the next day.
b. go to the party anyway.
Where's the good choice? Is that freedom? No!

We are only free when we can choose good.

We are only free when we can choose GOD.

What if your party situation was a little different? What it looked like--
a. Don't go--get made fun of
b. go anyway
c. Don't go, but instead hang out with friends who won't make fun of you for not partying. Maybe your church has a good youth group and there's people there who will support you when you tell them what's up. They could help you through it.

So you have those three options. The hard part is choosing the good option. Not just the good for God option, but also the good for you option (more on that later). So, with free will, we have a responsibility to make the RiGHT choice. Not the MY choice.

It's not about "I feel like doing this."

It's about "I know I should do this."

And that's why God gave us free will.

I said I wasn't going to go into apologetics, but I have to say this. That minister or priest say that it gives God more glory that HE chooses US. Basically, it means more that God makes us love him. Why should Gog be subjected to rejection?

I have to tell you guys, it gives God the utmost glory when even a single person accepts him. Just one person. Think of your best friend. Would it be better if you forced him or her to be your friend? Or would you rather them CHOOSE you? That's what God did for us. His love is so great, that he is willing to be rejected by you, and thrown down, just on the offchance that someday you might turn around and bring him into your life. And if you choose him early, then be glad. You never know when your time is up. Don't wait til the last minute. But every second that you live, God is trying to make you see him.

We are not robots. God did not force the path you would follow. You've made every choice to get where you are today. But it's important to realize that this just makes God's love so obvious, for such a powerful being to give so much control to you. So remember that, next time you choose chocolate ice cream instead of vanilla (jk--half way.)

And yes, you may be on the path to heaven one day, only to be going in the other direction the next. We all face this. No salvation is guaranteed. You have to fight every day for Jesus. The Saints, were some of the most unsaintly guys ever-- Murderers, theives, prostitutes, liars--but they turned their lives around when they heard God's call. It's never too late on this world.

Fight the good fight, guys.


Jesus is My Friend

Jesus is My Friend
By Joe Martinez

Amongst all the tirades and name calling that goes along with good old fashion apologetics, people sometimes forget the main point of Christianity: Love.

And with love comes relationship, particularly with Jesus Christ.

Now, the approach Catholics take to our relationship with Jesus is explained in a very certain way. It isn't enough to simply say, "I accept Jesus into my heart" and be done with it. As it says in James 2: 14 "What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him?" A relationship with Jesus requires action.

However, it also isn't enough to simply do good deeds in the name of the Lord, as is evident in Mathew 7:22-23. "Many will say to me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophecy in your name? Did we not drive out demons in your name? Did we not do mighty deeds in your name?' Then I will declare to them solemnly, 'I never knew you. Depart from me, you evil doers."

So where is the middle ground? The point you want to reach is where you stop seeing Jesus as a being to appease and start seeing Him as a person to have a relationship with. Yes, the human race has a history of doing things for God, but seeing things only in that way is missing the point. God is a person, guys. A person, just like me and you.

Okay, not quite like me and you, but I hope you're starting to see the picture. When you follow God's law, it shouldn't be because God said so. I should be because He loves you and you love him. If your best friend ask you to pick him up and take him to work at 6 a.m. and said that you were his only ride, would it be okay if you just blew him off? Would he be cool with it if you told him, "Ah dawg, I needed to sleep in, sorries." No! Well, then why is it okay when we forget our promises with God?

God's like that friend who you completely burn every time you see Him. You rip Him off, you lie to Him, you cheat Him, and yet He still wants to hang out with you. And the funny thing is, He 's better than that. He created us. But God is so loving that He will give us as many chances as He can until we figure out what we're missing. So take advantage of it. Say hi to the best friend you ever had today.

He's waiting for you. All you have to do is turn off the TV, the ipod, the radio (or in my case) the internet/online game machine box, and start a conversation in either English, Latin, Mexican (it's a dialect okay?) German, or whatever language you speak. Jesus is waiting to hang out. So get to talking. I promise He'll be a better friend than any you've ever had.

