Note: The e-books on this page will open in a new window. If you find the text size is too small then you can adjust it in the Adobe Reader's toolbar. Look for the following size/zoom control, above the document, once it opens:
Note: If your computer doesn't already have Adobe Reader you can download it for free from Adobe's website by clicking the image below:
St. Philip Neri: Apostle of Rome - by Fr. Michael Keating
St. Philip Neri was beatified in 1615, five years after St. Charles Borromeo was raised to the altars, and canonized in 1622 in company with St. Ignatius Loyola, St.
Francis Xavier, and St. Teresa of Avila. This group could be said to represent in a unique way the extraordinary vitality of the Catholic Reformation of the sixteenth
century, in renewal of Christian life, in mystical prayer, and in missionary endeavor. All are remarkable personalities, but none perhaps is so compelling in breadth
of humanity coupled with depth of holiness as St. Philip. Like Francis Xavier, he longed to do mission work in India; like his friend Ignatius Loyola who also greatly
desired the foreign missions, he felt himself compelled to remain in Rome, and he exercised his apostolate in the heart of the Church. Like St. Teresa he was a
master of the mystical life, regularly overpowered by ecstatic experiences of the indwelling Holy Spirit. And like his other close friend Charles Borromeo, he did
much to reform both clergy and laity and to bring the intentions of the reforming Council of Trent to realization.
Among the salient points of St. Philip’s character and work, there are many that make him stand out as a particularly important saint for our time. Let us look at a
few of these.
Philip began his apostolate in Rome as a layman among laymen. He only reluctantly presented himself for Holy Orders in his late thirties under the counsel of his
spiritual fathers. The foundations of the famous Oratory, a place of prayer and song and friendship, were laid among the laity of all classes who gathered around
him, and the Congregation of the Oratory, the priestly expression of St. Philip’s life, arose out of the lay movement and served it. This integral connection to a lay
apostolate is so constitutive of St. Philip’s vision that it is still the case, whenever an Oratory is founded, that there is both a clerical and a “secular” or lay
expression of Oratorian life that comes into being. In this, Philip might be said to anticipate the ecclesial movements of our own time, as places of intensive
Christian life in which lay and clergy find a common life and a common evangelistic mission.
It was characteristic of Philip’s apostolic work that he set great store by the Holy Scriptures as the living Word that could exercise a transformative effect on the
attentive believer. He developed a way of preaching and speaking about the Faith that was both intellectually penetrating and accessible to the uneducated,
centered on the study of Scripture. This was a bold thing to do in a Church that was still reeling from the divisions produced by the Protestant reformers, whose
insistence on sola scriptura made any attempt to teach the Scriptures to common folk highly suspect, and Philip came in for his share of suspicion. But he kept on
with steady perseverance, winning the day with his humility and his profound insertion into Catholic truth.
Philip’s own experiences in prayer, culminating in an extraordinary visitation of the Holy Spirit entering him as a seeming ball of fire while he was praying one night
in the Catacombs, were the wonder of Rome. He took to saying Mass by himself in order not to be on public display at those moments when he was overcome
physically by the strength of God’s presence within him. He was a living witness to the depth of relationship God the Father desires with his children. At the same
time, he insisted tirelessly that the essence of conversion had to do with the mind, with mortification of the razionale, and he had a sharply expressed impatience
with affectations of spiritual experience.
Philip insisted on a deeply human expression of the Faith. A man of great personal austerity, nonetheless he encouraged the development of a genuinely human
culture around him. He set up the Congregation of the Oratory as a form of priestly life without the taking of vows, such that only healthy friendships founded upon
charity, his beloved divina carità, would allow the Oratory to function and continue. He insisted that every Oratorian house be a home, a place of human flourishing.
His encouragement of music was legendary: Palestrina was one of his penitents and wrote music for the Oratory, and the style of music called the Oratorio, the
best known example of which is Handel’s Messiah, took its name from the Oratories in which it developed. In scholarship, in architecture and the arts, in all things
that contribute to sound and attractive Catholic culture, Oratorians made their distinctive mark.
In all of this, St. Philip has much to say to us. His insistence on the apostolic importance and call to holiness of the laity, his delight in Sacred Scripture, his
integration of faith and reason in his own pastoral activity, his delight in all things human and encouragement of rich faith-filled cultural expressions, have a
remarkably modern ring to them. They are just the sorts of spiritual medicines needed by our time. It is no doubt partly for this reason that Blessed John Henry
Newman, when he was looking for a way of life for the young men who had gathered around him upon his conversion, settled on St. Philip and his Oratory.
Newman thought that Philip and the tradition of life and apostolate he founded would be particularly suited to the emerging secular modern world that it was so
much Newman’s mission to understand and rejuvenate with the Gospel, a task that we have come to call the “new evangelization.”
And running through and crowning all is St. Philip’s outrageous sense of humor. He was a person of immense joy, and of that special kind of humor that can be
experienced only by those who see the human race as God sees us: often silly, regularly stupidly pompous, in great need of help, but beloved and called to a high
destiny. Philip seemed to be almost a clown in his constant practical joking, in the penances he would give to his followers, in his private conversation. It was the
same kind of “clownishness” displayed by St. Thomas More on the scaffold: an ability to laugh at the worst that the Devil could do, a recognition of the absurdity of
so much human pretension, and an abiding confidence in a loving and often humorous Heavenly Father. An age such as ours—so deadly serious while so
steeped in the distraction and presumption and despair that inevitably settles upon mind and heart when men forget God—is in great need of this laughter of St.
Philip. It was said that there was enough joy in him to set a kingdom laughing. May we be given some measure of this medicine, and learn to laugh, and to love, in
the manner of this great Apostle of Rome.
Saint Albert Chmielowski (1845 – 1916) was the eldest of four children. He was born to a wealthy aristocratic family in a village near Kraków in Poland. Great sadness entered his heart as a child with the loss of both parents. The profound impact of this loss forever affected his heart, and his life was dramatically altered and at such a young age. It is said that children who suffer the loss of the parents experience loneliness and the feeling that they are different somehow. The pain of sorrow becomes etched in a secret place in the child’s heart whose new world is marked by total discontinuity.
He and his siblings were taken in by relatives. This great loss planted the seeds that would later blossom into a determined commitment to the suffering and attract him to the things of heaven. His life is an example of Christian hope, that hope that ensures us that God would never allow anything to happen in the past that is not part of His loving plans for the future. Perhaps you have seen on youtube (http://www. youtube.com/watch?v=yo_24_qTNac) an inspiring appearance of a young man born with no limbs—no hands, no feet; no arms, no legs—who is greatly in love with Christ. On this youtube presentation you see him speaking with school children about hope, about the power of God’s grace in a person’s life; you see him speaking to male prisoners who, in tears, come up to give him a hug. It makes all the difference in the world whom Christ has graced with the virtue of hope.
Children who have lost their parents often have no sense of direction, and such was the case with Albert. In 1863, as an 18-year-old enthusiast, Albert participated in an uprising against the Russian Empire, which lasted two years. It began as a spontaneous protest by young Poles against conscription into the Russian military, and was joined by highranking officers and various political figures. In this uprising Albert’s severely damaged leg had to be amputated. With the severe reaction of the Russian officials, Albert had to flee his country. He eventually settled in Belgium and before long discovered a talent for painting. His gentle and compassionate spirit and the loss he experienced so young in his life gave him a sensitivity for the suffering of the poor. One of his most renowned art pieces was the Ecce Homo—the thorn-crowned Christ. But Albert eventually gave up his art to live among the poor as a beggar. Then, becoming a Franciscan Tertiary, he founded a Third Order Franciscan community called Servants of the Poor, eventually called the Albertine Brothers. He died on Christmas Day in his shelter for the homeless. John Paul was greatly influenced by the life of St. Albert “because,” the Pope said, “I found in him a real spiritual support and example in leaving behind the world of art, literature, and the theater, and in making the radical choice of a vocation....” d Saint Albert, pray for us and for our families.
Jacob, by Pat Rensing (grandmother of Jacob) -
Jacob Edward Martinez, born December 17, 1998.
My oldest daughter, Pam, was told for 12 years she would not have children. The worst case of endometriosis each doctor had ever seen! She saw numerous
doctors. They each told my daughter she would not be able to conceive because of the severity of her illness.
I have been involved since the early 90’s with a ministry to women called Magnificat. We have speakers come to a meal and share their testimonies of how God,
through His Holy Spirit, has changed their lives. We were scheduled to have Sister Briege McKenna as our speaker on March 5, 1998. My first grandchild was to
be born February 25, which is my youngest daughter’s 1st child. My oldest daughter was very excited for her sister while, at the same time, she longed for her own
I was preparing to go up North to Oakland, CA., to be with my youngest daughter for the birth of our first grandchild. I had had a blanket knit by some holy women
who I’d met at our Church’s Christmas boutique. I asked the woman if she’d be able to knit a blanket for my first grandbaby. She said yes, and it would be finished
after the first of the year, 1998. I picked it up early February, 1998, and when I picked it up the woman said to me that “Your oldest daughter, Pam, needs to be at
your Magnificat meal with Sister Briege.
She did attend at that meal. I’m told Fr. Ray, our spiritual advisor, and Sister Briege processed around the room with Jesus in the monstrance. Sister Briege was
telling the people to ask Jesus for the desires of their hearts.
Of course, my daughter’s desire was for a child. Within 3 days or so she was pregnant. She flew up north to help her sister with her new nephew not knowing she
had conceived. She was so thrilled to be with this new baby boy, Cade, her sister’s baby, that she clung to him.
She and her husband, Ken, had decided to go to USC and to in virtro. The date for this visit was April 24, 1998. Well, on that day I prayed all day. “Lord, Your will be
done…Lord, Your will be done.
You see I did not want her to go that route, because I knew it was not God’s will, even as much as I knew she wanted a baby.
It wasn’t that I didn’t want her to have a baby. I just knew that in virtro was against Church teaching. I did not say too much because the whole family, cousins, aunts
and great grandparents, were so “happy” for her, yet I prayed, Lord, Your will be done, over and over and over that day, 4/28/98.
At 10 PM I received a call that my prayer had truly been answered and my daughter, Pam, was pregnant and 9 months after our first grandson was born, our
second grandson, Jacob Edward Martinez was born. He will be turning 14 this December 17, 2012 and he is a true miracle.
Thank you, Jesus.
Early on August 6, 1945, a lone American B-29 Superfortress bomber circled in a vividly blue sky over the Japanese city of Hiroshima. The unsuspecting
inhabitants on the ground barely glanced at the plane. They were unaware of the deadly payload it was about to unleash on them, ushering in the atomic age with
unimaginable death and destruction.
As one single bomb neared the ground, a city died in an instant. Houses crumbled, people evaporated, an immense ball of fire shot skywards, and a terrible wave
of super-heated gas bulged out from ground zero, flattening buildings for miles.
Amongst the unsuspecting inhabitants of Hiroshima was Fr. Schiffer, a Jesuit missionary assisting the many Catholics of that city. On the morning of August 6,
1945, he had just finished Mass and sat down at the breakfast table. As he plunged his spoon into a freshly sliced grapefruit, there was a bright flash of light. His
first thought was that a fuel tanker had exploded in the harbor, as Hiroshima was a major port where the Japanese refueled their submarines. Then, in the words of
Fr. Schiffer: “Suddenly, a terrible explosion filled the air with one bursting thunder stroke. An invisible force lifted me from the chair, hurled me through the air, shook
me, battered me, whirled me round and round like a leaf in a gust of autumn wind.” Next thing he remembered was that he opened his eyes and found himself on
the ground. He looked around, and saw there was nothing left in any direction: the railroad station and buildings in all directions were gone. Yet, the only harm to
him was a few slight cuts in the back of his neck form shards of grass. As far as he could tell, there was nothing else physically wrong with him.
The small community of Jesuits to which Fr. Schiffer belonged lived in a house near the parish church, situated only eight blocks from the center of the blast. When
Hiroshima was destroyed by the atomic bomb, all eight members of the small Jesuit community escaped unscathed, while every other person within a radius of
one-and-a-half kilometers from ground zero died immediately. The house where the Jesuits lived was still standing, while buildings in every direction from it were
leveled. Father Hubert Schiffer was 30 years old when the atomic bomb exploded right over his head at Hiroshima. He not only survived, but also lived a healthy life
for another 33 years!
How did this group of men survive a nuclear blast that killed everyone else, even people over ten times further away from the blast? It is absolutely unexplainable by
scientific means. An interesting detail is that this group of Catholic clergy was made up of ardent enthusiasts of the Message of Fatima. They lived the Message.
Was their fidelity to Our Lady rewarded by this stupendous miracle of their survival?
Even more astonishing is that the story was to be repeated a few days later at Nagasaki, the second Japanese city to be hit by an atomic bomb. In both Hiroshima
and Nagasaki the survivors were Catholic religious. Most other buildings were leveled to the ground, even at 3 times the distance, but in both cases their houses
stood – even with some windows intact! All other people, bar a handful of scattered mutilated survivors, even at thrice the distance from the explosion, died
instantly. Those within a radius ten times the distance of the Jesuits from the explosion were exposed to fierce radiation and died within days.
After the American conquest of Japan, U.S. army doctors explained to Fr. Schiffer that his body would soon begin to deteriorate because of the radiation. To the
doctors’ amazement, Fr. Schiffer’s body showed no radiation or ill effects from the bomb. All who were at this range from the epicenter should have received
enough radiation to be dead within a matter of minutes. Scientists examined the group of Hiroshima Jesuits over 200 times during the next 30 years and no ill
effects were ever found.
Could it have been a fluke? Could the bomb’s makers have designed it to avoid killing U.S. citizens? There is no known way to design a uranium-235 atomic
bomb so it could leave such a large discrete area intact while destroying everything around it. The Jesuits say: “We believe that we survived because we were
living the message of Fatima. We lived and prayed the Rosary daily in that house.” Fr. Schiffer feels that he received a protective shield from the Blessed Virgin,
which protected him from all radiation and ill effects. Fr. Schiffer attributes this to his devotion to Our Lady, and his daily Fatima Rosary: “In that house the Holy
Rosary was recited together every day.” Secular scientists are dumbfounded and incredulous at his explanation. They are sure there is some ‘real’ explanation.
However, over 60 years later the scientists still have not been able to explain it.
Father Hubert Schiffer attributes the protection of the Jesuits in Hiroshima to devotion to Our Lady of Fatima and the daily Rosary: “In that house the Holy Rosary was recited together every day.”
From a scientific standpoint, what happened to those Jesuits at Hiroshima still defies all the laws of physics. It must be concluded that some other force was
present, whose power to transform energy and matter as it relates to humans is beyond our comprehension.
Dr. Stephen Rinehart of the U.S. Department of Defense is widely recognized as an international expert in the field of atomic blasts. Says Rinehart: “A quick
calculation says that at one kilometer the bulk temperature was in excess of 20,000 to 30,000 degrees F, and the blast wave would have hit at sonic velocity with
pressures on buildings greater than 600 PSI. If the Jesuits, at one kilometer from the geometric epicenter, were outside the atomic bomb’s “plasma” their
residence should still have been utterly destroyed. Un-reinforced masonry or brick walls, representative of commercial construction, are destroyed at 3 PSI, which
will also cause ear damage and burst windows. At 10 PSI, a human being will experience severe lung and heart damage, burst eardrums and at 20 PSI limbs can
be blown off. All the cotton clothing would be on fire at 350 degrees Fahrenheit, and your lungs would be inoperative within a minute of breathing even one lungful of
air at these temperatures.
“No way could any human have survived nor should anything have been left standing at one kilometer. At ten times the distance, about ten to fifteen kilometers, I
saw the brick walls standing from an elementary school and there were a few badly burned survivors; all died within fifteen years of some form of cancer.
Reconnaissance pictures taken of a panoramic view from epicenter of the blast, at Shima Hospital looking towards the Jesuits’ house, did show some kind of
two-story building totally intact, at least from what I could make out, and it looked to me the windows were in place. Also there was a church with walls still standing
a few hundred yards away, but the roof was gone.
“The Department of Defense never commented officially on this and I suspect it was classified and never discussed in open literature. I think it is possible the
Jesuits were asked not to say anything either at the time.”
For God, who made all matter and energy, it is simply a matter of willing it and the laws that govern them are suspended. This is what happened at Hiroshima and
Nagasaki. It also happened in ancient times, to the loyal servants of God Sidrach, Misach, and Abdenago, as is related in the Book of Daniel (3:19-24):
“Then was Nebuchodonosor filled with fury: and the countenance of his face was changed against Sidrach, Misach, and Abdenago, and he commanded that the
furnace should be heated seven times more than it had been accustomed to be heated. And he commanded the strongest men that were in his army, to bind the
feet of Sidrach, Misach, and Abdenago, and to cast them into the furnace of burning fire. And immediately these men were bound and were cast into the furnace of
burning fire, with their coasts, and their caps, and their shoes, and their garments. For the king’s commandment was urgent, and the furnace was heated
exceedingly. And the flame of the fire slew those men that had cast Sidrach, Misach, and Abdenago. But these three men, that is, Sidrach, Misach, and Abdenago,
fell down bound in the midst of the furnance of burning fire. And they walked in the midst of the flame, praising God and blessing the Lord.”
Originally published in Britain Needs Fatima Members’ Newsletter, Issue 25, February, 2007. Britain Needs Fatima Members’ Newsletter is a publication of the
Tradition, Family, Property Bureau for the United Kingdom. Please direct all enquiries to: Britain Needs Fatima, P.O. Box 2713, Glasgow, G62 6YJ. Tel.: (0141) 956 7391 — Fax (0141) 956 6978 —
Cardinal van Thuân: Man of Hope Who Loved His Persecutors
Postulator of His Beatification Cause Gives Overview
ROME, JULY 18, 2012 (Zenit.org).- To speak of the Servant of God Cardinal François Xavier Nguyen van Thuân is to consider a life tested in suffering, in injustice
and in the three theological virtues: faith, hope and charity. He suffered hunger, cold and the contempt of one imprisoned. He was a victim of a blind totalitarian
system, which detained him without accusing him of anything, just because he was considered "dangerous." However, he had faith that God had a plan for him
through that cruel life; he hoped against all hope together with all his own, and loved his persecutors to the end, some of whom were converted while guarding him
in his cell.
ZENIT spoke with Dr. Waldery Hilgeman, postulator in Rome for the cause of beatification of this member of the "victorious team," to which Pope Benedict XVI
referred, when wishing to encourage the universal Church in these difficult times.
