HAPPY ST. PATRICK’S DAY

I’m Irish.  St. Patrick’s Day used to be a day to celebrate that fact with a lot of drinking and jokes told with phoney Irish brogues.    One of the jokes I remember was:

Question:  “Do you know why God invented alcohol?” 

Answer:  “So the Irish wouldn’t rule the world.”

The only thing I knew about St. Patrick himself was that he drove the snakes out of Ireland.  I heard about the wee people and the shamrock.  That about summarizes my knowledge of being Irish.

Today I know that Saint Patrick was born in Great Britain around 385.  As a young man, he was captured and sold as a slave in Ireland where he had to tend sheep.  Having escaped from salvery, he chose to enter the priesthood, and later, as a bishop, he tirelessly preached the gospel to the people of Ireland where he converted many to the faith and established the Church.  He died at Down in 461.

A sampling of the Confession of Saint Patrick, Bishop, he wrote:  “I came to the Irish peoples to preach the Gospel and endure the taunts of unbelievers, putting up with reproaches about my earthly pilgraimage, suffering many persecutions, even bondage, and losing my birthright of freedom for the benefit of others.  If I am worthy, I am ready also to give up my life, without hesitation and most willingly, for His name.  I want to spend myself in that country, even in death, if the Lord should grant me this favor.  I am deeply in debt, for He gave me the great grace that through me many peoples should be reborn in God, and then made perfect by confirmation and everywhere among them clergy ordained for a people so recently coming to believe, one people gathered by the Lord from the ends of the earth.”

When I read ancient writings and realize the power of a person’s love for God, I am in awe that what was true way back then is, in fact, true today.  I am moved to a deeper Catholic faith by the power of a man who lived 1700 years ago and yet believed what I believe.   This is all part of what makes me A Happy Catholic.

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WITH LIGHT

Romans 13: 12-13 reads as follows:  “Let us then throw off the works of darkness [and] put on the armor of light; let us conduct ourselves properly as in the day.” 

The contrast of light and darkness, the white hat and the black hat of the old Westerns, the day and the night, the open and the hidden are all symbols of the same good versus evil phenomenon.  I cannot enjoy a book in a dark room.  I need a light.   I cannot be a good Catholic Christian if I pretend to be good in public and, in secret, commit many sins.  That pretense alone is a lie and the sins adding to my darkness.   I remember as a child when I used to watch a friend of my father’s receive Communion with such reverence I wanted to be as good as him.  I knew his wife and children and thought their family was like The Nelsons.  Then one beautiful summer day I saw him with his arm wrapped around a much younger blonde as he drove by in his convertible.  It devastated me and, during the period I was away from the Church, I used the contrasting pictures of the man in my mind to assure me that religious people were all hippocrits.  I’m sure the man never knew the impact he had on me.

My sins are committed in darkness.  If they are thoughts, they are hidden from the rest of the world.  If they are words, they are masqueraded by justifications or an image I’m trying to hide behind.  If they are deeds, they are usually hidden from others or performed at night.  Any good act, word or deed can be done out in the open or in the light of day.  We don’t have to do or say them in the open, but if they were found out, it would be okay.

Jesus called Himself, “The Light of the World.”  If I follow His example, I can be free to live in the light.  I accept that I am a sinner and have a dark side, but it is my hope that I will be drawn to the light in all my affairs.   Because I know I am a sinner, I know I need God.  The human condition is my problem, the Divine Light is my solution.

God bless us all!

ON SEEKING

My story is not more important or deeper than any other person’s story.  Every wall I banged into and every bridge I crossed brought me to this moment.  I continue to seek and to find and to seek again.  As I went along on the road to today’s faith, I tried to solve the great mystery of God and what my place in God’s world could be.  As I went deeper into my Catholic faith, I found that not only was the mystery of God more than I could ever grasp, but that the mystery of myself was just as great.  Who am I that God could love me into existence?

On seeking an answer to the two mysteries (God and self), I would get to a place in my faith where a veil would lift.  I’d gasp in response and meditate on the beauty and wonder of it all.  For instance, I just read a small publication from Paulist Press called “Poverty of Spirit” by Johannes Baptist Metz.  In it Johannes says there is more to being a human being than conception and birth.  He says we are challenged to accept ourselves.   He said “assent to God starts in our sincere assent to ourselves, just as sinful flight from God starts in our flight from ourselves.  In accepting the chalice of our existence, we show our obedience to the will of the Creator in heaven; in rejecting it, we reject God. 

I never looked at myself in a good light.  I mistook this as humility.   I didn’t realize I was telling God he made a mistake when he made me.  Today I know when I start the negative self talk that I am complaining about God’s handiwork.  I must accept the chalice of me.

Another point brought out in this little book concerned the three temptations of Christ and the devil’s underlying intention of tempting Christ to let go of His human nature and utilize His divine nature.  It would have made the Incarnation “an empty show” and would have lessened His sacrifice.  When I read that, I understood for the first time the reason for these temptations.  And the obedient Christ did not falter, but rather won for us forgiveness of sins right up to His death on the cross.