And for a closing, I have a video I feel sums up the message I'm proposing.


You Worship the Saints?

So wait...You Worship the Saints?
By Joe Martinez

"In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit...and in the name of Saint Lazarus of Bethany and Saint Michael the Archangel and...."

Or not.

A very common misconception of Catholics is that we worship the saints. In fact, it is such a prevalent idea that our protestant brothers will often bring it up in debates as evidence that Catholics hold other beings in the same regard as God-- a simple mistake when there is so much confusion surrounding the topic.

Well, friends, allow me to clear the waters a bit for us all.

The proper term that should be used here is venerate and not worship. I looked the word up on a couple of online dictionaries for proper reference and a few definitions popped up.

These are the ones you want to take a look at:
From American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language --- Ven-er-ate (tr.v.)
"To regard with respect, reverence, or heartfelt deference. See synonyms at Revere."
From Cambridge Dictionary of American English
"To honor greatly or respect (person or thing)"

So, basically, Catholics honor the saints instead of worshiping them. If you are maybe getting a bit stuck on the word 'revere,' I have a comparison for you. Can you think of a title that we give to really special speakers that is very similar? I'll just give it away: Reverend. That's as in, reverend minister or reverend Monsignor whoever. It just means a good amount of respect is given to the guy (or girl) involved.

Now, let me recap. Saints are not worshipped in Catholicism, they are held in positions of respect. Nice! We've only just begun.

You may say to me, "Joe Martinez, I see where you're going with this. But what about when a Catholic person says that they pray to a saint?"

A hah. Good point. I think the best answer I can give you is that those words are more of a turn of phrase. We don't actually pray to Saint Joan D'arc. We ask for her to pray for us. You may notice next time you're around a number of your catholic friends that they say, "Saint (name) of (biblical place) pray for us!" at the end of a prayer.

Saints play a very special role in prayer. We believe that they add to our prayer requests when we are chatting it up with God. I've had it said to me a number of times, "Why do you need these seperate people to add to your prayer? Isn't your prayer good enough?"

My friend, Mr. Mike 'T' Tenango, provides a very eloquent answer. "When you're grandma's sick, don't you ask eveyone you meet to pray for her? Isn't your prayer alone good enough? The other prayers help right? Well, doesn't it add a little more when the prayers come from people who are in heaven?"

I have my own analogy. You guys are teens, so you should be about 14, 16, 18, whatever. Do you remember the first time you asked your parents if you could hang out with your firends alone somewhere (like last week?) Imagine you're in that scenario again. Now, in this family scenario, your dad is going to make this decision, okay? Dad= God. So you go up to Dad and say, "Can I go?"

He says, "I'll think about it. Come back in a bit." Now, you're smart enough to have a plan. You go up to your mom (who is, of course, Mother Mary) and say, "Momma Mary, can you talk to dad?" And of course she thinks you can handle yourself so she says yes and goes to talk to daddy. Now what do you do?

Talk to all your brothers and sisters, of course! Brother Saint Augistine, Sister Joan, Sister Saint Teres, Brother Saint Francis, etc. etc. And by the end of it, you have an army of support. Of course, dad is going to come to his own decision. But, it helps if you have people on your side, right?

That's one way saints work. They support you. The second way is they act as role models. Oh wait. You have another question. "That's all well and good, Joe Martinez. But what about the Hail Mary prayer? You can't tell me there's no saint worshiping there."

I can. Let me take you through it step by step.

--First Part--
Hail Mary (Translation--Hi Mary)
Full of Grace (You're Awesome)
The Lord is with thee (You're Awesome)
Blessed art thou among women (You're awesome)
And Blessed is the fruit (And that kid in your
Of thy womb Jesus (Stomach, Jesus? He's really Awesome.)
--Second Part--
Holy Mary (Holy as in with God)
Mother of God (You're the mother of God, right)
Pray For us Sinners (Did he just say 'Pray'?
Now, and at the hour (Right now, and
of our death. (Until we die)

So, hold up, man. You're telling me that the whole first half of the prayer is just saying Mary is awesome and the second half is just asking Mary to pray for us? That's it? That's it.