When asked what most caught his attention about Cardinal Van Thuân, Hilgeman remarked on the cardinal's complexity. "Something that touches me in his
spirituality is the constancy of his love of neighbor. Because he was imprisoned, and in his imprisonment he did not cease to love those who were his persecutors,
from the highest officials of the regime, to the guard of lowest rank."
Cardinal Van Thuân was coadjutor archbishop of Saigon when the city fell under communist control in 1975. Shortly after, the Vietnamese prelate was imprisoned
in a re-education camp for 13 years.
Dangerous for an empty system
Cardinal Van Thuân was an unjust prisoner, Hilgeman said, "in the sense that there never was a real accusation, as there was no trial and even less so a sentence.
Hence, to be able to tell you of what he was accused, is a great question for us as well. There are many aspects in the social context of that time that point to this
bishop as dangerous for an empty system, based on nothing, as is that of Communism. However, there was no formal accusation."
During his detainment, he wrote messages in secret to the faithful, which were collected many years later and published. The postulator for the cardinal's cause
stated that in these secret messages, Cardinal Van Thuân realized from the beginning "that God was asking him to give Him all, to leave everything and to live for
"Because the cardinal understood – especially in the first period of his imprisonment -- something very strong, which is this: the work of God is God. And already
as archbishop coadjutor he lived for the work of God. And he perceived that with his imprisonment God was asking him to leave his work and to live only for Him,"
In regards to anecdotes during the cardinal's imprisonment, Dr. Hilgeman recalled the conversion of several of his prison guards. Cardinal Van Thuân, he said,
"with his total love for these persons, demonstrated what the love of Christ is; without being able to preach, without being able to speak directly of Christ with these
persons, with his example of the incarnate Christ he was able to convert them, which is a unique aspect." While stating that, due to the political context in Vietnam,
it is difficult to interview the former guards for the cardinal's cause, the postulator said that their testimonies can be included in the process.
Promoter of justice who lived injustice
Cardinal Van Thuân was released from the camp in 1988 though kept under house arrest. Restrictions were eased for him to travel to Rome in 1991 but he was
denied entry into Vietnam until 2001 after his elevation to Cardinal Deacon of Santa Maria della Scala. Speaking on the cardinal's contributions as head of the
Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, Hilgeman stated that God had been preparing Cardinal Van Thuân for his ministry in the Roman Curia. "It can be said that
with his arrival in Rome, the events were translated, because the role of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace is of extreme sensitivity in our context, given
that it pays much attention to the economy, to justice, to hunger in the world, to peace, to solidarity and thus successively; it embraces the whole of the Social
Doctrine of the Church," Hilgeman said.
"Thus, a bishop who came from a social fabric of extreme poverty, as Vietnam was, and who had even been imprisoned, had lived in his own skin the injustice of
the world for the simple fact of being a Christian. There is no doubt that Jesus prepared him very well for his ministry here in Rome." Cardinal Van Thuân died in Rome in September 2002 of cancer. Speaking on the beatification process, Hilgeman stated that over 130 witnesses ranging from
cardinals and bishops to religious and lay people have been interviewed. The process, according to Hilgeman, is in a very advanced phase.
Regarding Cardinal Van Thuân's many devotees who hope for the cardinal's sainthood, the postulator reflected on the Vietnamese prelate's words regarding
hope. "In his writings and in his books, he has a term to which he always returns," he said, "and it appears also in the witnesses who arrive before the Court of
Rome, and it is this: hope, not to lose hope in God. And he might well be the 'saint of hope.'" [Reporting by Jose Antonio Varela Vidal]
By Bonnie Engstrom:
“As you’re perhaps aware, the late Archbishop Fulton Sheen was declared Venerable by Pope Benedict XVI on June 28. Now a miracle allegedly worked by him in 2010 has been chosen for review by the Congregation for the Causes of Saints. If it is declared true, Archbishop Sheen
will be beatified.
Below is the story of the miracle in the words of the woman/mother, whose stillborn son it involved. Ad Majorem Dei Gloria September 16, 2011
One year ago today I delivered my son, a stillborn. For a moment he was placed in my arms quiet, blue, and limp. The midwife and her assistant then took him from
me and began CPR. They could not find a pulse. He did not breathe. Because we were at home (it was my third, planned homebirth) 911 was called. While CPR was continued and we waited for the ambulance my husband took water and baptized him using the name we had agreed upon, James Fulton. I remember sitting on the floor saying, “Fulton Sheen, Fulton Sheen, Fulton Sheen” over and over again in my head. I suppose it was as close as I could come to a
prayer; I suppose it was my way of asking Archbishop Sheen to intercede for my son. The paramedics came and rushed James away. En route, as they tried to restart his heart, they gave him two doses of epinephrine by lines in the shin bone.
Neither worked and one leaked out, turning his whole right leg – from toe tip to buttock – black and blue and purple. In the ER the doctors and nurses worked on
him for another 18 minutes or so. A nurse practitioner told me they wanted James’ mother to be able to hold him alive for a little bit. Five minutes, an hour – she just
wanted my son to be alive long enough for me to say good-bye. They did a sonogram of his heart. It fluttered but it didn’t beat. A nurse held his foot; she later told me it was cold, like the expression “cold and dead”. He was
intibated and getting oxygen, but there was no way that the chest compressions were adequately circulating the oxygen to the brain and other organs. Following the
orders of the on-call neonatalogist they stopped working on him so they could call time of death. My little boy, James Fulton, 9lbs and 12oz, had been without a pulse for 61 minutes. Everyone stopped working. And then his heart started. James was admitted to the NICU at the Children’s Hospital of Illinois and was immediately “cooled” – a newer type of therapy where they lower the body’s
temperature by a few degrees in an effort to spare the brain and other organs further and ongoing damage. For three days he was sedated and shivering, covered
in tubes and wires. They thought that he would not live to be a week old. They thought he would have to lose his right leg because of the chemical burn. They
thought that if he did live he would be a “vegetable”. They tried to give us hope, but they thought that he would probably spend the rest of his life strapped in a
wheelchair, blind, severely mentally disabled, on a ventilator, fed through a feeding tube, in diapers, unable to communicate love. EEG’s showed very abnormal brain activity. An MRI showed that the brain had been injured from the severe lack of oxygen. At times I wondered if we should have just stayed home and never called 911. I worried that I had become Dr. Frankenstein and had, through other people,
manipulated James into life. I worried that he would be treated like a monster. In the situation we were in I could either worry or I could hope. I could fear or I could trust. We had prayerfully decided to have a homebirth and so I knew that we
were following God’s plan for our lives. I didn’t know where we would end up, but I knew that I could not live in the dark – I had to hope and trust – I had to live in the
Light. So we prayed, and we asked people to pray with us. Two days after his birth 100 people, many I barely knew, came to the Peoria Diocese’s cathedral. In the
church where Fulton Sheen served Mass and was later ordained, we had a holy hour and Mass. As a group we prayed for Sheen’s intercession: Eternal Father, You alone grant us every blessing in Heaven and on earth, through the redemptive mission of Your Divine Son, Jesus Christ, and by the working of
the Holy Spirit. If it be according to Your Will, glorify Your servant, Fulton J. Sheen, by granting the favor I now request through his prayerful intercession – that
James Fulton’s body heals and functions normally and that he is spared any brain damage. I make this prayer confidently through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen. Friends told James’ story on Facebook, in emails, on blogs, and to their prayer groups, prayer chains, Bible studies, family members, and friends. People in
Alaska, New York, Mexico, Peru, Germany, Ireland, and Canada prayed for my son, asking for Sheen’s intercession. Atheists asked their believing friends to pray
for him. Classrooms of children in Catholic schools throughout Illinois recited the Sheen prayer every day. Little children adopted him as their main prayer intention.
My dad began attending Mass again on a regular basis.
Say hello to James Fulton And God answered the prayers. Jesus Christ healed my son. The Holy Spirit filled the hearts of His faithful. And Sheen continued to evangelize through his
namesake and my son. By the time he was a few days old his kidneys, liver, and colon were all working. His leg was healing. By a week he was breathing without any assistance. His
blood pressure was good. He began eating by bottle. He was taken off pain meds and started to interact with me, his visitors, nurses, and doctors. At seven weeks
he came home from the hospital. A follow-up MRI showed no more brain damage. The precautionary g-tube was removed when he was six months old. Now he
rolls over, crawls, cruises, and will walk soon. He eats Cheerios, picking them up with his thumb and pointer finger. He squeals with laughter, plays with blocks,
steals toys from his older siblings, and has been scored in the normal / age appropriate range by his developmental and physical therapist. My family and I believe that God brought James back from the dead and healed his body. We believe that He did this through the intercession of Archbishop
Sheen. We believe that God did this for the same reason that he allowed Lazarus to die: “This sickness is not to end in death, but for the glory of God, so that the
Son of God may be glorified by it.” Today my son is one year old. Thank you, Jesus, and Happy Birthday, James Fulton! ________________________________________ Bonnie Engstrom is a cradle Catholic and stay-at-home mom. She married her dashing husband in 2006 and they now have four children: one in Heaven and three
wandering around their house, probably eating pretzels found under the couch. Bonnie lives in central Illinois and gets excited about baking, music, film
adaptations of Jane Austen books, and the Chicago Bears. She is the Assistant Director for Behold: A Catholic Conference on the Dignity and Vocation of Women
and she blogs at Learning to be a Newlywed.
A Story about Prayer and a Life and Death Situation.
Our God is a God of Mercy by Pat Fleming
After my husband and I moved to St. Louis, we received a phone call from our son, Dan, who lives in San Diego. The conversation went as follows: “Hi, Mom. Dad said I should call and tell you what happened to me when my friend and I went to San Francisco to surf. I didn’t want to worry you, Mom, but Dad
said I should tell you what happened to me.” “Okay, Dan.” “Well, so while my friend and I were surfing about ¼ mile from shore, a storm came up and the winds quickly grew strong; and the waves grew stronger and higher
and faster. It all happened so fast! And the riptide was strong and made it difficult getting back to shore. I really got worried when I noticed that I was all alone. I
guess the others already made it in. “So, as I paddled on my surfboard against the riptide headed for shore, a strong wave broke the leash on my surfboard and carried it away. I knew at that moment I
was in trouble. I had nothing now! I struggled to stay afloat. The waves dropped down on me. The waves came fast. I got tired. I knew I couldn’t keep up the
struggle to stay afloat. I was getting so tired. Then, losing energy, I felt helpless. “So I prayed out loud, ‘God Help Me!” Soon, out of nowhere, a surfer came up over a wave and saw me struggling. He made his way to me and hollered, “Hang
on!” And as I gripped the back of his surfboard, he paddled. But, with each wave, I needed to release the board to dive below it so that it wouldn’t kick back and hit my head. Then I would find and grip the board again. With
each wave we repeated the process until the fatigue overtook me. Seeing my condition, the surfer said, “Here you get on the board and I’ll hang on.” “As we slowly and painstakingly headed for shore, we finally landed on the beach. I dropped onto the sand exhausted, ever so grateful to be alive and feel the sand
below me. “After a time, I turned to thank the surfer; but he was gone and I couldn’t find him. I wanted to thank him, Mom, but I looked and he was gone. Then, I found him in the
parking lot. After I thanked him, the surfer said, “It was nothing,” and left. When Dan finished his story, I asked him, “When did you take this trip to San Francisco?” He replied, “A couple of weekends ago.” “And what day did this happen, Dan?” He replied, “On Sunday.” “And what time were you surfing?” I asked again. “About 1PM in the afternoon. Why, Mom?” “Because at that time, Dan, at that hour, it is 3 PM in St. Louis and on Sundays, the hour of mercy, I am in adoration in prayer before Jesus in the Blessed
Sacrament, because I miss you so much, Dan, and feel close to you when I am before Jesus.” A Voice from the Other Side by Pat Fleming My friend, Betty, tells me the story about when her husband, Ralph, had recently passed away. Ralph was the accountant for our local church and school. A month after Ralph’s funeral, Betty received a phone call from the pastor requesting that ledgers for the
end of the school year so that they can pay their bills and bring their finances up to date. Betty made a grand search for Ralph’s ledger books. She looked in drawers, cabinets, closets, garage, nooks and crannies, to no avail. These are no small
ledgers, for in the 1980’s they held large paper spread sheets. After a second grand sweep of the house and garage, Betty found herself in an awkward position.
Finally, she could think of nothing else as she pondered where her husband could have placed his ledgers. As she fell asleep one night she could think of nothing else. Suddenly from a deep sleep Betty awoke to the call of her name. “Betty, Betty, look under the bed!”
Betty jumped out of bed, fell to her knees and peered under the bed where she found her husband’s ledger books. As Betty says, only Ralph could know and would know where he kept his books. And only Ralph could know and would know she was searching for his books. And,
as Betty says, I know that was Ralph’s voice calling my name and alerting me to where he placed his books!
Venerable Francis Libermann - (if you google his name you can see a picture of him).
Throughout the centuries, there have been remarkable individual conversions from Judaism to Catholicism. The story of Francis Libermann is unique, for no other
Hebrew convert was to exercise such a significant influence on the spiritual welfare of the African Continent, as this nineteenth-century descendant of Abraham. He
was born on April 12, 1804, at Saverne in Alsace and was given the name of Jacob by his father Lazarus, a zealous and pious rabbi who raised his children
faithfully in the precepts of Judaism. Jacob grew to love his religion, studying diligently both Bible and Talmud. He grew up with a pronounced aversion based on
fear of Christians, particularly clergy, and as a child fled at the sight of them, convinced – not always without reason – that they wished him ill. Jacob was a
delicate, nervous child and when his mother died, the ensuing grief aggravated his already precarious physical condition. Although pious as a child, during the
adolescent years following his mother’s death he slipped into religious indifference, which finally ended in his total rejection of the Jewish faith. About this time his
eldest brother embraced Catholicism, an event which plunged him into even greater religious confusion. One of his companions then loaned him a book, a
translation of the four Gospels into Hebrew. He read it avidly, and was much impressed with the sincerity of its message, but found himself unable to accept the
miracles of Christ. Further light was on the way, however, this time from a most unexpected source. Of all the books ever written, perhaps Emile of Jean Jacques
Rousseau would be the least calculated to bring an inquirer to a knowledge of Catholicism. Astounding as it may seem, it was this condemned work which was to
set our young on the right road in his religious quest. In one section of Emile Rousseau lists the arguments for and against the divinity of Christ, and Libermann
found himself totally convinced by the arguments for His divinity. This was only intellectual conviction however. As yet, he was still a long way from theological faith.
Then the conversions of two of his brothers to Catholicism shook his soul to its depths. Blanketed in darkness and distraught by anxiety, he set out for Paris to
consult Monsieur Drach, another convert from Judaism to the Church. Drach decided that what Libermann needed most was some quiet spot he could think.
Accordingly he arranged that Jacob should remain at the College Stanislaus for some time. Shutting himself up in his room the young man gave himself over to
incessant prayer and reflection, restricting his reading to religious works. Piteously he pleaded with divine Providence for guidance. His prayers were answered.
Light came and he believed absolutely. He describes this experience thus: “I believed all without difficulty. From that moment my great desire was to see myself plunged in the sacred font, and my happiness was not long delayed. I was at
once prepared for the admirable sacrament and received it on Christmas Eve. Next morning I was allowed to approach the Holy Table.”
This was in 1826. At Baptism he took the name of Francis Mary Paul, the latter out of devotion for the great Apostle of the Gentiles. There was a prophetic touch to
the choice, for in many ways he was to emulate the missionary exploits of his zealous prototype.
Libermann’s goal now became the priesthood, so he began studies at the seminary attached to the College Stanislaus. He donned clerical dress --what a change
from the days when he feared the very sight of it! In December, 1828, he received minor orders. The way to the priesthood was now open and for this he began an
intensive preparation. But the very day prior to ordination, he was struck down by epilepsy. Then as now, this disease constituted a major impediment to ordination.
The way was hopelessly blocked, so he abandoned his plans. It was one of those seemingly senseless trials, with which God tries His faithful servants to bring
them closer to Himself. That Libermann, from its onset, could accept it humbly and patiently, was positive proof of the power of that faith which had brought him,
despite parental opposition, within the true fold. The trial was, however, a heavy one; so intense was the resultant depression that he contemplated suicide by
throwing himself into the River Seine in Paris, and he never kept a knife in his room, fearful that the temptation to kill himself might prove too strong.
Meanwhile, what was to be done? He could not hope to become a priest—at the same time he showed no desire to return to the world. The college authorities
devised a happy solution. He joined the Eudists, taking up residence at a branch house of the Paris seminary which belonged to the order. No sooner did he reach
their house than he was created master of novices. At last it seemed that his future was assured and that eventually he would become a member of this institute.
But this was not to be. God had other plans in store for His faithful servant.
Among the many students with whom Libermann had come in contact, two were to exercise a profound and permanent influence upon him. The first of these was
Frederick Le Vavasseur, who came from Bourbon, an island in the Indian Ocean, annexed by France in 1645. The other young man was Eugene Tisserand,
whose mother was a daughter of the exiled General Beauvais, former governor of the island of Haiti in the West Indies. Eugene was horn in Paris, but he had
learned much from his mother about the deplorable conditions of the Negroes in Haiti. Both these young men had often conversed with one another about the
religious destitution of the Negroes in their respective areas. For a long time they had wished to help them, confiding their desires to Libermann. The latter had
listened to their accounts with sympathetic attention, but declined to become further involved. The two did not give up, however, and eventually Libermann became
convinced that his true vocation lay along this path. He went to Rome seeking approval for his plans. A year was spent in the Eternal City—a period of difficulties,
disappointments, prayer, discussions with Church officials, and pilgrimages to holy shrines. One anecdote of his sojourn has been preserved for us. On February
17, 1840, he was presented to Pope Gregory XVI. Laying his hand on the visitor’s head, it was that the Holy Father was visibly moved. “Who is he whose head I
touched?” inquired the Pope after the meeting. An account of Libermann was given, which having ended, the Vicar of Christ said: “Sara un santo -- He will be a
saint !” Libermann’s new institute was in due course approved under the title: “Congregation of the Immaculate Heart of Mary.” By now the epileptic fits had
completely disappeared and on his return he was raised to the priesthood. At last he could go forward in all humility to consolidate the main work of his life! The
novitiate opened with three members: Libermann himself, Le Vavasseur and a deacon named M. Collin. By the end of 1842 there were a dozen in residence and
the next year this number doubled.