Each epiphany lifts a veil.  God is being revealed to me moment by precious moment.  I seldom find anything if I am not first seeking the answer.  I know I will never totally know God in this life, but nothing beats seeking Him.  “Seek and ye shall find.”

Poor I-Sight

Max Lucado, in his Volume II of Grace for the Moment, says that poor I-sight is swinging from one side to the other.  He said one day we are too high on ourself and the next we are too hard on ourself.  When asked where the truth lies, he answers smack-dab in the middle.  Instead of “I can do anything” or “I can’t do anything”, he refers us to Phillipians 4:13:  “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”

We are not a mistake.  We are not a V.I.P.   We are children of a loving God, and, as such, we are in the middle.  On days when I act as if I am a very important person or wish I was a very important person, I am not listening to that still small voice.  On days when I see no worth in my person, I am still suffering from obsession of self.  It is when I concentrate on what God would have me do that day that I begin to live happily.  If I rightly relate myself to others and to God, I am free of any weight the world or my life would place on my shoulders.

To be an ordinary person with an extraordinary God is a great way to see our life.  If we start the days on our knees to the God we understand, we will direct our thinking toward others and toward God.   To read His word and to receive His body and blood is life indeed. 

Dear God, let me always take my poor I-sight to You, the Great Physician.

SAINTS PERPETUA AND FELICITY

We are assured of the accurate accounts of the martyrs’ death in 203 through their own testimony and a writer of that period.  “The day of the martyrs’ victory dawned.  They marched from their cells into the amphitheater, as if into heaven, with cheerful looks and graceful bearing.  If they trembled it was for joy and not for fear.”

They loved God with an undivided heart.  They happily went to their death for God.  Their intense love of God was demonstrated by their lives and their willingness, no joy, to die for their faith.  I read this and marvel at their faith.

Today the godlessness in our world is popular.  Our world does not pray in school; our world does not want an end to abortion or embrionic stem cell research; our world cannot live in peace;  our world denies the presence of sin; and our world shows no evidence of  faith.  Those of us who feel the presence of God, hide it and don’t speak our secret.  We carry our dwindling faith to our jobs and our friends and family hidden underneath our egos and our desire to not offend anyone.  In this environment, I can’t imagine the obvious faith of the early Christians.

Today, God, please give me the courage to love you openly! 

Today as I walk through my day, I will remember Saints Perpetua and Felicity.  Perhaps I may even

OUR POVERTY AS HUMAN BEINGS

Becoming a human being involves a lot more than conception and birth.  We are challenged and questioned from the depths of our boundless spirit.  We must fully become what we are – a human being – through the exercise of our freedom.  This freedom leaves us to ourselves.  The danger of being fully human and accepting our freedom is that we can go awry.  We can say “yes” to our whims and “no” to our responsibilities.   We can then see why we need God’s grace.  We need the guidance.

I believe doing God’s will is to be fully alive.  I believe to be fully alive is to be fully conscious as we go through our days, limited as they are.   As we have conversations with family, friends and strangers, we need to review our reactions.  What are our intentions?  What are our goals?  Do we believe it to be within our power to succeed as human beings?  What is our definition of success?

The most amazing fact of life is that God took on our flesh and became human Himself.   When I take the time to truly realize this, it is overwhelming.   On Sunday, we read about Jesus’ temptations in the desert…the three assaults on Jesus’ human nature.  Jesus subjected Himself to our plight.  He immersed himself in our misery and followed our road to the end.  He did not escape the torment of our life.  He was not spared the dark mystery of our poverty as human beings.  He came to us where we really are.  Imagine the love!

NOT LIVING BY BREAD ALONE

Bread is the one common food that transcends boundaries.  Most cultures have their bread.  It is the world’s life-giving food.  

Jesus calls Himself  “the Living Bread come down from heaven,” and says in Luke 4:4 “One does not live by bread alone, but on every word that comes forth from the mouth of God.” 

The “bread” in our Sacrifice of the Mass is “the Bread of Angels.”  The word Eucharist means “to give thanksgiving.”  The sacrament of the Eucharist is the sacrifice of Calvary, the same sacrifice that Jesus offered on Mount Calvary.  It is not another sacrifice.  It is the original sacrifice.   The Church finds its center and most intense expression in the celebration of this sacrament.  It is the Sacraments of sacraments.   It is not just a sign.  It is the true presence of Our Lord, Jesus Christ.   He instituted the Eucharist as the memorial of His death and resurrection.  He fulfilled the Passover.  It is not just a recollection, we are present at Calvary.  The Paschal mystery is not repeated.  It is present now.   The Last Supper was the first Mass.   The Eucharist is also a sacrifice.  “This is My Body which is given for you.”  He gives us the very body which was sacrificed on Calvary.   The priest says Mass “in personae Christi.”

Just as bread can give us life-giving strength, the Eucharist can give us the spiritual life.   Jesus is still alive and comes to us in the humble form of bread.   This is the sacrifice of the New Covenant.  This replaces the bullock, lamb or a pigeon in the Old Covenant.  In the New Convenant, the Lamb offers up Himself.