Mary has a position in the church as an intercessor. She is our advocate (the official title of the Holy Spirit as well) and goes before God with our wishes to make them known. Mary's like this lawyer I always see on TV, Larry H. Parker. "I'll fight for you." Another way to think about it is, you make a prayer, and Mary takes all your words and covers them up neatly with wrapping paper and ties it with a pretty bow to show to God. Mary's that extra bit of umph to your prayer request. Though, keep in mind that this is only one aspect of her role in the church.

The next question you may be having is, "Why are the saints so special? Who made the call that says these people get the best houses in heaven, Joe?" Well, first off, I'm not Joe. I'm Joe Martinez, and I didn't say they had the best houses in heaven. But I can answer your question about why they are so special.

If you were to actually do research on any given saint, you would find that he or she (they) have a very special story. Saint Lazarus of Bethany (That's my boy) was dead for a few days and Jesus himself went to his tomb and raised him from the dead. That's all aside from Jesus saying that Lazarus was his friend, because that has to be worth some heaven points right? (Kidding). Saint Patrick was a slave and rose from his bindings to become a minister to the Irish people. He's the dude who kicked all the snakes out of Ireland. Saint Don Bosco did so much for the children working in textile factories. Saint Christina rose from the dead by God's power after being shown hell and all the people she knew who would go there.

The point of bringing that up is to to show that these men and women were special and that it was apparent that they lived God's will till death. They have been deemed by the church, through the Vatican, to be people who were worthy of heaven, and anyone in heaven deserves respect (obviously).

Now, does that mean that only those dudes you see on the spooky mexican prayer candles and the laminated trading cards ever get to heaven? No. We are all called to sainthood. Everyone from Cambodia to Argentina to Iraq, Vietnam, England, and America.

In the Catechism of the Catholic Church, it is written, "All Christians in any state or walk of life are called to the fullness of Christian life and to the perfection of charity. All are called to holiness: 'Be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect.'"

So, what does that mean? Do I have to get barbequed on a pit as a martyr and tell them "Turn me over I'm done on this side?" Do I have to Spend my whole life in India attending to the impoverished with no income and no romantic love? Of course not. The saints you hear about on TV are in a special category. They are cannonized saints because the Pope has made it known that they have achieved sainthood. But it is Catholic belief that these men and women have been called to something a little greater than most people.

That doesn't mean you're off the hook though. God has His plans, and He has a way of showing you what He wants. Should you choose to accept your mission (this is sounding like Mission Impossible) you may find yourself going down roads you would have never imagined. Something to keep in mind is that people come and go from this earth who live wonderful, God filled lives, and the world never knows it. Yet, to God these people are just as much saints as any of the other cannonized ones are. In the end it's all His decision. More on living a God filled life to come.

--Joe Martinez

Prayer is the lifting up of one’s mind and heart to God

Prayer is the lifting up of one’s mind and heart to God
By Jerome Placido

I’ve heard many times before from a very holy priest “Prayer is the strength of men and the weakness of God.” So let’s assess ourselves. How strong are we? Juggling school, work, family, relationships, friendships, going out and staying in, where does prayer fall in?

Let’s recap first. What is prayer? According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC), prayer is the lifting up of one’s mind and heart to God.

Sounds simple enough right? What are some of the difficulties why we can’t pray? Common responses would be:

“I don’t know how to pray” “I don’t have time” “Prayer is boring” “I don’t need to pray” “Prayer is for old people”

And the list goes on and on. But these aren’t reasons to not pray but in fact they’re excuses. Why? Because prayer is, simply put, communicating with God. It is something that, when we try, will come naturally to us.