One of the most zealous confreres to be accepted by Libermann at this early period was Father Jacques Desire Laval. Hearing that Libermann planned to send
missionaries to the Negroes, he applied for admission and was accepted. When Bishop Collier requested help from Libermann, the latter appointed Father Laval
to go to Mauritius, the first member of the congregation to leave for fields afar. So fruitful were his labors on the island that he has earned for himself the title
“Apostle of Mauritius.” His beatification cause was introduced in 1918. Father Le Vavasseur left for Bourbon in February 1842, and Father Tisserand for Haiti
soon after. But unfortunately they were unable to continue their labors in either place, the British prohibiting mission work on the former island, while on the latter, the
French did likewise. These were severe reverses, but they did not dampen Libermann’s ardor. On the contrary, it continued to glow even more fervidly. From this
time forward he began to think of establishing missions on the African mainland itself. After extensive negotiations with the bishop and the French government, all
difficulties were resolved, and on August 31, 1843, the missionaries of Libermann—seven priests and three brothers —left the motherhouse at La Neuville for
Bordeaux. Their way led through Paris, to the shrine of Our Lady of Victories, that hallowed spot which loomed so prominently in the history of his congregation. On
September 13th, the contingent sailed for the west coast of Africa.
After the usual voyage, the ship docked at Gabon, an island some miles off Dakar. Here the missionaries spent a few days, during which they visited the mainland
then resumed the journey, reaching Cape Palmas towards the end of November, much later than they had anticipated, the delay being due to heavy tornadoes.
Sunday, December 3rd, feast of St. Francis Xavier, the great apostle of the Indies, was celebrated with special ceremonies. A solemn procession was held during
which Exsurgat Deus and Magnificat were chanted. The missionaries preached through an interpreter, as though to let it be known that paganism was still in the
ascendant and was determined to remain so, a fetish sacrifice was being conducted within earshot of the proceedings.
Things seemed to be moving smoothly enough until the fevers started. All three of the brothers caught malaria; two recovered and were able to staff missions in
Africa, but the third died. All of the seven priests who had made the voyage also caught malaria, only two were able to stay on as missionaries in Africa; a third had
to return home to France, and the other four died of the fever. One of those who died, Father de Regnier, wrote Libermann from his death bed: “Tell my family and my friends that I am happy to have left all for our Divine Master. If I had to do it again, I would do it a thousand times, and I would not change my
position for all the honors in the world. Courage, my dear Father, when all seems lost! Then will Mary show her power and save everything. ‘Whether we live or die:
we belong to our Lord and Mary.’”
How did Libermann react to these tragedies? The following extract from a letter which he wrote at this time gives us an insight into the thoughts and emotions that
surged through him on learning of the deaths of his missionaries. “We are in need of much consolation, for great misfortunes have befallen us in Guinea. The blows our Lord rains down upon us are too heavy not to make us see in
them an extraordinary act of His Providence. Everything gave hope for this mission, so vast and so abandoned. Reports from every quarter indicated that with
some slight losses we might firmly establish ourselves. But God has judged differently. He tries us most severely. His holy name be blessed!”
Bowed with grief but unbroken in spirit he still continued to nurse hopes for the future. The Guinea coast had been entrusted to him for evangelization, and he was
determined to carry on, come what may. Conversing one day with a friend he said: “I have sad news to give you about Guinea. Do not be cast down. Adore the Divine Will and remain peaceful. The losses are heavy, but from I hope for the salvation
of that immense region. If God demands that for His glory we should all perish we must prostrate ourselves before Him and let Him act!”
Father Tisserand was now appointed prefect apostolic of Senegambia, but he never reached his destination, for the ship on which he was outward bound
foundered during a violent storm off the African coast and all were lost. Not daunted by this new catastrophe, Libermann left for Rome where he succeeded in
having two ecclesiastical territories, Senegambia and the Guineas, erected into a single vicariate, a jurisdiction running a distance of almost 5,000 miles! Bishop
Truffet was to administer this vast area. He was a man burning with zeal for souls, and high hopes were entertained for his future. But Bishop Truffet was only six
months in Africa, when he too was struck down by death.
No news had been heard of Father Bessieux, who had been one of the original seven priests to go to Africa, and he was presumed to have succumbed to fever
along with the others. Great was the delight of all when, like a bolt from the blue, a letter arrived from Father Bessieux describing his trials and requesting more
Libermann dispatched three new missionaries to Father Bessieux. A letter from the first of these describes the condition in which he found Father Bessieux: "Father Bessieux himself came out in the same canoe to take us off the Caiman. He was so worn and pale as to be hardly recognizable. On landing, our first visit
was to the chapel which occupied the center of a miserable wooden hut. An empty gin box, lined with calico and with a stone slab to cover the aperture served as
tabernacle. An old herring barrel covered with muslin formed a pedestal for a little statue of the Blessed Virgin. Three or four children, who already knew a few
words of French, and some catechism, formed the whole hope of the mission. The “treasury” was empty except for a few lengths of cheap muslin, some leaf
tobacco and a half-penny."
Soon after this Father Bessieux was nominated vicar apostolic. Prospects seemed brighter, and from this period onward, coordination, consolidation and
expansion began to characterize the effort. Libermann was to prove himself well-versed in mission strategy and tactics, never forgetting that the paramount
necessity was personal holiness in the priest. He wrote: “Let them always be mindful of a great maxim, a fundamental one for all those who wish to work for the glory of God and the salvation of souls. It is this: we must
always work for our own sanctification, and that not only by never losing sight of it, but even by making it our only care. As a necessary consequence, all those who
work seriously at becoming men of renunciation, interior men, men living only in the love of God, dead to themselves and alive solely and fully to God and in God—such never fail to do important and efficacious work for the salvation and sanctification of souls
—but their great occupation is their own progress. They seek only to please their divine and adorable Master, and this with all their power. Hence, they do all that is
agreeable to Him and, thereby, while hardly seeming to aim at it, they procure the sanctification of their brethren, with a zeal and efficiency of which many others
together would be incapable.”
He was also a staunch advocate of the basic missiological concept of adaptation. On this subject he expressed himself as fo1lows: “Become Negroes with the Negroes… Act towards them as servants towards their masters. Adopt their customs and manner and habit, as servants do those of
their master. Perfect them, sanctify them, show them their lowliness and make them, slowly but surely into a People of God. That is what St. Paul refers to as
becoming all to all, to win all to Jesus Christ.”
In 1840, when the proposa1 had first been made to establish Libermann’s congregation, it had been objected that an institute for the conversion of the black race
was already in existence. This was the Congregation of the Holy Ghost founded by Claude Francis Poullard des Places, a young French nobleman. As time wore
on, priests of this institute were to be found not only at work in France itself, but also in Canada, India, China, South America, the West Indies and Africa. When the
French Revolution erupted in 1789, the Congregation of the Holy Ghost, like every other religious community in the country, was suppressed; the government
confiscated its property and its members dispersed. Only one confrere, Fr. Bertout, survived. Ecclesiastical authorities in Rome were well aware of these
difficulties and in the interests of maximum efficiency, decided in 1848 to fuse the respective institutes founded by both des Places and Libermann. The latter was
created superior general, while the retiring head of the Holy Ghost Fathers was named vicar apostolic of Madagascar. The newly-joined societies became known
as: The Congregation of the Holy Ghost and Immaculate Heart of Mary.
The persistent worries attached to his office, as well as the physical labors involved, always weighed heavily upon Libermann. His health had never been robust,
considering his nervousness as a child and epilepsy when a young man, and about 1850 serious symptoms began to show themselves. Stomach trouble
worsened and medical examination revealed that ossification of the liver had set in. At the start of December, 1851, he took to his bed, but an improvement
enabled him to return to Paris. Here he had a relapse and this time he lay down, never to rise again. With the liveliest dispositions of faith and love he waited for
death. Towards the end of January he received the last sacraments, offering up his sufferings, which were those of a martyr of charity, for the missions and his
priests, lie died on February 2, 1852, while Vespers were being chanted and precisely at the words: “Deposuit potentes de sede et exaltavit humiles. He has put
down the mighty from their seats and exalted the humble.” His remains lie within the enclosure of Notre Dame de Gard, in a simple tomb, hewn out at the foot of the
cemetery cross, a modest monument being the only decoration. Pius IX declared him Venerable in 1876.
From The Life of St. Catherine of Siena (1347-1380) by Bl. Raymond of Capua, Provincial of the Dominican Order and her spiritual director.
“I, brother Raymond of Capua…humble master and servant of the order of Friar Preachers, in the justifiable astonishment, excited by the wonders I have seen and
hard, am resolved to write the deeds of a holy virgin, names Catherine, to whom Siena, a city of Tuscany, gave birth. The present age as well as future ages, on
becoming acquainted with the prodigies that Almighty God produced through this woman, must praise him in his saints, and bless him according to the multitude of
his great works, and excite themselves to loving him with all their strength and above all things, as well as to serve him interiorly and exteriorly without ceasing.”…
(In 1347 Lapa Benincasa gave birth to twins – one was given to the wet-nurse and Lapa breast-fed Catherine. The other twin died in a few days. Catherine was the
25th child to be born to this couple!) Little Catherine’s words “possessed a mysterious power which inclined the soul to God. As soon as one conversed with her, sadness was dispelled from the heart,
vexations and troubles were forgotten and a ravishing peace took possession of the soul … She was scarcely five years old when she would recite an Ave Maria,
on each step of the stairs on going up and coming down…
“Catherine was six years of age, when her mother sent her, with her little brother Stephen, to the house of their sister Bonaventura… their commission being
executed, the children were returning when Catherine, raising her eyes to heave, saw on the gable end of the Church of the Friar Preachers, a splendid throne
occupied by Our Lord Jesus Christ clothed in pontifical ornaments, and his sacred brow adorned with a tiara. At his side were St. Peter, St. Paul and St. John the
Evangelist. Catharine stood still ravished with admiration and contemplated with love Him who thus manifested himself to her in order to captivate more fully her
devoted heart; the Saviour gave her a look of serene majesty, smiled upon her with benign tenderness, and then extending his hand gave her his blessing in the
form of a cross…But while she was looking at our Lord, her little brother…continued descending, fancying that she followed him… turning around he perceived his
sister looking p to heaven; he called her with his utmost voice, but she made no reply; until at length he went to her, and taking her by the hand, said, ‘Come on, why
do you stay there?” Catherine appeared to awake from a profound sleep, looked at him an instant and then said: ‘O did you but see what I see, you would never
have disturbed me in such a sweet vision,’ and her eyes again turned towards heaven, but all had vanished, to the great grief of Catherine, who wept and
reproached herself for having lowered her eyes.
From this moment Catherine seemed to be no longer a child; her virtues, her manners, and her thoughts were superior to her age, and would have honor to men of
mature years. The fire of divine love inflamed her heart and enlightened her understanding; her will strengthened, her memory developed, and her every action
became conformed to the rules of the Gospel.”
“When Catherine, who had consecrated her virginity to God, had attained the age of twelve years… her father, mother and brothers, who were ignorant of her
solemn promise, thought of finding her a suitable )husband. Her mother who desired for her a husband worthy of her merit, and who knew not that she had already
selected a spouse far above all human alliances, took great pains in adorning her interesting daughter; she caused her to have her hair dressed, and her head
covered with ornaments … (She resisted … a priest suggested she cut off her hair and cover her head to persuade the family … they retaliated by making her “perform all the menial work of
the house so that no leisure should be left her for conversing with God. So was to humble her to the utmost, they even dismissed the kitchen-maid, and forced
Catherin to fulfill her functions… But the devil was again vanquished … the Holy Spirit taught her to erect a little cell in the interior of her should, when she resolved
never to come forth, notwithstanding her pressing exterior occupations…
“She served everyone with a delight and ardor that astonished everyone… she enjoyed her divine spouse whom she believed she was serving; the kitchen
became a sanctuary to her, and when she seated herself at table, she nourished her soul with the presence of the Saviour…
(In another biography I, Dr. Ronda, read that her father was given a vision of Jesus talking to Catherine, after which he made the family give up persecuting her with
the words “We can never find a spouse for her to equal Jesus.”)
(In spite of her youth, an order of Dominican widows accepted her as a Mantellate wearing a habit but living at home. She experienced the presence of Jesus
every hour of the day and night. She slept little and ate almost nothing but was full of physical strength. In a vision Christ gave her a beautiful wedding ring invisible
to all but to herself.)
“Catherine learned knew how to read without having learned from an one. She narrated to me herself, that having resolved to learn to read so as to recite the Hours
and follow the Offices, she had studied the alphabet…But after having useless consumed several weeks in this labor, the thought came to her to obtain from
heaven the great to lose no more time. One morning while engaged in prayer, she said to Almighty God: ‘Lord, if it be agreeable to thee that I know how to read, in
order to be able to recite the Office and sing thy praises, have the goodness to teach me what I cannot learn alone…Before the end of her prayer, our Lord taught
her so well, that when rising from her knees, she knew how to read every kind of manuscript, as rapidly and as perfectly as the most highly educated persons. What
astonished me the most was that she read easily but without being able to spell her words, when she was asked to do so; she scarcely knew her letters.” …
“One day as she was sick and suffering from head to foot, and felt that it was impossible for her to rise from her bed, she learned that a poor widow in the
neighborhood was in absolute destitution, having not even a loaf of bread for her little children. Her heart bled, and during the whole night she was begging her
divine Spouse to render her sufficient corporal strength to go to the relief of this unhappy woman. She arose before daylight, ran over the house, filled a little sack
with meal, took a large bottle of wine, a jug of oil, all the aliments that she could find …she succeeded in gathering these article together into her cell; but it
appeared impossible for her to carry them, all at once to the widows house. (She tied them all up to a belt around her waist and God gave her supernatural strength
to bring them to the widow.)
“Catherine was wonderfully compassionate to the wants of the poor, but her heart was even more sensitive to the sufferings of the sick… the leprosy of a woman in
the hospital was so bad that the smell arising from her disease repelled everyone, so that no person had courage to take care of her…Catherine became her
servant …the exalted virtue of Catherine, however, only inspired the leprous woman with pride and ingratitude (chiding her for going to Church. Another woman with
terrible sores told others that Catherine only came to take care of her because she was meeting men in that house. Eventually, when Catherine begged Christ to
save this woman’s soul before she died, the woman repented and told everyone around the truth.) (This same woman had a horrible ulcer that no one could stand to see or smell.) “One day as the servant of God uncovered the horrible ulcer, to wash it, the infect
odor which arose from it, inspired a violent disgust which the devil strove to increase. Her stomach bounded with nausea… filled with holy anger against herself,
she said: ‘thou shalt swallow what inspires thee with such horror!’ and immediately, collecting in a saucer the water in which she had washed what flowed from the
wound, she went aside and drank the whole…I recollect that one day, when others related this circumstance in her presence, she said to me, in an undertone:
‘Father, I assure you, that in my whole life, I never tasted anything so sweet and agreeable.”
ANOTHER AMAZING STORY ...
It is that of Fr. Thomas Byles, the Catholic priest who gave up two spots on a lifeboat in favor of offering spiritual aid to the other victims as they all went down with
the "unsinkable" vessel.
A 42-year-old English convert, Fr. Byles was on his way to New York to offer the wedding Mass for his brother William. Reports suggest that he was reciting his
breviary on the upper deck when the Titanic struck the iceberg in the twilight hours of Sunday, April 14th, 1912.
According to witnesses, as the ship went down, the priest helped women and children get into the lifeboats, then heard confessions, gave absolution, and led
passengers in reciting the Rosary.
Agnes McCoy, one of the survivors, says that as the great ship sank, Fr. Byles "stood on the deck with Catholics, Protestants, and Jews kneeling around him." "Father Byles was saying the rosary and praying for the repose of the souls of those about to perish," she told the New York Telegram on April 22, 1912, according
to the website devoted to his memory, FatherByles.com.
In the words of the priest's friend Fr. Patrick McKenna, "He twice refused the offer of a place in a boat, saying his duty was to stay on the ship while one soul
wanted his ministrations."
Nearly two weeks after the disaster, The Church Progress in St. Louis, Missouri wrote this moving tribute to the heroic priest: In almost every line that has been written, and in every sentence that has been spoken, there stands boldly out above every other expression a picture of sublime
heroism that will be copied into the pages of history; and well it may, for it is deserving of that honor.
But when it is, mention should be made of one whom pens and tongues have almost forgotten in their accounts of this awful sea tragedy. Among those who safely
reached the land again, no one seems to have been aware of his presence on the ship; but we may hope that many who meet him in a blissful eternity will praise
God that Father Thomas Byles was there to administer absolution unto them.
St. Benedict Labre
Born 26 March, 1748 at Amettes in the Diocese of Boulogne, France; died in Rome 16 April, 1783.
He was the eldest of fifteen children. His parents, Jean-Baptiste Labre and Anne-Barba Grandsire, belonged to the middle class and so were able to give to their
numerous offspring considerable opportunities in the way of education. His early training he received in his native village in a school conducted by the vicar of the
parish. The account of this period furnished in the life written by his confessor, Marconi, and that contained in the one compiled from the official processes of his
beatification are at one in emphasizing the fact that he exhibited a seriousness of thought and demeanor far beyond his years. Even at that tender age he had
begun to show a marked predilection for the spirit of mortification, with an aversion for the ordinary childish amusements, and he seems from the very dawning of
reason to have had the liveliest horror for even the smallest sin. All this we are told was coexistent with a frank and open demeanor and a fund of cheerfulness
which remained unabated to the end of his life.
At the age of twelve his education was taken over by his paternal uncle, François-Joseph Labre, curé of Erin, with whom he then went to live. During the six
following years which he spent under his uncle's roof, he made considerable progress in the study of Latin, history, etc. but found himself unable to conquer a
constantly growing distaste for any form of knowledge which did not make directly for union with God. A love of solitude, a generous employment of austerities and
devotedness to his religious exercises were discernible as distinguishing features of his life at this time and constitute an intelligible prelude to his subsequent
At the age of sixteen he resolved to embrace a religious life as a Trappist, but having on the advice of his uncle returned to Amettes to submit his design to his
parents for their approval he was unable to win their consent. He therefore resumed his sojourn in the rectory at Erin, redoubling his penances and exercises of
piety and in every way striving to make ready for the life of complete self-annihilation to which the voice within his soul seemed to be calling him.
After the heroic death of his uncle during an epidemic in September 1766, Benedict, who had dedicated himself during the scourge to the service of the sick and
dying, returned to Amettes in November of the same year. His absorbing thought at this time was still to become a religious at La Trappe, and his parents fearing
that further opposition would be resistance to the will of God fell in with his proposal to enter the cloister. It was suggested, however, by his maternal uncle, the Abbé
Vincent, that application be made to the Carthusians at Val-Sainte-Aldegonde rather than to La Trappe. Benedict's petition at Val-Sainte-Aldegonde was
unsuccessful but he was directed to another monastery of the same order at Neuville. There he was told that as he was not yet twenty there was no hurry, and that
he must first learn plain-chant and logic.