So when you’re asked by someone, “How is your prayer life?” In reality you’re being asked, “How is your relationship with God?” Because communication is essential to any relationship, and so prayer is essential to our relationship with God. It should be our second nature and our first resort for all things that happen to us.

But what’s the reality? We more than often resort to calling or texting a friend, posting a newsfeed on facebook or writing a blog rather than prayer. But then why should it be, after all these things that we first turn to are more tangible, more real, they can offer at least some consolation… right?

Maybe these things are tangible, real and offer some consolation, but if we grow more in our spirituality through prayer we’ll come to learn how REAL God is, and those consolations he sends us are far greater than anything we can receive from anything this world can offer.

The saints can attest to this and that’s why some would spend hours in prayer becoming so absorbed in it that those hours seem like seconds. St. Dominic Savio, a patron saint of the youth, would spend whole school days lost in prayer in the chapel. Of course this was unintentional and when the teachers found that he was missing, they would send a student to the oratory chapel and there he would be engrossed in prayer without any knowledge that he was already late for class.

But let’s not use prayer as an excuse to be late for class; rather let us follow his example of love for prayer to draw us to a closer union with God.

We should also be aware of the common pitfall of praying out of routine or out of obligation. Our motivation should boil down to love of God and if it does not, we lose the efficacy of prayer. We should pray with more than just our lips. Anyone can say pretty words, but it takes a soul in love to produce beautiful prayers.

Our lips should speak what our heart contains. And when we pray it should be a union of hearts, ours connecting so perfectly the Sacred Heart of our Lord that we lose ourselves in His love. Actually our lips may not even move. In the spirituality of St. Therese, she points out that all things can be offered to God as a prayer provided that we do it with great love.

Prayer really then is no problem, it’s actually the solution to all our problems. Don’t be confused about what to say or what to do. Instead do all things with and for the love of God offering all things to Him.

et us then make our whole days a prayer to God, offering all things to Him who first loved us.


Turning Off the Sound and Turning on the Lord

Turning Off the Sound and Turning on the Lord
By Fr. Joseph Pelligrino

I recently returned from the LifeTeen Leadership conference at Notre Dame University. This is an extremely intense five day workshop/ retreat for about 500 high school Teens.

When you have a large number of young people, you have to keep them busy to keep them focused as well as out of trouble. Busy minds and bodies can’t find creative ways to drive you crazy, not that teenagers ever do that. At least not ours. So you have dynamic talks and prayer services. You have fun spiritual events and serious spiritual events. You have beautiful liturgies and games for the free time. You spend hours and hours preparing well to provide for the kids. Anyway, with all of these wonderful experiences the various retreat teams provide, the Teens most often have the same answer when the experience is over and you ask them, “What was the best part?” Time and again, the Teens will say that the best times during the retreat was the quiet time, usually before the Blessed Sacrament in Eucharistic Adoration, but sometimes just alone, sitting under a tree, talking to God and listening. It floors me that being introduced into spirituality, the Teens embrace it with determination. These Teens who are wired for sound 24/7, appreciate the times when there is no sound.

We all have a need for quiet. We all have a need to be away from the noise of the world and be alone with the Lord. Jesus himself would seek out a quiet place to pray to the Father. In today’s Gospel, He encourages the disciples to join him in prayer, in the quiet.

Don’t get me wrong, I have been in many of your homes and the sound of your children laughing and playing is beautiful music. But Mom and Dad still need some quiet time with the Lord, to put themselves together, to reconnect with the Lord. So do the children. And so do I. All of us need quiet time to be with the Lord.