During the next two years he applied twice unsuccessfully to be received at La Trappe and was for six weeks as a postulant with the Carthusians at Neuville, he
finally sought and obtained admission to the Cistercian Abbey of Sept-Fonts in November, 1769. After a short stay at Sept-Fonts during which his exactness in
religious observance and humility endeared him to the whole community, his health gave way, and it was decided that his vocation lay elsewhere. In accordance
with a resolve formed during his convalescence he then set out for Rome. From Chieri in Piedmont he wrote to his parents a letter which proved to be the last they
would ever receive from him. In it he informed them of his design to enter some one of the many monasteries in Italy noted for their special rigor of life. A short time, however, after the letter was dispatched he seems to have had an internal illumination which set at rest forever any doubts he might have as to what
his method of living was to be. He then understood "that it was God's will that like St. Alexis he should abandon his country, his parents, and whatever is flattering in
the world to lead a new sort of life, a life most painful, most penitential, not in a wilderness nor in a cloister, but in the midst of the world, devoutly visiting as a pilgrim
the famous places of Christian devotion". He repeatedly submitted this extraordinary inspiration to the judgment of experienced confessors and was told he might
safely conform to it. Through the years that followed he never wavered in the conviction that this was the path appointed for him by God. He set forward on his life's journey clad in an old coat, a rosary about his neck, another between his fingers, his arms folded over a crucifix which lay upon his
breast. In a small wallet he carried a Testament, a breviary, which it was his wont to recite daily, a copy of the "Imitation of Christ", and some other pious books.
Clothing other than that which covered his person he had none. He slept on the ground and for the most part in the open air. For food he was satisfied with a piece
of bread or some herbs, frequently taken but once a day, and either provided by charity or gotten from some refuse heap. He never asked for alms and was
anxious to give away to the poor whatever he received in excess of his scanty wants. The first seven of the thirteen remaining years of his life were spent in pilgrimages to the more famous shrines of Europe. He visited in this way Loreto, Assisi,
Naples, Bari, Fabriano in Italy; Einsiedeln in Switzerland; Compostella in Spain; Parav-le-Monial in France. The last six years he spent in Rome, leaving it only
once a year to visit the Holy House of Loreto. His unremitting and ruthless self-denial, his unaffected humility, unhesitating obedience and perfect spirit of union with
God in prayer disarmed suspicion not unnaturally aroused as to the genuineness of a Divine call to so extraordinary a way of existence. Literally worn out by his sufferings and austerities, on the 16th of April 1783, he sank down on the steps of the church of Santa Maria dei Monti in Rome and, utterly
exhausted, was carried to a neighboring house where he died. His death was followed by a multitude of unequivocal miracles attributed to his intercession. The life
written by his confessor, Marconi, an English version of which bears the date of 1785, witnesses to 136 miraculous cures as having been certified to up to 6 July,
1783. So remarkable, indeed, was the character of the evidence for some of the miracles that they are said to have had no inconsiderable part in finally
determining the conversion of the celebrated American convert, Father John Thayer, of Boston who was in Rome at the time of the saint's death. Benedict was
proclaimed Venerable by Pius IX in 1859 and canonized by Leo XIII 8 December, 1881. His feast is kept on the 16th of April, the day of his death.
From a parish in Mexico pastored by Fr. Tony Anderson, a priest of The Society of Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity:
“Marcos was an altar boy in this crime ridden town of Nuevo Laredo, Mexico. When he became a teen he stopped serving Mass and stopped going to Mass at all.
He got into organized crime. His mother, in shame stopped coming to that Church. The pastor only saw Marcos at funerals of teens and young adults killed in gang
warfare or killed by the military. Marcos wound up in a wheel chair, shot by a soldier in his hip. He will probably never walk again.
He prayed for an act of God to free him from crime. “Marcos now lies on his stomach. He can’t stand, he can barely sit. But he thanks God every day, many times a
day for the mercy bullet that brought him back to the barrio and back to his Church. There is light in Marcos’ eyes for the first time in years and a smile on his face.
Since he can’t walk they won’t need him in the crime cartel. As Pope Benedict preaches, “good is stronger than evil, love is stronger than hate.”
This story is a chapter in Last Call: Twelve Men who Dared Answer about late vocation seminarians and priests, edited by Dr. Ronda.
“Only God Can Change Me”
by Brother Youssef-Mariam Hanna, Franciscan Friars of the Renewal
(Brother Youssef is the first person any visitor notices at the seminary because of his long, long, greying beard, grey Franciscan robe, and sparkling Arab smile.
Known for love of prayer of Adoration, he is also a computer whiz (a trait most beloved by the less than computer literate ones among us), and one who emanates
love at all times.)
My name is Joseph George Hanna. I was born in Lebanon. My dad is Georges Hanna, my mother’s name was Yvonne Sadaka. She died in the Lebanese war.
My parents came from a small town in the mountains called Tarshish. The town is close to the Bekaah valley and to the city of Zahleh. We lived there in the summer
but in the winter, because of the snow, we lived close to the sea and to the capital of Lebanon, Beirut, in a town called Byakoot.
My dad was a teacher, but before choosing that vocation, he wanted to be a priest. He went to the seminary at an early age but had bad problems with his eyes.
This caused him to quit the seminary. He worked for many years as a truck and bus driver. My mother was a housewife.
St. Abda Mechamar Helper of Barren Women:
When my dad was in his twenties he married my mother who was only 16 years old. They were not able to have children for 5 years. Since it was a small town
where everyone knew everyone else, there was pressure on them to have children. It was a big struggle for them. My mother asked the intercession of Saint Abda
Now St. Abda was a disciple of St. Jude Thaddeus. St. Abda was converted through the preaching of St. Jude in Persia. He ordained him a priest and then a
bishop. He was sent to Lebanon to preach the Gospel. In Lebanon there were pagans, who were offering child sacrifices to their gods. Since the mothers were not
allowed to cry for their babies, St. Abda would cry for the children. He once raised up a child from the dead and performed many miracles. For these reasons he
became an intercessor for barren women and sick children. His example and his miracles impressed the people so much that he was able to baptize many of
My mom went to the church devoted to St. Abda and where he lived. She spent all night there with the Blessed Sacrament. She had a dream that she would have a
boy then three girls then she would lose a boy. I was the first boy to come then three younger sisters, Giselle, Antoinette, and Rula and we lost an unborn brother.
I gave him the name Antoine-Abda. It is good to know that I have a brother in heaven who is so close to me, loving me and praying for me always. I chose the name
Antoine-Abda because my mother loved the name Anthony. She had a great devotion to St. Anthony of the Desert (250 AD) and St. Anthony of Padua (1200 AD).
In gratitude to St. Anthony for his intercession, my mother dressed me in the habit of St. Anthony for an entire year, a tradition practiced in Lebanon. St. Anthony
was a Franciscan. So I wore the Franciscan habit when I was 2 years old.
The Difficulties of the War and the School:
I did not like school in my childhood. My dad told me when I was older that once I tried to avoid school by jumping out of the car. They tried another school which my
sisters and I liked better. I had to study many hours to do well at school. It was not easy for me. We had changed many schools and places because of the war.
In Lebanon we had to go through many wars, I lost two cousins and relatives. I remember my first prayer. I was so scared that I hid behind a refrigerator because of
the bombing. I begged God for a miracle. The war was scary with lots of bombing during the night. We had to leave to go to a shelter many nights. The enemy
would start bombing our residential area at 2:00 or 3:00 am.
In High School I did better. But, it took a lot of work for me to do well. At the University it took me awhile to decide what I wanted to do. At first I wanted to go to Italy
for architecture but my parents were afraid I would marry an Italian girl and not return to Lebanon. I studied computer science in Lebanon instead. At the same time I
opened a small deli business. This was a lot of work. I couldn’t do my best in school because of the deli. The business was good but not the grades. I had a lot of
anxiety because of school, business and the War.
The Faith and Love of my Mother was a Good Example:
My mother was the foundation of faith in our family. She had an intimate relationship with the Lord. We could see this in her prayer and how she loved the poor. In
spite of a back injury she would always help the poor. It was in my heart that one day I would serve the poor in Africa. She taught us how to pray the rosary and
different novenas. Sunday Mass was very important for my parents. I do not remember ever missing Mass. Sometimes we went to daily Mass too. I didn’t pray well
on my own and I did not have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. I was not sure about confession, the Eucharist and the Mother of God, Mary. The good seed
of my mother’s example took a while to bear good fruit.
I was a person who was very attached to my friends, family, country, and especially to my mother. She was everything for me, she was like a god to me. She was a
holy woman and gave me so much love and hope in my life.
Refugee in Canada
I decided to run away from Lebanon, from the war, from the stress, from fear. I became a refugee to Canada. I was thinking that all my problems would end by being
in a safe place with lots of opportunities to work and more stability. When I was 7 or 8 years old I loved the Canadian flag. I had no clue why. I did not know that it
was a flag. I had no idea that I would end up one day in that beautiful country. I believe the love of the flag and the desire to move to Canada was the work of God.
He was preparing the way for my conversion. I am so grateful for all the help that I received from the government and the people of Canada. Despite all this
goodness, I was still seeking the wrong things in my life. My security was in my bank account and feeling loved by my friends, my family and wrong relationships.
After a short time in Canada I received bad news from my cousin.
The Death of my Mother, Yvonne:
In 1989, after one year in Canada, my mother was injured by a bomb on August 15th, Our Lady’s Assumption. And she died on the 22nd, the Queenship of Mary
after receiving the viaticum. Her death devastated me. I became hopeless and joyless. I wanted just to die. I used to cry a lot for missing her. I could not believe that
it was true. I wanted to think that it was dream. I wanted to wake up from this nightmare and give my mother a call. It was so hard being a refugee. I could not attend
her funeral. Her death was unreal, I could not or I did not want to believe it.
Nobody can Change me Except God:
I worked as computer programmer mainly for the government as a consultant. I tried to invest in a strange business that did not help me to have peace or to get
close to Jesus. It was a Night Club. The name of that place was called Scandal, and it was a scandal for me. God still was not in the picture. I did not know Him as
a person. I felt he was so distant from me. On Sundays I used to go church but my heart was not there. It was my choice to go to Mass even though I did not fully
understand what was going on in the Sacrifice of the Mass (Eucharist). I was feeling bored in the church but my hope was to meet a nice Lebanese girl that loved
God. I believe I went to Mass, too, because of the example that my parents gave us.
My Sinful Life:
By this time I was leading a life of sin. I felt stressed from work, from worrying about the future, from wrong relationships with women, from my attachment to my
friends and from the lost of my mother. I was feeling empty most of the time. I had to use medication for stress and anxiety.
I was seeking the joy of the world, money and impure sexual relationships. All of that did not fulfill me. It was like a flat tire that cannot be filled until is fixed. The
repair that I needed was meeting Jesus Christ as person and falling in love with Him in the Eucharist, in the Bread of Life.
I once heard a student in Lebanon saying that he was in love with Jesus but I could not understand what he was talking about. How could someone be in love with
someone we cannot see?
I had many short relationships with women – I couldn’t commit to anyone. Every time I thought that I was in love it ended up with tragedy. After becoming intimate
with someone I could not continue in the relation. My physical attraction and my love for them did not last for long time. I did not know that it was only emotion and
not true love. Dating became like a nightmare for me. At that time I did not know that the Lord was preparing me for another path; by giving my life to serve Him and
After 7 years in Canada I met a team from the United States working on a project and they suggested that I work in the US in the South. Where there was more
money and better weather. I went to Florida, the Sunshine State, where I would eventual encounter the Light of Christ.
Meeting Jesus Christ at Delray Beach:
I first moved to West Palm Beach. After successfully completing a computer consulting contract, I returned to Lebanon. I tried different investments in Lebanon,
hoping that I could stay close to my family. I invested in the construction of several apartments for sale or rent. I opened a computer shop, as well as other
investments. It was a bad time in Lebanon; the economy was not doing well. At the same time my faith was still not there. It was more confusion for me. I did not know which direction I should take. I did not have a prayer life. I stopped going
to Mass, claiming that I had no time. I had to fix my problems before I could search for God. I remembered that I was giving a statue of St. Joseph and an image of
the Virgin Mother of God, Mary for my office. I did not like the idea to having them in my business. I thought it would ruin the décor, and they had no value for me. I
did not understand the purpose for having them. I tried to break the statue of St. Joseph and I hid the image of Mary.
I went back to the United States to make more money. I went to Delray Beach, Florida and I worked again as a computer programmer. Around this time I started to
feel something in my heart. I became less upset about losing money in all my businesses.
One day in the afternoon I was walking on the beach. The water touched my feet and I felt an unusual joy, like electricity, and I couldn’t hide my joy. Every creature
was telling me that God existed and that He was close to me. I was so happy. This repeated throughout the whole walk. I didn’t understand it, but this repeated a
few times. I did not want people to see me laughing; they would think that I was crazy. I understood after that in Spanish “Delray Beach” means “The Beach of the
King” where I had my first encounter with Christ the King.
Another experience I remember is that one day I was in my apartment in Tampa, Florida. While I was trying to listen to the news on an Arabic website, I heard the
Maronite Mass instead. I was surprised to discover the beauty of the Mass. When the people where singing “Glory to God in the Highest and Peace to His
people…” it was so beautiful. My heart was rejoicing. It was as if I never listened to the Mass before. I thought that I was just missing my family and my language.
Another time, I was asking myself a question, what would make me a happy person? If I have a million dollar on my desk, would it make me a happy person?
Would the security of money change me, and the answer was “NO”. I had another question, if God can create the most wonderful woman for me, does this make a
happy man? I was surprised that the answer was “NO”. I started to ask myself what I was looking for. If money and woman could not make me happy, what would?
Living a life of Joy, Peace and loving God and my Neighbor:
I wanted to try to live a chaste life. I was so surprised that I was able to do it day by day. I started to respect the dignity of the woman. I wanted to be pure in my
relationships. I decided to wait for sexual relationship until marriage. I thought it was by my own power I could live this life style. I did not realize that God’s grace
was all over me to help me change. It started from the day the Lord touched me in the water in Delray Beach - Beach of the King.
I had the desire to go back to church and to attend Mass at St Paul, and later at Christ the King parish in Tampa, Fl. The Mass was very moving and beautiful I felt
that I was a different person but not for too long. I met a Christian girl that knew the Bible well but sadly I felt into sin again. She told me that St. Paul said in 1Cor 6:9
all those who live immoral lives will the not see the kingdom of God. I started to justify my sin by saying it is love and there was nothing wrong with what I was doing. But I kept hearing the words that Jesus told Mary Magdalene, “go
and sin no more”. God led me to a good young adult retreat in Florida. This helped me to get away from every opportunity to sin. Now I understand that the Virgin
Mary is the one who helped me the most with chastity and gave me respect for women. I am child of her offspring as the book of revelation says in chapter 12. The
story of Our Lady of Fatima in Portugal led me to start to pray the Rosary (contemplation on the life of Christ) daily for the salvation of others. I started to go to daily
Mass, frequent confession, Bible study classes, watching religious videos. Spending many hours praying before Jesus in the Most Blessed Sacrament (Eucharist).
A great devotion to the Holy Spirit. Desire to love and to help my friends, and my neighbors.
But the Holy Spirit led to the desert of temptation, as Our Lord was tested after His Baptism. I went to Brazil for Christmas of 2000. It was a good test of my respect
for women. After all the challenges, the desire to be chaste continued. When I was flying back from Rio de Janeiro airport, I started thinking about my next vacation
but another voice changed my plan. I heard in my heart that I was very selfish. I was not concerned about other people. God showed me the poor in Brazil but I was
still concerned about entertaining myself. Did I really need to travel more? That was very profound and vivid. It stayed with me. I made a promise to God by saying:
“Lord, I’m not going to travel any more for myself, I am only going to travel for you”. I was tested as Jesus was tested with the desire of the flesh, money and power.
Hearing my vocation for the first time: I met someone special from my young adult prayer group. I was so attracted to her that I was thinking about marriage. I was happy to meet a good Christian girl that
loved the Lord and wanted to live a holy life. Somehow, with all the attraction to her I could not see her as my wife and the mother of my children. We kept dating but
we had no peace. We tried to take a break from the relationship. In July 2001, after a short time from the break, I was at work, on a Saturday trying to catch up with
my responsibilities. By the way, Saturday is a special day for Our Lady and that date was close to the feast of St. Mary Magdalena, St. Lawrence Brindisi
Capuchin, St. Elijah the prophet, St. Charbel Makhloof, and other saints that I loved.
I looked at the postcards of all the places that I had visited. The same voice I heard in Rio, Brazil came to me again and said “you are so selfish, you think of
yourself and not of Me.” While I was wondering why God has giving me so many opportunities to change my miserable life, I started writing down all these graces
that God gave me, such as chastity, love of the Eucharist, trusting is His mercy in Confession, the love for the Bible and His words, Holy Hours where I would stay all
night, my great love for the Mother of God Mary who is full of grace, the love of the life of the prophets and saints, and my desire to intercede for others.
All of a sudden I heard a voice in my heart “What else could I do for you to know that I am calling you to Myself? If you do not say “Yes” point out to Me who should I
call to sacrifice his life for Me?” I had tears of mixed feelings, to think that God was really calling me to Himself and I am a sinful man and I wanted to be married. I
never said “Yes” until that moment. How could it be? At that moment I said “Yes” without understanding how I could do it. What I remember is the great peace and
the tears. I confessed that Saturday to my prayer group that God was calling me to religious life. The next day I told my ex-girlfriend about my call. It was very difficult for both
I thought maybe God would make women ugly for me to be able to do it. I went to the Mall and I saw a beautiful woman and I thought, “You’re killing me, I can’t do
this for all my life, it’s too difficult.” After awhile I tried to focus on my call but I was still testing the water, I guess. One day I was at a party and someone asked me to dance and I thought maybe I was
not called after all. The next day I wanted to call that girl, but I did not have peace about it. I made a decision to not test my God and my vocation anymore. Our
emotions are gift from God but we need to deal with them by reason and not by force. The question that we need to ask to clarify our emotions: Is it a good thing to
do, is it pleasurable, is it proper for me? Some people do not understand our vocation. They ask us how we can abstain from sex? First, it is a gift from God and
second it is directing all our love for God who desires our spousal love.
Where do you want me to go Lord?
I had never been interested in the priesthood. It seemed so lonely and sad. I never saw a holy priest in the past that I admired enough to be attracted by the
vocation. I heard of the Capuchin Blessed Abouna Yaacoob who is close to my town but I didn’t know much about him.
When I was a kid I was attracted to the passion of Christ. I once heard a voice said that “if I saw the passion everyday my life would change”. As a boy, whenever I
saw a religious habit I liked that look. I also loved St. Francis of Assisi, I had so love and respect for him without knowing much about him. I started looking at the parish priesthood in Lebanon. I had no peace. I tried Florida but got no peace. I waited for a sign. During that time I had a desire to visit a
religious community. I stayed with them for one month. When I was there some of the brothers told me to look at the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal as the most
They gave me the Newsletter. I was not sure since I was happy in the other community. I wanted to check out Steubenville University and also try to Maronite monks
and Capuchins in Lebanon. I visited different places but the experience with the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal in the Bronx was so wonderful: the warmth, the simplicity, and the teachings,
the poverty of St. Francis, helping the poor, preaching the Gospel in an attractive way, leading many to souls to confession and relationship with Jesus Christ, the
desires of the brothers to grow in holiness, etc…But I was told that I needed to wait for a year before I could join.
After a long discernment, psychology test and different interviews I was accepted in the community in September 2002. I was the happiest man ever. I am so joyful
that God called me to serve Him, a call that I do not deserve.
The formation period was like two rough stones rubbing against each other one smoothing out the other. This period will last for all my life. It’s great place to grow
in love, to accept God’s love, give God all of my heart and to love my neighbor as I love myself. It is a great experience, learning how to live in harmony with others
in community. Our daily schedule is following:
We start our first prayer 6:00 am From 6:30 am to 7:30 am a time for spiritual reading 7:30 am to 8:30 am Morning prayer and the Sacrifice of the Mass (Eucharist - food for the soul) then a time for thanksgiving for the Bread of Life.
Breakfast is followed after Mass (food for the body). Each brother has different duties during the day. My responsibility was to beg for the needs of the Friary. This was also time to meet new friends in the
marketplace and preach the good news of Jesus Christ. 12:00 pm we pray Midday and Lunch after which we go out again. 5:00 pm to 6:00 pm we pray Evening prayer with a Holy Hour (exposition of the Blessed Sacrament) 9:15 pm we pray Night prayer with Rosary. Respectful silence after night prayer until breakfast the next day (we avoid conversation and we try to
listen to Our Lord because He speaks to us in Silence)
After 6 years with the community I made my final vows of Poverty (only Jesus is what I need), Chastity (only Jesus is my Love) and Obedience (only Jesus is my
I was accepted to go to the seminary after a long discernment. I love so much the Mass and I want so much to bring God’s mercy to others in Confession.
So even though I didn’t like studying, I now find it a sweet cross. It’s not easy to go to the dentist but in the end you will have a healthy mouth. It is like drilling in the
brain, like a tattoo in the brain. It takes me a long time to grasp difficult concepts. It’s a great seminary. It is joyful with all the challenges . I remember once
complaining about learning Greek when I didn’t do well. The Lord said, “Silence. Open a Bible in Greek now. Tell me if you can understand. I am spending so much
money on you and I am giving you good information.” After that I just said “I will do my best Lord, and please do your part. If I don’t do well that’s okay for my
I like to intercede by name for the other seminarians, and for the staff and faculty, and especially for my brothers in the community.
I have a few more years but I am excited to learn not only philosophy and theology but also psychology so I can help better God’s people.
I want to participate in God’s mercy and fulfilling Jesus saying, “I was hungry and you gave me to eat….”
Marriage is beautiful and holy vocation but the Lord asked to give my life for Him. I cherish my calling very much, I couldn’t be happier and at peace unless I did
God’s will with love and passion. I would not be happier if I was married because God had always a better plan for me.
I end with the quotation from the book the Song of Solomon that shows amazing love of God to us: Jesus’ love for us in the Bread of Life – the Eucharist is shown beautifully in this scripture: “Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth — for your love is more
delightful than wine.” (Song of Solomon 1:1) God’s whispering to His bride the church in Chapter 4:5
You are all-beautiful, my beloved, and there is no blemish in you.
Come from Lebanon, my bride, come from Lebanon, come!
You have ravished my heart, my sister, my bride; you have ravished my heart with one glance of your eyes, with one bead of your necklace.
How beautiful is your love, my sister, my bride, how much more delightful is your love than wine, and the fragrance of your ointments than all spices! Set me as a seal on your heart, as a seal on your arm; For stern as death is love, relentless as the nether world is devotion; its flames are a blazing fire. Deep waters cannot quench love, nor floods sweep it away. Were one to offer all he owns to purchase love, he would be roundly mocked. “
FOR 13 MORE STORIES OF LATE VOCATION MEN YOU CAN ORDER LAST CALL: 12 MEN WHO DARED ANSWER AT www.ccwatershed.org/lastcall
The amazing story of St. Marguerite d’Youville
Do you know the amazing story of St. Marguerite d’Youville of Canada? It is a riches to rags story you will not easily forget. Born in Quebec in 1701 to a happy
family with many children living prosperously on a farm. She was a such a good student and person that in the convent school she went to everyone assumed she
would be a Sister someday. Instead she agreed to marry a wealthy, handsome, young man. This turned into a tragedy. Her mother-in-law was domineering and
Marguerite’s husband after an ardent courtship turned totally indifferent after the marriage. His occupation was the bribe natives to trade fur for liquor. This made
them so drunk he could get the furs cheaply since they were too enervated to bring their furs to their usual marketplaces. The fortune he made this way he wasted in
Marguerite lost one child after another to illness. Two boys survived and became priests. Her husband died leaving her totally bankrupt and saddled with bad
debts. She had to put up all her goods for auction. She set herself up in a little shop to sell thread and needles. This shop was in a plaza with many poor street
people around. To these Margeurite began to minister, especially to those criminals in stocks in the plaza.
Gradually she took in more and more destitute old men and women into her own home. Other women helped her and they eventually founded an order of Sisters
supporting themselves through needlework.
By the year 1970’s this order numbers 7,000 members!!!
This is from a Hollywood Christian Web and was sent to Dr. Ronda by the author:
I am writing to recommend a new short work from my friend, Heather King. You might know Heather from her two best-selling books about her journey through
alcoholism and into Catholicism, respectively Parched and Redeemed. Or you may know her from her just published book about St. Therese of Lisieux, Shirt of
Flame. Once you read her writing you will appreciate her, as I do, as a great gift to the Church and the people of our time. She is a wonderful writer - profound and
gritty and funny and completely infused with a Gospel spirituality. I have long thought of her as a Catholic Anne LaMott. In taking on her experience now as a post-
abortive woman, Heather goes where Anne LaMott has never been able to go, and provides all of us with a much needed tool for helping us all help our post-
I recommend that every adult read this piece, because we all know someone who has gone through an abortion, and this book offers real insight as one woman's
testimony of where abortion left her emotionally and spiritually, and how she found healing. Particularly, I recommend it for post-abortive women, but also for the
men who have lost their children and the siblings who have lost their brothers and sisters through this most terrible of choices. I also ask that you keep Heather in mind if you ever need a godly, prayerful, funny and powerful speaker for your church, prayer group, retreat or conference. We
need to get her and her message out there.
The piece, POOR BABY: A Child of the 60's Looks Back on Abortion can be downloaded from Amazon from here for a very small amount: -
Please do pass this on to the four winds to help us get this work out there and to the hands of those among us who desperately need healing from abortion.
Thanks you so much and God bless you -
Barbara Nicolosi Harrington Executive Director The Galileo Forum and Studio at Azusa Pacific University
392 N. Citrus Ave. Azusa CA 91702 office 626-969-5359 fax 626-9694017
Introduction to Last Call: 12 Men Who Dared Answer (about late vocations to the priesthood) - by Ronda Chervin, Ph.D.
Last call? Late vocations? Men who dare? Woman editor? What can this all be about? It started in 1987 when, after years of teaching undergraduates, I was privileged to teach philosophy at the seminary of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. I was hired
specifically to teach the men who had college degrees and sometimes more but lacked the 10 required courses in philosophy necessary to go on for theological
Feeling that priests are almost an endangered species, I was thrilled to see the men who dared to answer the call of Jesus that we lay people might be fed our
celestial bread. When some feminists talked about hating to see priests concelebrating – all that patriarchy – I would reply, “Strange you say that. I feel like a queen
whose slaves are coming to serve me a banquet.”After all, at daily Mass, I don’t have to be there, but they do. A convert from an atheistic though Jewish
background, I think of priests as thousands of fathers laying down their lives to serve me.
Teaching at the seminary was one of the best experiences in my life. I loved the variety of these men ranging in age from their late twenties up to their sixties.
Previous professions included engineers, stock-brokers, all the way to band singers. Judged more on character than on grades these men would vie to prove their
virtue publically in ways delightfully beneficial to the professors. For instance, if I dropped a hanky four men would leap to fetch it! It was a perfect fit for me because my gift is to synthesize philosophy, spirituality and psychology. Most late vocation seminarians come in a bit frightened of
philosophy, so a mix with spirituality and psychology makes it easier.
After becoming a widow in 1993 I taught in other places, but by 1999-2002 I was back teaching older seminarians again, this time at the small emerging college of
Our Lady of Corpus Christi in Texas run by the Society of Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity (SOLT) – most famous for its late vocation member, Fr. Corapi. These
daring men I also loved and admired. Older myself, I could only imagine how much love for Jesus in the Church it would take to be willing to sit in a classroom again
for 4-6 years at the average age of 40 - 60 years!
After many other teaching adventures, now, in 2010, I am again offering philosophy courses to seminarians, this time at Holy Apostles College and Seminary of
Connecticut. This seminary was founded in the 1950’s by the Missionaries of the Holy Spirit, whose Canadian founder, Fr. Eusebe Menard, was convinced that
there was a need for a seminary designed for late vocation priests. More than a thousand men ranging from ordination in their 20’s to ordination at 75 years old
have been trained at Holy Apostles. Presently many dioceses ordain late vocation priests.
Presently I am living right on the grounds of Holy Apostles seminary participating in morning prayer, Mass, evening prayer and meals with the seminarians.
Gradually I have gotten to know the stories of these daring men coming from as far distant as North Vietnam, Lebanon, South America and Canada. Of Americans
backgrounds range from Puerto Rican, Nigerian, English, South American, Chinese, Polish, Filipino, Asian Indian, Ukranian, as well as the usual French, Irish,
German, and Italian ancestry men and others. I have always found the Catholic Church to be the true “United Nations.” Previous occupations include among others,
law enforcement, music, computer science, politics, the military, carpentry, international business, psycho-therapy, and teaching. Some were always single. Some
were religious brothers. Some were married and annulled. Some are widowers. Most are going for the diocesan priesthood but some are in religious
All of them feel unworthy of so exalted a call. All of them feel sad when they think of other Catholic men who may be called but feel too unworthy to think of
answering the call. They hope that their stories will open you to pray for courage to consider answering what might be your last call to so fulfilling a choice. They
hope that all Catholics reading these stories may take hope that the ‘gates of hell will not prevail.’
You can order the book Last Call: 12 Men who Dared Answer by going to amazon or createspace. Be sure to add the 12 Men who Dared because there are lots of
books with the title Last Call (Smile).
Here is an article from the Preface to the book:
Concerning Holy Apostles College and Seminary
by Rev. Douglas L. Mosey, C.S.B., Rector
Holy Apostles Seminary, Cromwell, Connecticut was founded on July 10, 1957 by a French Canadian Franciscan, Father Eusebe M. Menard, O.F.M., for the
promotion of belated vocations to the Roman Catholic priesthood. This was the first seminary in the United States dedicated to the formation of older priestly
What were the requirements for admission as a belated seminarian? According to the “Decree of the Bishop of Norwich concerning the Establishment in His
Diocese of a Seminary for belated vocations to the Priesthood”, Holy Apostles Seminary was permitted to accept “only young men of seventeen or older who
come from good families and who give serious indications of a priestly vocation.”
From a contemporary perspective it is surprising to realize that “belated” in 1957 meant seventeen years of age or older! It was then very common in America for
future priests to enter a high school seminary at the age of fourteen. Today the average age of ordination for a priest is approximately thirty-five. Father Menard’s
vision indeed proved to be prophetic!
The vocational journey of each priest is a unique and precious manifestation of grace at work. A man does not decide on his own to become a priest, but rather
answers a personal call from Christ that is authenticated by the Church. Holy Apostles Seminary continues to welcome belated vocations as do most seminaries.
This inspiring book under the guidance of Dr. Ronda Chervin, Professor of Philosophy at Holy Apostles, is a testimony to the legacy of Father Menard, the father of
belated vocations to the priesthood in the United States.
Juan Stegmann: Witness. 2012
If you can, please listen to a beautiful German love song composed by Schumann: Du bist die ruh. It is one soul’s struggle for love, for peace, and for spirituality. I want to share with you my own personal struggle for love, peace and spirituality.
I am Argentine, and 56 years old. I am the youngest of 5. My father died young of cancer, when I was just 2 years old. He was engineer, a very good guy.
The death of my father was a huge loss for me, and the grief has been present all my life.
As a result, my mother became a widow at the age of 35, with 5 of us to take care of and no money. She never recovered from my father’s death.
She had to work very hard to feed and educate us. She was an extraordinary woman, with plenty of human values. She was a real fighter, who fought against great odds, with great wisdom and human dignity.
My childhood was very lonely. My mother was rarely at home, and my brothers and sisters had to survive on their own. My granny was everything for me.
When I was 8, my mother had a fiancé for a time and when I was 12 she married another man. Both of these men were a tragedy for us, especially for me, because they both were abusive and destructive.
Those years between ages 8 and 15 were very dark for me.
Some years later, when I started to realize the difference between my childhood years and those of my friends, I cried bitterly and I would ask God: “Why did you permit this? Where were you during those years?”
How could I believe in His love, how could I believe in a loving God, if I received so little love? It took me 30 years to really understand those years and to be able to see a loving God behind such darkness.
Genesis. Chapter 28, vs. 12-16
Jacob had a dream. There was the Lord standing beside him and saying: “Know that I am with you, I will protect you wherever you go”. When Jacob awoke from his sleep he exclaimed: “Truly, the Lord is here”.
During high school my life changed completely. God gave me excellent friends that changed my life. I became an enthusiastic, sportive and friendly teenager. I started to be the best student.
I went to an excellent Catholic school which gave me a very serious religious education. At the age of 15, I started to go to Mass every day, and I kept this habit ever since that time. Going to mass daily was the beginning of a long spiritual journey.
It was at this time, I made my first life-decision. It required a sacrifice in my career in order to benefit my spirituality. After preparing to take my last year of high school during the summer, I abandoned that idea to stay another year and graduate at the Catholic school. This was a great decision.
However, I was still broken inside and was questioning if life had any meaning. I decided to bury my previous years, and then I built a tombstone, forgetting their existence.
Tobit. 2, 9-10
“That night I went to sleep next to the wall of the courtyard. Because of the heat I left my face uncovered. I did not know that there were birds perched on the wall above me, till their warm droppings settled in my eyes, caused me cataracts. I went to see some doctors for a cure, but the more they anointed my eyes with various salves, the worse the cataracts became, until I could see no more. “
I started college and studied Engineering, as my father did. It is similar to an MBA. My ideal was to become a Christian business leader. That was not a good decision, because I never really liked engineering and business.
Religion became a central part of my life: I participated in a Catholic university group, volunteered in a hospital of handicapped, and studied Christianity.
God gave me an excellent confessor, a holy man, a contemplative prayer. For many years I confessed every week, always to hear the same advice: to pray and read the Bible. For some time, I thought about becoming a missionary Franciscan monk, but my mother convinced me that I should finish engineering first. However, after graduating I abandoned that idea. I used to go to Benedictine monasteries in the countryside to do personal retreats often. In one of them, a monk introduced me into the practice of continuous prayer, also called the prayer of the heart, or Jesus prayer: it is the repetition of a sentence that preceded many miracles in the Gospel: “Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me”. Some years later, I started to practice it and I have continued for the rest of my life.
After finishing engineering I went to live for 2 years in southern Patagonia, and afterwards, I came to the United States and then to French Canada for more than one year, living kind of a hippie life. Those 4 years living in different environments were a great life experience.
The Lord is my shepherd, there is nothing I lack. Even when I walk through a dark valley, I fear no harm for you are at my side.
After 4 years away from home, I was then planning to start a Master’s Degree in International Management in Phoenix Arizona. However, my mother sent me a ticket to visit my family for Christmas, I returned to Buenos Aires, and there I met my current wife, and we soon were married. This was the second time in my life that I decided to give up one of my career goals. I abandoned the Master’s Degree in the US, and consequently gave up living in the “big world”, with money and success, and just live a simple family life in Argentina. But once again, I was extremely happy about this great decision.
As the deer longs for streams of water, so my soul longs for you, O God. My being thirsts for God, the Living God, when can I go and see the face of God.
When I left Canada to return to Argentina, I was about 30 years old. I started to work in large multinational corporations. I had great jobs, but my soul was not there.
A little later, after I married I started to practice the prayer of the heart, continuous prayer. At first, it did not make any sense to me, it was boring and meaningless. But after a while it became the single most beautiful gift that I received in my life. I will tell you about this later.
My wife was a blessing; she was a great woman with a pure heart and a great companion; I have always loved and admired her. Our first daughter was a little angel, the light of my eyes.
Surprisingly my life started to become complicated.
Our marriage life was extremely difficult. I was not prepared for that adventure. I already felt very handicapped myself with the absence of my father and mother, and the tombstone that I built inside denying my own childhood also made me a very limited person. My wife was suffering from depression, but we did not know it then. We continued living together in the same house, but the marriage died.
After a couple of years, we were ready to divorce, when a second family problem surfaced. We discovered that one of our children had a serious neurological disease.
We were devastated, we could not stop crying. But God blessed us. He gave us the energy to struggle with it. We brought doctors from the USA and Europe to Argentina. The treatment was very intense; 10 therapists worked with our child 8 hours per day. The next years were very emotionally and economically exhausting, and put a lot of stress into our couple and family.
Then another bomb exploded. To our shock, one by one, all our friends and initially even our own families abandoned us. Our house, which used to be plenty of friends, became a desert.
Then I was fired from one job, and then from another, and then from another. Why? It is difficult to say. I was a very good worker, but I was not good in establishing relationships, I was too introverted. Those were rocky years in Argentina, when the country lived in crises.
The treatment of our child also had a tremendous financial impact that forced me to work more and more.
The practice of continuous prayer was growing stronger inside me. But it was also another source of conflict; it was very difficult to practice such radical spirituality and play the “political game” in the corporate world. I felt that I had to battle with my hands tied. I saw my career going nowhere.