There are questions that we have to ask the Lord every day. One of them is this: why am I doing what I do? Why do I go to work, shuttle the kids around to school and sports. Is it for one of those fleeting moments of family life when none of the kids are in trouble and Mom and Dad love being with them and each other? Is it more than this? Am I doing all this so we can provide a decent college education for the children, weddings for the girls, and a happy retirement for my spouse and me? These are good and noble and Christian goals for life? They are full of self sacrifice and are ultimately teaching the children what love really is. Perhaps then we can ask the Lord to show us how to raise our children to serve Him. Even more than that, maybe it is in the quiet that we can seek out the whole reason why each of us exist and why we have bothered to bring children into the world in the first place. Why do I do what I do? Am I so busy so I can provide a spiritual home for the people of the parish. I can’t be busy because I think I’m going to get a better job. The “Joe for Pope” campaign has fizzled. Why do I want to I want St. Ignatius to be the finest parish it can be? It is in the quiet that I have to seek out the reason why I am a priest and the reason why this parish exists.

Deep questions need to be asked and answers need to be sought every day. But we cannot do that without going into the quiet. How can you do that, especially if you have children? How can I do that, especially if I have a large number of people with daily needs? The only way you and I can find the time to be in the Sacred Quiet is to make the time. This may mean getting up a half hour earlier than the kids, or going to your room after the kids’ bedtime prayer before hitting the TV. In these days of TIVO and DVR’s there is little excuse for not setting time aside for the Lord before perching in front of the tube.

But we don’t need the quiet just to ask questions. We need the quiet just to be with the Lord. A busy, problem solving, program starting, priest, we’ll call him Fr. Bill, noticed a new man at daily Mass. The man in his mid forties would go to morning Mass and then sit in the Church for an hour. It actually irritated Fr. Bill a bit, because he didn’t want to disturb the man, but sometimes he needed to do something or other in the Church that would be distracting. Besides, there were plenty of ministries the man could get involved in if he had time every morning. So Fr. Bill decided to chat with him to see if he could gently move him to be occupied somewhere else. “Hello, I’m Fr. Bill. I believe you are new to the parish.”

“Yes, my name is Fred. I moved here a few weeks ago.

“So Fred,” said Father Bill, “tell me, how is it that you have so much time to spend in church every morning?”

“I don’t go into work at the a local store until 1 o’clock,” Fred said. As they were talking Father Bill realized that Fred was a bit slower than most men.

“Well, I guess I can’t have him doing something too intellectually trying,” the priest thought. Then he asked, “So Fred, would you like me to find something for you to do in the mornings after Mass.”

“No thank you, Father,” Fred said. “I am busy enough right here.”

“OK, well, God bless you, Fred,” and Fr. Bill left him.

A number of months went by, and Father noticed that Fred was still there for over an hour every day. He also noticed that Fred wasn’t reading prayer books or anything. He was just sitting or kneeling there. One day, Father Bill decided to speak to Fred again, not to entice him to leave, but to find out what exactly he was doing for over an hour every day.

“Fred, tell me about these prayers that you say, every day. I don’t see you with a prayer book, but I know you are praying.”

“I don’t say any particular prayers, Father, other than starting with a rosary.”

“Well, what do you do the rest of the time, Fred,” Father Bill was seriously wanting to learn from whom he now realized was a very good man.

“Well, Father,” Fred said, “the rest of the time I look at Jesus and Jesus looks at me. That’s more than enough.”

Now, Fr. Bill had made many retreats in his life. He had embraced many different spiritual programs: centering prayer, Journaling, Ignatian exercises. They were all great and powerful experiences, but no one spoke more eloquently about the spiritual life than Fred in just those few words.

We need quiet time to be with our Lord. We don’t have to say any particular prayers. We don’t have to have an agenda of things to do. We just need to be with Christ.

Our world is too busy, way too busy. Our lives are too busy, way to busy. But, really, we are not that different from the first disciples. They had just returned from healing and caring for the sick. They had hundred, maybe thousands of people gathering around them, wanting to hear about the Kingdom of God. They were busy doing the Lord’s work. Perhaps, too busy. Jesus told them and us, what we need to do. “Come with me,” he says in the Gospel, “to a deserted place and enter into the quiet. Then you will be ready to get back to the work of the Lord.”