I also had health problems, ulcer, stress, insomnia, I could not eat anything. My mental processes were stressed to the limit. It was too much for me. I thought that I was going to lose my mind, to break down.
Where was God? What was going on, my life was completely upside down: my family, spouse, work, friends, myself. I could not understand why God did not help. We were a good family, we were very generous with the needy, we prayed together, we lived a righteous life.
Psalm 86 became my daily prayer:
“Hear me Lord, and answer me, for I am a poor and needy. Preserve my life for I am loyal, save your servant who trusts in you. You are my Lord, have mercy on me Lord, to you I call all day.”
The practice of continuous prayer started to make so much sense to me. More than a prayer, it became a desperate cry: “Lord have mercy...”, every fiber of my soul begged to Him.
I discovered Saint John of the Cross. He helped me to understand more about contemplative prayer, to learn the beauty of the night of the soul, and completely surrender to God. Saint John had a profound spiritual wisdom to understand the symbols of the Psalms, the Bible, and God presence in my life.
All day I call on you Lord, I stretch out my hands to you. Do you work wonders for the dead? Do the shades arise and praise you? Is your love proclaimed in the grave, your fidelity in the tomb? Are your marvels declared in the darkness, your righteous deeds in the land of oblivion?
The prayer of the heart has been the most extraordinary gift of my life. It gave me a place inside myself where I could have a spiritual retreat. It gave me peace when everything outside was wrong. It helped me to heal the wounds of my life. It gave me psychological unity, gave me peace, strength, and helped me to admit my own limitations. It taught me to be more silent, more contemplative, to enjoy life in a silent way, and to accept and love poverty. It helped me to be more loving, more human, and above all, to get closer to God.
1 Kings. 19, 3-13
Elijah went a day’s journey into the desert, until he came to a broom tree and sat beneath it. He prayed for death: “this is enough oh Lord, take my life”. He lay down and fell asleep. But then an angel touched him and ordered him to get up and eat. Strengthen by the food he walked 40 days and nights to the mountain of God, Horeb. There he came to a cave where he took shelter. The Lord said to him: “go outside and stand on the mountain before the Lord, the Lord will be passing by”. Elijah went outside. There was a tiny whispering sound. There was the Lord.
I started to pray the psalms, and the Liturgy of the Hours. They have a great wisdom that helped me to understand my own internal spiritual battle.
I started to read the Bible to my children. I learned to love it as the most precious treasure. The Bible helped me to understand God´s presence in my life.
I introduced my kids into continuous prayer, the rosary, and the catechism. The entire family went to Medjugorje for 2 weeks, and we started to know and love Mary more and more. Medjugorje was a turning point in my family´s spirituality. My spirituality during my thirties can be symbolized in the story of Job. I understood that faith shows its sincerity, its strength, and its value, when we persist in spite of poverty, when there is nothing in return.
The Book of Job. 1, 9-12
Satan answered to the Lord: “Is it for nothing that Job is God fearing? Have you not surrounded him and his family and all that he has with your protection? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his livestock are spread over the land. But now, put forth your hand and touch everything that he has, and surely he will blaspheme you to your face”. And the Lord said to Satan: “He is in your power, only spare his life.”
When I turned 40, I decided to start a new life. During my 30’s, I had extraordinary successes in my career. But my heart was not there. Our child was now completely cured, but the struggle with the disease was extraordinary. With my wife, we trained hundreds of therapists that changed the history of this disease in Argentina. This was clearly the way to go for me. I realized that the career that I chose in my youth was definitively not for me. It was clear God was telling me I needed a change.
John. 13, 36-38
Peter said to Jesus: “Master, I will lay down my life for you”. Jesus answered: “The cock will not crow until you deny me three times.” “I do not know him”. The Lord turned and looked at Peter. Peter went out and began to weep bitterly. “Simon, do you love me?” “Lord, you know everything, you know that I love you”.
I decided to center my career on God. I decided to dedicate my life to serve the community as a Christian academic and become a college professor. I wanted to help create a more ethical world through the power of contemplative prayer. I did not know exactly how I was going to do it, but I trusted that God was going to show me the way.
The transition to become an academic was intense. I had to work full time as a director in the second largest company in Argentina, while studying for a Master’s Degree and a Ph.D. in Europe, and for another Ph.D. in the USA. At the same time I taught 12 courses as professor, while writing 2 books. At the same time, I was trying to be a loving father, and have time to pray.
When I was ready to complete the transition and to work full time in education, my boss offered me to go with him to Europe, to become VP of mergers and acquisitions of cell phone companies globally. Although I was still in the air in my academic life, I declined his offer. God blinded me, and that is the only explanation of why I said no to such an extraordinary offer.
Luke. 24, 13-35
“Two disciples were going to Emmaus. Jesus drew near and walked with them. When they approached Emmaus, Jesus gave the impression that he was going on farther. But they urged him: “Stay with us, Lord, it is getting darker.”
That was the most dramatic decision of my life. I blindly gave up the big world once again, but this time, I received infinitely more in return.
By the beginning of 2001, I was invited to teach in the USA during the summer. Once again, praying to God, I became convinced that this was his way. I left my job, country, sold my house in Argentina and came here to the USA, which was another huge leap into the arms of a loving God.
After that, I became more aware of God’s wonder and awe. I have cried many times, with emotion for God’s love. After years of competing in the corporate world, God opened me a door to a new world, where I could use all my personality: a world full of feelings, spirituality, truth, and service. I have no words to thank God for this.
So far my academic life has been an extraordinary gift. My job at University of North Florida was terrifying at first. It required a contract renewed every 3 months, my visa depending on that. But by God’s graces, it worked well and my contract was renewed ever since. We received the Green Card, which reduced our level of uncertainty.
As part of my business classes I’m now teaching ethics and religions, which is a dream, as I can teach my ideals to my students while I improve my own spirituality.
Another gift: I’ve discovered the “World Community of Christian Meditation”, led by John Main that has 1000 groups all over the world that practice continuous prayer.
I ended a Spiritual Direction Program at Sacred Heart University, I am studying a Master of Philosophy at Holy Apostles College, and did my first year at the Ministry Formation program at my diocese, all are extraordinary spiritual gifts. I am now also starting to work in a research project to link spirituality and business ethics. I have discovered several books about Mary and the Holy Family written by revelation that helped me deepen the devotion to her and to the Rosary. I love what I do, and I love the fact that my career and spirituality are becoming unified, and that at the same time I can be helpful to others. I feel passion for what I do, and I have strong ideals about my future.
O Lord, our Lord, how awesome is your name through all the earth. When I see the heavens, the works of your fingers, the moon and the stars that you set in place. What are humans, that you are mindful of them, mere mortals that you care for them?
However where God’s providence was strongest for me was in my soul. God helped me to get rid of that tombstone that I built inside when I was 15 years old. The door to my childhood was able to open again.
I realized that through my hard childhood, God had prepared me for my adult life with the most precious gift He could ever give me: my spiritual life.
I began to understand that in the same way that artists acquire their special gifts through suffering, God also gave me a special gift. My granny used to tell me when I was a child, and years later my confessor, that I had a special gift for the spiritual life. Many things have changed, but my spirituality has always been the backbone of my entire life.
Although my childhood made me very vulnerable and lame, these limitations were a continuous engine for me, in my search for God.
There is a tremendous power and beauty in poverty and weaknesses, because then we turn to God with desperation and he cannot refuse to help.
The loss of my father made me love fatherhood: not only have I realized that I am a very loving father with my own children, but I extend that fatherhood to my students and to the people that I am giving spiritual direction.
The same way Job enlightened my mind during my 30s, Jeremiah was my guide during my 40s.
Jeremiah struggled to be loyal to his call, in spite of his many hardships, knowing his limitations and the cost of pursuing the call.
The book of Jeremiah. 1, 4-7
“The word of the Lord came to Jeremiah: ‘Before I formed you in the womb, a prophet to the nations I appointed you’. Jeremiah said: ‘Ah, Lord God, I do not know how to speak, I am too young’”.
I feel like Jeremiah, I trust in him, but I know my limitations.
Jeremiah paid a hard price for trusting in the Lord.
The book of Jeremiah. 37, 15-16 and 38, 6
The princes had Jeremiah beaten and thrown into prison. Jeremiah entered the dungeon, where he remained a long time. King Zedekiah took Jeremiah and threw him into the cistern. There was no water, only mud, and Jeremiah sank into the mud.
I feel that I also paid a price for following the Lord. Jeremiah was exhausted, depressed, and he honestly complained to God:
The book of Jeremiah. 20, 7-18
“You duped me, O Lord, and I let myself be duped. Cursed be the day on which I was born may the day my mother gave me birth never be blessed. Then my mother would have been my grave.”
I complain to him too, sometimes I scream and cry.
In spite of his exhaustion Jeremiah persevered, and remained enthusiastic: like when he bought a new farm even though they were been invaded by the Chaldeans.
The book of Jeremiah. c 31 v 5-6, and c 32 v 1-15
“This message came to me from the Lord, said Jeremiah: ‘Buy for yourself a field in Anathoth; you shall plant vineyards on the mountains of Samaria, those who plant them shall enjoy their fruits’”.
I feel the same way, full of ideals, full of energy.
Jeremiah had an ideal, and that was his source of vitality and happiness:
The book of Jeremiah. c 31 v 31-34
“The days are coming, says the Lord, when I will place my law within their hearts”
That is my ideal too, to help place the Lord within the hearts of the people that suffer.
These 10 years in the US, have been a monumental effort of transition in my life. I have been working 12 hours a day, weekends included. In addition my wife was suffering from severe clinical depression. The family broke down as well as our economy. I had to re-double my efforts to keep my kids in good shape, and thanks to God everyone is good today. So how do I feel today?
Some time ago I went to Argentina after some years. One day I went to visit a friend of mine, a priest that works in a marginal neighborhood, working in slums. He was celebrating mass, and was reading this passage:
“The disciples approached Jesus and said, ‘Who is the greatest in the Kingdom of heaven?’ He called a child over, placed it in their midst, and said, ‘Amen, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will not enter the Kingdom of heaven. Whoever becomes humble like this child is the greatest in the Kingdom of heaven.”
This passage touched my heart. I’ve never felt God’s fatherhood as strongly as I have these years. God has been an extraordinary father for me: always there, always helping and providing his gifts, sometimes challenging, sometimes leaving me alone, so I can learn.
But I also realized that to see him as a father we have to be like children, trust on him completely, surrendering to him. Probably because I am a father I can fully understand how deep and strong this relationship father-son can be. I feel thankful for this, deeply optimistic and happy.
For more of Juan Stegmann Google his interesting You-tubes.
This is from a book Dr. Ronda edited many years ago called Holding Hands with God: Stories of Courage and Hope. It is available from CMJ Marian Books.
“I want to tell a story of how I overcame a fear related to having a mastectomy for breast cancer. This was in 1990. Due to lots of support from my husband, I was not as afraid of the surgery itself as I might have been. A cancer support woman came to my house to help prepare me psychologically. She left a booklet showing a picture of the scar after the surgery when one breast would be removed. The picture haunted me. I thought about how ugly I would look. I was only 53 years old. Right before the scheduled surgery I was giving a talk in a far place. I was praying in the Church. I noticed it had a gigantic crucifix hanging from the ceiling above the altar. I was staring at it when Jesus seemed to say in my heart: “Ronda, after your surgery you will look like me with a scar like mine on your chest.”
These words were so consoling. After the surgery I did look at myself in the mirror and remember those words. I jokingly said to friends, “look, I got a cheap stigmata.” The reference is to those holy men and women in the Church who got the wounds, stigmata, of Christ imprinted on their own bodies.
A Religious Brother who was a hospital chaplain had to tell a young man he would no longer be able to walk again. When he told him the kid without a beat said “then teach me how to fly.”
From a wonderful book by Patricia Treece: "God will Provide: How God's Bounty Opened to Saints - and 9 Ways it Can Open for You, too."
“It was a severe winter early in the great economic depression of the 1930s. Catherine de Hueck was running a hospitality house in Quebec. They were down to their last scuttle of coal. Without coal there would be no heat and – the kitchen range also used coal – so no hot food. Needed as about half ton, and there was no money. There were 70 people sheltered in the house.”
Catherine told the cook and all the people that she would pray to God that by 4 PM when the temperature outside was due to fall even further below zero. A communist who was in the house was laughing at their stupid superstitious faith. “God doesn’t exist,” the heckler declared. He watched the foundress all day to make sure she didn’t call someone for help. Catherine asked him what he would do if the coal arrived by 4 PM. He said he would look into religion and God with an open mind.
They were all cold and miserable. At “one minute to four the door suddenly swung open. A dirty-faced man wanted to know if theis was Friendship House. He had orders to deliver a ton of coal there. “
Rosalind Moss' Unexpected Journey
Jewish convert longs to 'bring hemlines to the floor and habits to the world.' - by TRENT BEATTIE 12/08/2011 National Catholic Register
When a young Jewish woman in the 1960s read of Catholic nuns receiving permission to shorten their habits, she was shocked. How could these women who were supposed to be influencing the world for God succumb to the influence of the world? “I lost what wasn’t mine,” explained Rosalind Moss years later. Little did she know that she would eventually gain what was not previously hers by becoming a religious sister in full habit.
On Sept. 8 of this year, Moss became Mother Miriam of the Lamb of God, O.S.B. She is the prioress of a new religious community, Daughters of Mary, Mother of Israel’s Hope, which is based in Tulsa, Okla.
Mother Miriam spoke with Register correspondent Trent Beattie about her conversion, religious calling, and desire to meet the greatest need of humanity.
So, how did a Jewish girl from Brooklyn end up in a convent in Tulsa?
In short, I grew up in a conservative Jewish home in Brooklyn, where we waited for the Messiah. Every year at Passover, we would announce that the Messiah had not yet come. If he had come, there would have been peace in the world, his kingdom would have been established, we would be living in Jerusalem, and life would have made sense. None of these things had happened, I thought, so it would be insanity to think that the Messiah actually had come. I wasn’t aware of any Jew who thought as much. I was 32 years old the first time I heard that there were actually Jews who believed the Messiah had come.
I met a group of Messianic Jews who taught me that all the sacrificial lambs in the Old Testament, while not able to remove sin, were types of the one Lamb of God to come, who indeed was able to remove sin. After going through the Old Testament, I was shown only one verse from the New Testament — and that one verse shattered my world. It was John 1:29, in which John the Baptist announces Jesus Christ in these words: “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world!” I knew then that Jesus was the Messiah I had been looking for.
I entered the only form of Christianity I knew at the time, which was evangelical and anti-Catholic. For the next 18 years, I tried to “save” Catholics from what I thought was a false religious, even satanic, system. It was through a series of events in the summer of 1990 that I began a search into the claims of the Catholic Church, which culminated in my entering the Church at the Easter vigil in 1995.
As a Protestant, I had come to believe the fact that the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob — the God whom no one could look on and live — entered time and history and became man.
Upon my entrance into the Catholic Church I was able to appreciate a second incredible condescension of almighty God — that of the Blessed Sacrament, or the Passover fulfilled. God become man remains with us to this day under the appearance of bread.
Once you had entered the Church, when did you first think of becoming a religious sister?
Actually, my calling, unknown to me at the time, started many years before becoming Catholic. I was 20 years old when I read a story in the newspaper about nuns receiving permission to shorten their habits. It was at the beginning of the mini-skirt era of the 1960s. I believed that these religious women were in the world to affect the world for God, but, alas, I thought at the time, the world had affected them.
Something physical ripped through me. What I assumed had nothing to do with me became my deep and immediate loss. I had lost something that wasn’t mine. Or so I thought. I did not imagine that years later I would find myself fully given to restoring those hemlines and longing to fill the world with religious in habits as the glorious sign to God that they are.
This dedication of yours officially began this year on the feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, when your community was established as a public association of the faithful and you received the habit. Can you describe that day? If there were a more glorious day in my life, I can’t think of when it was.
I have always felt that I was made for another world and that I was a pilgrim in this one. Giving my life to God through Christ from my Jewish background changed my life forever. Coming further into the fullness of Christianity 18 years later in the Catholic Church deepened my relationship with God more than I knew was possible.
Still, even after these life-changing events, there remained a longing in my heart for something yet beyond this world. On Sept. 8, in the small Monastery of the Cenacle of Our Lady in Tulsa, heaven seemed to flood my heart as Bishop [Edward] Slattery received my vows and as, through that beautiful and holy shepherd of Tulsa, I gave myself to the Bridegroom of my soul.
Bishop Slattery led the ceremony, with the assistance of Father Mark Daniel Kirby, O.S.B. About 15 people were in attendance, including priests, religious brothers and sisters. The Nativity of Our Lord was brought to mind, which, like our setting in the small oratory, was a private event, with even less than 15 people in attendance. Yet the seemingly humble, private and hidden birth of our Lord resulted in the world’s savation. Our prayer is that that same Lord in the manger would be pleased to grow the seed of our humble, private beginning into a means of salvation and hope for many souls.
What influence did St. Francis de Sales have on your entrance into religious life?
My brother David, who converted to Catholicism 16 years before I did, had a small library of Catholic books. When I became Catholic, I “stole” some of his books. One of them was Introduction to the Devout Life, written by the great bishop of Geneva. At the time, I thought to myself, What need do I have for a book like this? I’ve been a Christian for 19 years. Why read a book for beginners?
Well, I did read it — and could not put it down. I went on to read nine more books by St. Francis de Sales, who helped to bring 72,000 Calvinists back into the Catholic Church through his writings, which reveal a deep understanding of humanity and the answers to all of society’s ills.
I asked Our Lady to give me this great saint as my spiritual director from heaven. Five days later I was given The Spiritual Combat by Dom Lorenzo Scupoli. I read on the back cover that this was the book St. Francis de Sales gave to all of his spiritual directees. Our Lady had answered my prayer. I was ecstatic.
This spiritual master led me to another spiritual master, whose rule we’ve adopted. St. Francis de Sales led me to St. Benedict, the “Father of Western Monasticism,” and it is the Benedictine Rule which the Daughters of Mary, Mother of Israel’s Hope will follow.
In addition to these two saints as co-patrons of the community, you also have a patroness in Our Lady of Guadalupe.
Yes, Our Lady of Guadalupe seemed to move in with us, and we are most grateful. I didn’t choose Our Lady of Guadalupe specifically as our patroness, but it seems that she chose us. We are grateful for her presence, especially in our parish in Tulsa, which has a large Hispanic population.
I delight in telling people that Our Lady of Guadalupe is Jewish. There is only one Mother of the Messiah, who appears all over the world “in different outfits.” She is indeed a mother to us and to all who will call upon her.
What is the specific charism of your community?
We’re a contemplative-active teaching and evangelistic community. A religious community must be rooted in prayer, and we are as well. Our active apostolate, however, has two main goals: The first is to walk the streets in habits, reaching out to all we meet with the love of God and the truths of his glorious Church. The second goal is to help restore the stewardship of the home by helping parents to know and live their faith and impart it to their children.
We could write an entire book about the adventures we’ve had carrying out the first part of our charism in the short time we’ve been in Tulsa. A favorite incident occurred in conversation with a 6-year-old girl about God and Jesus. The little girl paused a minute and then asked me if I were Jesus’ mommy and if I lived “up there” (in heaven) with Jesus. So precious. There are so many wonderful stories. Many people — Catholics and non-Catholics alike — ask us for prayer. Several have tears in their eyes, telling us how happy they are to see nuns in habits again.
What thrills me most, apart from being signs to God in the world and the freedom people have in approaching us, is the sense they have that they “own” us, so to speak. That is, they believe that they have free access to us, that we exist for them, that they have a right to expect us to pray for them, to help them, to be God’s arms to them in their need. It is a beautiful expectation on their part, and, to my mind, that is as it should be.
We also wish to help restore the stewardship of the home by teaching parents and helping them to teach the faith to their children. The family is the primary vehicle God has designed to build his Kingdom. If we have any doubt about that, the enemy does not. All one has to do is look around at the destruction of the family to know that marriage and the family are the enemy’s targets.
You’ve mentioned wanting to learn Gregorian chant because of its connection to “Old Covenant” worship. Could you explain that?
I’ve said many times that the most Jewish thing a Jew can do is to become Catholic. This is true not just in a general sense, but in a most detailed sense as well. There is nothing Catholic that is not rooted in the Old Testament. Our Catholic faith did not spring up out of nowhere, but out of the faith of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
This is true liturgically speaking, as we have a tabernacle, altar and priesthood in the New Covenant, similar to the Old Covenant. We also have Gregorian chant, which is rooted in Old Covenant worship. The Psalms were not merely read, but chanted in public worship of God, which Jesus himself participated in as a child.
This chant was more fully developed in the Catholic Church and became what we now refer to as Gregorian chant. I’ve listened to many types of chant, but none quite as beautiful as Gregorian.
Pope Benedict XVI has encouraged the faithful to reacquaint themselves with this chant and use it liturgically; we want to follow our Supreme Pontiff’s lead.
You also value the Mass being offered ad orientem. Why is this?
The No. 1 thing that attracted me to the Diocese of Tulsa was Bishop Edward Slattery’s decision to offer the Novus Ordo Mass ad orientem, that is, facing east, liturgically speaking. It is the posture of the shepherd leading the people to Christ and has been the case for centuries.
You, in turn, aspire to bring Christ to the world, right?
I’ve been blessed with the glorious gift of the Catholic faith, and I have no other reason to exist but to tell the world of Christ and his Church. The world is hungry for God, and we desire more than anything else to bring God to the world through the joyful presence of habited sisters who love God and who live to reach out to every soul — rich and poor, young and old — with “the faith once delivered to the saints.”
Words from the sermon of Pope Benedict on Christmas eve ...
There once was a best-selling book about Jesus called The Greatest Story Ever Told. Of course, there is no more amazing story, but since most of us are so familiar with it, we don’t think of it as an amazing story. These words from the sermon of Pope Benedict on Christmas eve can give us a fresh approach:
Dear Brothers and Sisters!
The reading from Saint Paul’s Letter to Titus that we have just heard begins solemnly with the word "apparuit", which then comes back again in the reading at the Dawn Mass: apparuit – "there has appeared". This is a programmatic word, by which the Church seeks to express synthetically the essence of Christmas.
Formerly, people had spoken of God and formed human images of him in all sorts of different ways. God himself had spoken in many and various ways to mankind (cf. Heb 1:1 – Mass during the Day). But now something new has happened: he has appeared. He has revealed himself. He has emerged from the inaccessible light in which he dwells. He himself has come into our midst. This was the great joy of Christmas for the early Church: God has appeared. No longer is he merely an idea, no longer do we have to form a picture of him on the basis of mere words. He has "appeared". But now we ask: how has he appeared? Who is he in reality? The reading at the Dawn Mass goes on to say: "the kindness and love of God our Saviour for mankind were revealed" (Tit 3:4).
For the people of pre-Christian times, whose response to the terrors and contradictions of the world was to fear that God himself might not be good either, that he too might well be cruel and arbitrary, this was a real "epiphany", the great light that has appeared to us: God is pure goodness.
Today too, people who are no longer able to recognize God through faith are asking whether the ultimate power that underpins and sustains the world is truly good, or whether evil is just as powerful and primordial as the good and the beautiful which we encounter in radiant moments in our world. "The kindness and love of God our Saviour for mankind were revealed": this is the new, consoling certainty that is granted to us at Christmas.
In all three Christmas Masses, the liturgy quotes a passage from the Prophet Isaiah, which describes the epiphany that took place at Christmas in greater detail: "A child is born for us, a son given to us and dominion is laid on his shoulders; and this is the name they give him: Wonder-Counsellor, Mighty-God, Eternal-Father, Prince-of-Peace. Wide is his dominion in a peace that has no end" (Is 9:5f.).
Whether the prophet had a particular child in mind, born during his own period of history, we do not know. But it seems impossible. This is the only text in the Old Testament in which it is said of a child, of a human being: his name will be Mighty-God, Eternal-Father. We are presented with a vision that extends far beyond the historical moment into the mysterious, into the future. A child, in all its weakness, is Mighty God. A child, in all its neediness and dependence, is Eternal Father. And his peace "has no end". The prophet had previously described the child as "a great light" and had said of the peace he would usher in that the rod of the oppressor, the footgear of battle, every cloak rolled in blood would be burned (Is 9:1, 3-4).
God has appeared – as a child. It is in this guise that he pits himself against all violence and brings a message that is peace. At this hour, when the world is continually threatened by violence in so many places and in so many different ways, when over and over again there are oppressors’ rods and bloodstained cloaks, we cry out to the Lord: O mighty God, you have appeared as a child and you have revealed yourself to us as the One who loves us, the One through whom love will triumph. And you have shown us that we must be peacemakers with you.
We love your childish estate, your powerlessness, but we suffer from the continuing presence of violence in the world, and so we also ask you: manifest your power, O God. In this time of ours, in this world of ours, cause the oppressors’ rods, the cloaks rolled in blood and the footgear of battle to be burned, so that your peace may triumph in this world of ours.
Christmas is an epiphany – the appearing of God and of his great light in a child that is born for us. Born in a stable in Bethlehem, not in the palaces of kings. In 1223, when Saint Francis of Assisi celebrated Christmas in Greccio with an ox and an ass and a manger full of hay, a new dimension of the mystery of Christmas came to light. Saint Francis of Assisi called Christmas "the feast of feasts" – above all other feasts – and he celebrated it with "unutterable devotion" (2 Celano 199; Fonti Francescane, 787). He kissed images of the Christ-child with great devotion and he stammered tender words such as children say, so Thomas of Celano tells us (ibid.).
For the early Church, the feast of feasts was Easter: in the Resurrection Christ had flung open the doors of death and in so doing had radically changed the world: he had made a place for man in God himself. Now, Francis neither changed nor intended to change this objective order of precedence among the feasts, the inner structure of the faith centred on the Paschal Mystery. And yet through him and the character of his faith, something new took place: Francis discovered Jesus’ humanity in an entirely new depth. This human existence of God became most visible to him at the moment when God’s Son, born of the Virgin Mary, was wrapped in swaddling clothes and laid in a manger.
The Resurrection presupposes the Incarnation. For God’s Son to take the form of a child, a truly human child, made a profound impression on the heart of the Saint of Assisi, transforming faith into love. "The kindness and love of God our Saviour for mankind were revealed" – this phrase of Saint Paul now acquired an entirely new depth. In the child born in the stable at Bethlehem, we can as it were touch and caress God. And so the liturgical year acquired a second focus in a feast that is above all a feast of the heart. This has nothing to do with sentimentality. It is right here, in this new experience of the reality of Jesus’ humanity that the great mystery of faith is revealed. Francis loved the child Jesus, because for him it was in this childish estate that God’s humility shone forth. God became poor. His Son was born in the poverty of the stable. In the child Jesus, God made himself dependent, in need of human love, he put himself in the position of asking for human love – our love. Today Christmas has become a commercial celebration, whose bright lights hide the mystery of God’s humility, which in turn calls us to humility and simplicity. Let us ask the Lord to help us see through the superficial glitter of this season, and to discover behind it the child in the stable in Bethlehem, so as to find true joy and true light.
Francis arranged for Mass to be celebrated on the manger that stood between the ox and the ass (cf. 1 Celano 85; Fonti 469). Later, an altar was built over this manger, so that where animals had once fed on hay, men could now receive the flesh of the spotless lamb Jesus Christ, for the salvation of soul and body, as Thomas of Celano tells us (cf. 1 Celano 87; Fonti 471). Francis himself, as a deacon, had sung the Christmas Gospel on the holy night in Greccio with resounding voice. Through the friars’ radiant Christmas singing, the whole celebration seemed to be a great outburst of joy (1 Celano 85.86; Fonti 469, 470). It was the encounter with God’s humility that caused this joy – his goodness creates the true feast.
Today, anyone wishing to enter the Church of Jesus’ Nativity in Bethlehem will find that the doorway five and a half metres high, through which emperors and caliphs used to enter the building, is now largely walled up. Only a low opening of one and a half metres has remained. The intention was probably to provide the church with better protection from attack, but above all to prevent people from entering God’s house on horseback. Anyone wishing to enter the place of Jesus’ birth has to bend down. It seems to me that a deeper truth is revealed here, which should touch our hearts on this holy night: if we want to find the God who appeared as a child, then we must dismount from the high horse of our "enlightened" reason. We must set aside our false certainties, our intellectual pride, which prevents us from recognizing God’s closeness. We must follow the interior path of Saint Francis – the path leading to that ultimate outward and inward simplicity which enables the heart to see. We must bend down, spiritually we must as it were go on foot, in order to pass through the portal of faith and encounter the God who is so different from our prejudices and opinions – the God who conceals himself in the humility of a newborn baby. In this spirit let us celebrate the liturgy of the holy night, let us strip away our fixation on what is material, on what can be measured and grasped. Let us allow ourselves to be made simple by the God who reveals himself to the simple of heart. And let us also pray especially at this hour for all who have to celebrate Christmas in poverty, in suffering, as migrants, that a ray of God’s kindness may shine upon them, that they – and we – may be touched by the kindness that God chose to bring into the world through the birth of his Son in a stable. Amen.
Melvin by Fr. Eckley Macklin, SOLT
When I was in elementary school Melvin used to sit in back of me and poke me during class. I don’t know why he did it because I never did anything to Melvin. In the beginning I had no feelings about Melvin one way or the other, but after a while I did not like Melvin.
My family moved to another part of the city and for a few years I forgot about Melvin and his back poking. But then I went to Junior high School and guess who had a seat right behind me again, Melvin. Unfortunately, he began where he had left off and resumed hitting me in the back during class. By this time, I hated Melvin.
One day, when the teacher left the room and Melvin started, I told him that if he poked me one more time, I was going to knock his head off. He did and I did. Later on at the playground I heard someone say with pleasure, “there’s that kid that beat up Melvin.” When I heard that and the tone of voice with which it was said, all the hatred I had felt for Melvin left me and I felt as if a great stone had rolled off my back. It suddenly became clear to me that nobody liked Melvin and he had no friends. Maybe he was just trying to get my attention. My hatred for Melvin had done nothing to him. It was me that it had hurt.
At that moment I resolved never again to hate anyone, no matter what he or she did to me. There are still a few people who figuratively seem to enjoy poking me in the back. I still don’t like it. However, I do not hate them. I feel sorry for them in much the same way I felt sorry for Melvin that day on the playground. And I pray for them because I truly want them to go to Heaven. I hope that, although they refuse to be my friend on earth, we will be friends in heaven. I also hope that I go to Heaven and that Melvin goes to Heaven, because when I see him there I’m going to reach out my hand to him and say “Melvin, please forgive me for hating you when I was a child. Let’s be friends for the rest of eternity.”
Tim Ohmes is a revert back to the Catholic Church from The-Church-of His-Own-Self-Made-Doctrines.
"Can a mother forget her infant, be without tenderness for the child of her womb? Even should she forget, I will never forget you." Is 49:15
My mother died when I was 5. Her death shattered my world. I'm sure she never forgot us but I felt forgotten. I was one of seven. My father later married a widow of 4 and had 4 more for a total of 15 children. In the town where we grew up, this was way too many children.
We were Catholic in a town that believed Catholics got it all wrong. I was a social misfit. I was often told, "You know all you Catholics are going to hell don't you?" Our prayer life consisted of Mass, Stations of the Cross and reciting formal memorized prayers (like the rosary). I usually spent the time "counting down" the prayers rather than actually praying. I paid little attention to the words. I knew nothing of the Bible. I was poorly catechized and poorly formed, but God had not forgotten about me.
In an English literature book, I found a short piece about love. I found it to be so beautiful and brilliantly written I wrote it down in an empty notebook so I could come back and read it again. It began, "Love is patient, love is kind" and was attributed to St. Paul's letter to the Corinthians. I had no idea this was from the Bible. I began collecting other quotes in this notebook over the next few years. I also discovered I had a talent for singing. I found it gave me a way to relieve tension and also gain some social acceptance. My Father even gave me a guitar for Christmas my senior year in high school. God was going to use these later.
After graduating from high school I joined the Navy, which proceeded to erode what little faith I had left. I met up with many who questioned my faith. I wouldn't directly deny Jesus, but I would not defend Him either. I knew of no way to defend the Church. I never prayed and I quit going to Mass completely. If I ever mentioned the size of my family, it only triggered derisive comments.
I began to develop a very cynical view of life. I lived with a Satanist, new agers, lapsed Protestants, lapsed Catholics, hedonists, "bible thumpers" (who I avoided) and the rare faithful Catholic. I fell deeper and deeper into sin, especially sins of the flesh. I accepted the contraceptive mentality that believed sex was for fun and not for children. I was very far from God and I was going the wrong direction. The only thing left uncorrupted was my interest in music. God (I realize this now) used music to call me back. One of my Catholic friends invited me to play at a guitar Mass with his wife and several attractive young ladies. The lure of the women got me into Church and the love of music kept me there. I was in Church for the wrong reason, but I was there. I was not paying attention to the Mass and I was not saying the prayers, but I believe it was St. Augustine who first stated, "He who sings prays twice". The guitar mass lyrics from the mid- seventies were not exactly full of deep theological insight but they did contain some simple prayers. I continued to play at Mass when I could until my discharge.
On leaving the Navy, I then entered college to study music. But, I was a 24 year old Vietnam vet entering college as a freshman and this was a poor fit. After my military experience, I found I wanted more than the superficial life of a college campus. After a year of studying music, I dropped out. Again, God used my love of music to attract me back to Church. My sister's new husband was the music director at a local parish. They convinced me to start playing in Church. I had not attended Mass since leaving the Navy but now, my music had me going again. I joined a guitar group first and later the choir. Now, the songs were much better, and the lyrics were much more refined and thoughtful. I found I could "get into" this music much better than I had before. I did not realize it then, but it was because the songs were based on Scripture. Within a year I was practicing for and singing 3 masses every weekend (plus Holy days). That is a lot of "praying twice".
I was still a very nominal Catholic. I was very modern and modernist. I was willing to try anything new and was always ready to discard anything I viewed as "old", "traditional" or "authoritarian", and I felt that way about much that the Church taught. I did NOT believe in Hell. I especially did not believe in Satan or demons.
I was also very lonely. I went from one empty relationship to another. I realized I was incapable of commitment. I tried reading self-help books. I joined various single groups and organizations. I even reread my old notebook and read that quote on love. Then one Sunday, I did something I had never tried before. I prayed for God to show me how to love. Nothing happened, but I continued praying anyway. God gave me an opportunity at every Mass I attended to offer my special intentions, at every Mass I offered the same one, and I was doing music in 3 Masses every weekend (plus Holy days). That's a lot of special intentions. Years passed. I was about to accept that I would be single all my life when God answered my prayers and I met the lady who was to become my wife. She was almost exactly everything I was not. She was a very devout Catholic. Prayer for her was as easy as a conversation. She was very close to her family yet she was one of 9 children. I fell in love with her almost immediately but it took me awhile to convince her that I was the right guy. The fact that I was doing three Masses every weekend (plus Holy days) did help. We married a year later.
Marriage very much agreed with me. I was 31 years old and had a beautiful wife who was all I had dreamed of and I wanted it to last forever. There was only one problem. She wanted to have 12 children. I wanted none. She would not use the pill so we used Natural Family Planning. I was not a believer in the system; but went along with her stronger faith. Eventually, I gave in; we tried for a baby and were immediately successful. She was delighted and I was not. The pregnancy and birth went smoothly and my first daughter was born. I was caught up in the wonder of the moment and decided that this was O.K.. I mean, most of our friends had a child and they are cute in their own simple way. The year passed and we were careless. When the baby was 9 months old my wife became pregnant again. This upset me. I was not ready to have another baby. This pregnancy was difficult; at about 5 months, my wife began bleeding and had to be hospitalized. Her fear and tears of losing the baby made me regret my anger and I resolved to accept this baby too.
But things were no longer going well. My job was becoming more demanding of my time and energy. Our house was too small and we could not save enough to buy a new one. My wife could not get a job which would pay enough to even cover child care costs. I had to remodel the old house we were living in and sell it for enough to make a larger home affordable. I knew it would be hard but we could do it. All my spare time and money were spent towards to finishing the house.
Then we had our third baby. Now work, church, and remodel consumed all of my time. My wife and I only had two arguments, "You don't spend enough time with the children", and "Let's have another one." I was starting to feel my life was out of control and my faith was too weak to know why.
I was discontented with life and my discontent drove me to search for answers. I began doing spiritual reading. I had trouble reading Scripture. The terms and language were just incomprehensible to me. But, I did begin to read commentaries and discussions about the Scriptures. I began to feel a strange solidarity with St. Peter. I mean, here was a professional fisherman who, unless Jesus was around, seemed unable to catch fish or keep his boat from sinking. He walked on water (briefly). Jesus called him Satan. He promised Jesus he would not abandon Him, pulled a sword to defend Him, and then denied he even knew Him all in one night. And yet, Jesus didn't fire him. In fact, He put Peter in charge. I didn't know what Peter had, but I wanted it.