Every one of us is busy. All of our lives are full of noise. But all of us can find ways and must find ways to turn off the sound, and tune in the Lord. We have questions to ask, and a Divine Presence to cherish.

Sunday Homily for July 19, 2009
Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time (16B)


Trapped in our Own World?

Trapped in our Own World?
By Jerome Placido

I'm 25 years old. And I have reached the point where considering myself part of the youth sector of society becomes daring, if not wishful thinking. And being a part of the "young" generation, I know that the young of today's world - and the few young generations that came before them - have increasingly trended away from God and moved towards things more sensual, more secular. It’s a fact that is not widely disputed. Yet, unfortunately, there is little concern among our society for the morale of the youth.

The young have found themselves in the midst of humanity's greatest and most important battle. And it is neither the war on terror nor the insurgencies that wish to topple governments. Yes, such struggles are important and weigh heavily on what will happen within our lifetimes. But this battle I'm talking about weighs on what will happen to us for the rest of eternity.

It is a “do or die” battle, literally. And if we do not take arms, we will be swept away with the deceits of the enemy who “prowls about the world seeking the ruin of souls.”

Our Youth are Trapped

How and by who? A dramatic decline in moral values has been permeating our society for several generations now. And it's manifesting itself today in un-Christly behavior that today is being actively promoted, even accepted, by our society. In the Philippines - where I currently reside and where the majority of the population is over 80%, are Catholic - the Culture of Death slowly wraps its claws around the very thicket of the country's Catholic roots.

egardless of where you look around the world, the story is similar, the same tragedy is shared. The music videos, TV shows, fashion, mass media, advertising and everything that builds this present culture gives a false image of happiness. We have sunk our teeth so deep into the bait that we can’t, or don’t want, to let go. It’s all too attractive and enticing for most people to renounce. And so we allow ourselves to justify and defend our “stance” that these things are acceptable.

All around us we have examples of people trapped by their own desires, passions, and wants. They do not allow themselves to be guided by the Spirit of God. They, instead, are led by the flesh and the spirit of the world.

But what we have in this world is only temporary. Our very lives are transitory, we are mere pilgrims moving toward eternity. God desires that we rise above the sensual and hold firmly to Him through the spiritual.

Trapped by whom?

Of course we know who. As children of God and of the Blessed Mother , it is "he" whom we have been placed “in enmity” with. His name is Lucifer, satan, the devil. Call him what you want, he leads the rebellion against God and His people.

And he does not act alone. He has with him the other third of the angels who fell with him after their rebellion against God. Who else? There are also those - men and women like you and me - who have knowingly, or even unknowingly, allied themselves with these powers of darkness. It is everyone else among us who promote and flirt with the dangers of the Culture of Death.

Yes we have an enemy. And he is more real than most people would like to believe. In the hierarchy of creation, the devil and those other fallen angels are preternatural beings. And we are merely natural beings. How do we fair against such odds?

Actually our odds are pretty good, in fact they are overwhelmingly great. We may have the losing hand in the hierarchy of creation, but we have our God who is SUPERnatural. “What then shall we say to this? If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Rom 8:31)

We Have a Recourse

If we are trapped then let us have recourse to God to set us free. For He is the same God who showed His might, power and glory in Egypt to free His Chosen people from bondage. How much more can He do for us if we only allow Him to work those miracles through us and in us?

He has given us all the means to overcome ourselves and all that could stand in the way of our journey to holiness. Holy Mass, Holy Hours of Adoration, the Holy Rosary, 2000 years worth of saints whom examples we can follow, legions of heavenly hosts and much more.

We have no excuses, my young friends. We need only the DESIRE for holiness, the DESIRE to love God.


What Sin is About? (Mooo!)

What Sin is About? (Mooo!)

Check out this great video excerpt from Fr. Larry Richards' talk. And get a handle on what it really means to sin.