Then, one night, in a dream, I was trapped in a room far from the door. The floor was disintegrating. Beneath the floor was a deep black pit, from which I could sense a terrifying evil presence. I had no where to go, the gap was far too wide to jump, and the piece I was standing on was crumbling away. Then the door on the far side opened, and some men entered with bricks, mortar, and tools and began to repair the floor. I wondered who they were and I heard a voice reply, "That is Jesus and the Apostles." I watched them and wondered, "Which one is Peter?" As soon as I said "Peter" one man's head shot up. He had the most ordinary, plain and unattractive face I had ever seen. His eyes met mine and he pierced me with a look of complete and utter contempt. I was shocked. All the others finished their work, picked up their tools, and left the room while Peter glared at me. Then, silently, he turned, left the room and closed the door. All I could ask was, "What was that about?" The same voice as before kindly but sadly said, "You could have asked 'Which one was Jesus?'." I woke up crying and cried the rest of the night.
I realized my focus was on me and not on Jesus. I decided it was time to start praying. I still wasn't sure about that "old" Catholic stuff but, at my wife's suggestion, I decided to try to pray the rosary. My job involved a lot of driving so I began praying the rosary as I drove between jobs. I mostly just said the prayers without much thought, but I noticed occasionally, when I had a moment of understanding, I would get a little tingle at the base of my skull. Sometimes it would travel down my spine into my shoulders. I began to think of them as the Holy Spirit giving me feedback to let me know when I had understood something correctly.
One evening, while I was reading, my wife (who I thought was sleeping) suddenly began crying. I feared I had done something wrong ( again) but she was crying like I had never seen her cry. It was several minutes before she could control herself enough to explain. She had been praying and she had asked for a glimpse of what Heaven was like, and received the lightest caress that filled her with the greatest love and "the peace that surpasses all understanding" that she had ever known. She was unable to describe it but she said she would be willing to go through anything to feel it again. It was very intense and intimate experience for both of us. I have no doubt that God gave her this "touch of Heaven" to strengthen her for the hell I was about to put her through.
I had been making progress on the house nicely when one morning about a month later; my wife delightedly announced that she was pregnant with our fourth child. I was devastated. I blamed her for not tracking her fertility properly and wanting to get pregnant against my will. MY ANGER against her was the opening for a spiritual attack. This was the first Monday of Lent, and the start of the most significant week of my life. I went to work angry. All day, I argued internally about what I should do. I seemed to have other voices in my head showing me how my anger was justified. I came home seething but I said nothing. I gave my wife the "silent treatment". She tried to talk but I would not respond. I wanted her to know how unreasonable she was about wanting "so many children". I wanted to hold on to my anger to teach her a lesson. Paul gives a warning about anger in his letter to the Ephesians (4: 26-27), "do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity for the devil." It would have been a good warning to heed but I wasn't worried about devils. I didn't believe they existed.
Tuesday and Wednesday were much the same. Always the voices would twist incidents of our marriage to show how I was being manipulated and had been made the fool by my wife and MY CHILDREN. I could not pray. The voices gave me no peace. My dreams were all nightmares but I still felt justified in my anger.
I had choir practice Wednesday evening and went early. I was able to pray before the tabernacle in the chapel next to the choir room and for the first time in days the voices were silenced and choir practice went well. I told my wife we needed to talk, but I got a late call out for work, got into a confrontation with a customer and by the time I got home I was in a rage.
Thursday was awful. I was chewed out by the boss, threatened with being fired, and handed several bad jobs. My anger grew to unbelievable proportions. The whole world seemed to be against me. I hated everything and everyone. I could hardly control my rage; everything set the "voices" off in my head. I felt I was going insane. What little sleep I got was filled with nightmares of the voices.
Early Friday morning, my wife miscarried. She was crushed and I could feel nothing. She said, "Well, you ought to be happy now. I lost the baby." Now the voices were filled with total hatred. I was now mad at God for punishing me for something that was not my fault. Friday was pure living HELL. I quit trying to think and just worked. It was all I could do. I could not have conversations. I could barely speak. I completely gave up trying to pray.
After work, I was determined to continue with the remodel. I needed to cut a hole in the floor of our bedroom closet to access the bathroom plumbing. It was a quick job, with a tool called a Sawzall which, with the right blade, can cut through the floor, nails and all. My wife wanted to go to the Stations of the Cross. I told her to go but I had to work to do. I got out my tools and sat down on our bed which was next to closet where I was to cut the hole.
Before leaving, my wife asked me if I loved her anymore. All I could say was, "I don't love anyone or anything right now." Which was true, I was consumed with anger. She walked away and gathered the kids to leave. Unexpectedly, my 20 month old daughter ran in gave me a hug and a kiss and ran back out. Then they left, and I truly felt our marriage left with them. My heart was breaking. I lay back onto the bed. The room was spinning, and my body felt heavy. I kept trying to force myself to get up and work, but I could not even lift my hands. The voices continued their attacks. Everything I thought about they turned into something repulsive. It felt like a great weight was crushing me into the bed. My heart was pounding painfully and my head felt like it was going to explode. I felt I was about to die.
Then something new happened. I thought of my baby's hug and the voices tried to attack her, but their accusations rang hollow. The baby was innocent. She could have done nothing to me; her love was pure. I thought of my earlier words that I didn't love anyone and realized that I loved my baby. I wanted to love my baby. I wanted to love my wife and my children no matter what they may have done, but now it was too late. God finally cracked my hard heart. I saw how terribly wrong I had been all along. I could see how my pride and selfishness was destroying everything. I wasn't ready to die, but I felt I was near death. I was completely exhausted. In tears, I said, "Jesus, I'm sorry, I can't fight any more. I give up. I don't want to die, but if I have to, please take me."
Then, Jesus took me.
When I gave up, the "voices" stopped. I was lost in a terrifying nothingness for a few moments. Then I received, "Seal your eyes until it is over." This may sound strange but it was not a voice and it was not a command or request, it was a fact. My eyes closed tightly and in fear I began to pray the Lord's Prayer. As I prayed, "Our Father", I had a brief flash of the full meaning of God's fatherhood and I felt a tingle go down my spine. I prayed, "Who art in Heaven." Again I had a flash of the incredible beauty of Heaven, and another tingle. It was if the words were written on a window pane and as soon as I read them, I would look through the glass and see their true meaning. Then, I would be pulled into that reality through the prayer and every time I could feel it enter me as a tingle. "Hallowed be thy name". I received a brief view of God's awesome holiness, and another powerful tingle. Every few words I was shown more and every time the tingles would push further into me. They were like waves, moving down my body until they reached the ends of my fingers and toes and reflected back. The reflected wave would collide with the next one and send ripples out in every direction. I did not want to stop praying. I went from one prayer to another, always being pulled deeper and deeper into the reality of God. I was completely overawed and lost within the Beauty. The Mercy is deep. The Joy is immense. The Love is infinite.
I was vaguely aware that the weight that had been pressing me down was gone and I seemed to be floating above the bed yet at the same time I was laying very heavily on the bed with no feeling at all. I seemed to be in both places at once. I was aware of nothing else but praying and those wonderful tingles. Gradually, they began to subside, and I could feel myself float (if that is the proper term) back down to the bed. I continued to pray, but I could feel that a crisis had passed; the intensity of the tingles lessened and finally stopped. Eventually, I rolled over in bed, then knelt down and said some intense prayers of thanks. I did not understand what had just happened, but I knew God had given me a tremendous grace. My clothes were soaked in sweat and the bed where I laid was wet also. I was physically exhausted.
I heard my wife come home and I heard her tell the kids to stay back. I saw her slowly open the door and look at me anxiously. I looked up at her and said, "I'm back. It's over." We put the kids to bed and had a long talk. God worked a lot of healing.
We had several realizations of how God works over the next several weeks.
First, when my wife left for Stations, she decided she was never coming back. Later she realized she had to return at least to get clothing and necessities. Near the end of stations she began to fear that if she returned she would find me dead. After stations she felt certain that I was dying. She told the kids to pray very hard for Daddy. She prayed, saying in effect, "Jesus, if Tim has to die, I will accept that, but You have to take him. Please don't let him go to hell." She did not realize it at the time, but the Blessed Sacrament was exposed for adoration following Stations. My wife had never been to adoration.
Second, the baby we lost was probably conceived the night my wife had had her "touch of Heaven" experience. I spit in God's face and He still forgave me. That is Love. Third, I still needed to cut a whole in the floor but I wondered if there would be a better place than the closet. We had a cabinet in the bathroom with a built in hamper. After removing the hamper, I discovered a hole already cut into the floor. I did not need to cut a hole. Later, while working on the plumbing under the house, I kept hitting my head on a pipe that should not have been there. Curious, I traced it out and found it to be an unknown pressurized gas line. It ran over to the bedroom was clamped to two by fours directly under our bedroom closet. Taped to the line were two wires. They were energized. Had I tried to cut through the floor, I would surely have cut through the gas line, possibly in two places, and would have cut into the live circuit. The saw I would have used had metal body and the ground lug had broken off the plug. There were a lot of ways I could have died, if I had just tried to cut that hole on that Friday night. God does truly work in mysterious ways.
Fourth, my wife intended to take my children out of the house to go to stations without having my children say goodbye. She was afraid I would have been cruel toward them. The baby pulled away from her and ran back to kiss me entirely on her own. I am still amazed how God can use such small acts of love.
A Christian musician named Michael Card has written a song called "The Spirit of the Age". He had some profound lines concerning the devil and children.
"Every age has heard it, a voice that speaks from Hell Sacrifice your children, and for you it will be well. If he can stop the cradle, then he can stop the cross, He knows that once the child is born, his every hope is lost."
Children are a gift from God to help us grow up.
I had prayed long before for God to show me how to love. He answered my prayers by giving me the cross of raising children. Once I died to myself and accepted the cross God had given me, I discovered the joy of bearing that cross. I discovered the self-sacrificial nature of love. In Jesus words, "If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me" (Luke 9:23). Yes, my children are certainly a cross I have to pick up and carry every day. But they are also the only earthly good I can have here that will also last for eternity. They are a very great good indeed.
At the end of John's Gospel, After Jesus has had Peter affirm Him three times, Jesus says to Peter;
"Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were young, you girded yourself and walked where you would; but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will gird you, and carry you where you do not wish to go." (This he said to show by what death he was to glorify God.) And after this he said to him; "Follow me."
Jesus has girded me, he has taken me where I did not want to go. I now know joy I never could have imagined.
Looking back on my life, I can see how prayer was aiding me all the way, but they weren't my prayers for the most part. When I attended Mass, even though I wasn't praying but I'm sure many others were. The Mass contains the Eucharistic Prayer, which is a prayer of blessing and a call to conversion. Good liturgical music is definitely a form of prayer and for me it is the most natural. My wife and children prayed for me before the Blessed Sacrament and that has much to do with why I am here now. Prayers of children are very powerful, that is why the devil fears them. Reading and meditating on Scripture was another form of prayer I was not even aware of. Praying the rosary was more powerful than I realized. I wasn't paying much attention to the words, "pray for us now and at the hour of our death" but I can guarantee you the Blessed Mother was.
Have you ever noticed that in most of the Church's formal prayers, the petitions are in the plural form? "Lord, have mercy on US", "forgive us OUR trespasses", "pray for US sinners", "at the hour of OUR death", the Church's prayers are communal, we seldom pray only for ourselves. And when we pray, we never pray alone. Even if we aren't praying we can be assured that the Saints in Heaven are. I have no doubt my mother never stopped praying for me, even after her death. But even if she forgot me, I know God never did.
Scripture tells us in the first letter from Peter, "Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that in due time he may exalt you. Cast all your anxieties on him, for He cares about you. Be sober, be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking some one to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same experience of suffering is required of your brotherhood throughout the whole world. And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself, restore, establish, and strengthen you. To Him be the dominion forever and ever. Amen." 1Pet 5: 6-11
My wife has given birth to seven children. Sadly, we have lost eight through miscarriage. Counting miscarriages (and they do count) we have had 15. Three more than my wife wanted, and same number I experienced growing up. The children are a great joy to us. It has been a difficult struggle at times, but somehow things manage to work out. I still wonder if I am crazy for what I have become, BUT I trust God to help me and guide me. I have felt His holiness, His Justice, His mercy, and most importantly His love. My life belongs to Him, and I mean that very literally. I don't know what His plans are for me or my family, but I know He does.
What more could I hope for?
May God bless you, Tim Ohmes
Tim is still undergoing the wonderful and sometimes difficult process of getting out of God's way. He lives in the windy Texas Panhandle with his seven children, one grandchild (so far) and his fantastic and amazing wife, Rozanne. He will occasionally guest blog at www.gardenofholiness.blogspot.com.
The Way of the Pilgrimess - The Story of Sister Magnificat, as told to Dr. Ronda Chervin
This audio is a reading by Kathleen Brouillette, a student at Holy Apostles College and Seminary and also a Coordinator of of Religious Education at the Church of St. Mary, the Immaculate Conception, Connecticut.
If you want to see a tiny video of Sister Magnificat painting icons, go to www.ccwatershed.org and click on Projects and keep scrolling down until you find on the second bunch of project Icons of Sister Magnificat.
Former Britney Spears Backup Singer Saves Baby From Abortion - by Kelly Clinger | Washington, DC | LifeNews.com | 10/7/11 1:03 PM
I’ve been putting off getting my hair done for a while because it’s hard for me to rationalize spending the money AND spending 2 hours being still. (I know, first world problem!) ☺ But, alas, my roots were quite blond so I scheduled an appointment for today. I’ve been battling the blues for a few days and would probably have stayed in bed had it not been for the appointment. I walked in and took a seat while I waited for my stylist to come get me. I can’t even make up what happened next. On the other side of the wall, I heard this conversation:
Girl #1: “Well, I’ve always been pro-choice, especially if there’s something wrong.” ((I look around for candid camera.)) Girl#2: “Yeah I’ve been sick for a month. I just don’t think I can do this if there’s something wrong with the baby.” ((After I get over my shock, I begin to pray. I thought I was here to get my hair colored, but apparently You have other plans, Jesus.)) Girl #1: “I think you did the right thing by making the appointment. It’s harder to talk yourself out of it once you have a time to get it done. Will your husband drive you?” ((HUSBAND??)) Girl #2: “No, he doesn’t know I’ve been thinking about abortion. I think I will just tell him I had a miscarriage.” ((Here we go!)) As I round the corner with my “Pray to end abortion” t-shirt and my LIFE band, I felt the Holy Spirit say, “meekness and kindness, Kelly”, and I thanked Him for the reminder. Me: “I couldn’t help but overhear what you guys were talking about and I’ve never felt stronger in my life that I was put in this room by God.” ((Their mouths drop open, and they just stare at me. I take a deep breath.)) Me: “I don’t know if you know God, but He knows your baby. He already has his or her life planned out. He gave you that baby and believed that life would be safe in your womb. PLEASE don’t do what I did many years ago. Please don’t kill your baby.” ((30 seconds of silence ensued that felt like an hour…and then they both start to cry.)) Girl #2: “But they think my baby has Down Syndrome. I don’t know how to care for a retarded child.” Me: “Your child isn’t retarded. Your child may have special needs that will be a challenge. But the joy that child will bring you will overshadow EVERYTHING else.” ((I had the Loux’s and Mattie’s homecoming fresh in my mind. So I took out my phone and started to show her pictures of him.)) Me: “Look at that baby’s smile. He has so much love. If you don’t think you can provide that, please don’t take your baby’s life away. Let someone else love him/her. I would love your baby like my own.” ((She begins to weep and takes my hand.)) Girl #2: “He’s mine. I know he’s mine. I can’t do it. God will help me.” ((I cried and prayed with her.)) I sat for the 2 hours with a grateful heart and didn’t mind it much. Before Girl #2 left the salon, she came over to thank me and said she was a walk-in. She doesn’t even get her hair cut there. Honestly, I was terrified to stand up and say something. My heart was almost beating out of my chest, but I did it anyway….and I think me and Jesus (and Mattie) may have saved a baby today. And THAT’S a good day. #OverwhelmedWithHisKindness LifeNews.com Note: Kelly Clinger is a pro-life advocate who is a former background vocalist for Britney Spears and had two abortions before becoming a Christian at age 25. She now is married to Matt Clinger and has two children, Evin (age 15) and Logan (age 9). Clinger is a spokeswoman for the Silent No More Awareness Campaign.
Another Amazing Story:
A mother tells of her misery when she found out her child would be mentally disabled with Downs Syndrome. She was depressed for a few years. Then she had two other babies in fine health. She claims that she realized gradually that the Down’s Syndrome child was the most loving all the time and a great gift to the entire family. She still thinks this now when he is 45 years old!
Irena Sendler - Died--12 May 2008 (aged 98), Warsaw, Poland
During WWII, Irena, got permission to work in the Warsaw ghetto, as a Plumbing/Sewer specialist. She had an 'ulterior motive'. She KNEW what the Nazi's plans were for the Jews (being German). Irena smuggled infants out in the bottom of the tool box she carried and she carried in the back of her truck a burlap sack, (for larger kids). She also had a dog in the back that she trained to bark when the Nazi soldiers let her in and out of the ghetto. The soldiers of course wanted nothing to do with the dog and the barking covered the kids/infants noises. During her time of doing this, she managed to smuggle out and save 2500 kids/infants. She was caught, and the Nazi's broke both her legs, arms and beat her severely. Irena kept a record of the names of all the kids she smuggled out and kept them in a glass jar, buried under a tree in her back yard. After the war, she tried to locate any parents that may have survived it and reunited the family. Most had been gassed. Those kids she helped got placed into foster family homes or adopted. In 2007 Irena was up for the Nobel Peace Prize. She was not selected. Al Gore won --- for a slide show on Global Warming. Later another politician, Barack Hussein Obama, won for his work as a community organizer for ACORN. In MEMORIAM - 65 YEARS LATER I'm doing my small part by forwarding this message. I hope you'll consider doing the same.. It is now more than 65 years since the Second World War in Europe ended. This e-mail is being sent as a memorial chain, in memory of the six million Jews, 20 million Russians, 10 million Christians and 1,900 Catholic priests who were murdered, massacred, raped, burned, starved and humiliated! Now, more than ever, with Iran , and others, claiming the HOLOCAUST to be 'a myth'. It's imperative to make sure the world never forgets, because there are others who would like to do it again.
From Ellen Marie Colopy
After being a new parishioner of St. Andrew in Colchester, Connecticut for nearly a year, I was invited to attend a "Women's ACTS Retreat" to be held at Immaculata Retreat House in Willmantic, CT. … so despite my fractured tibia, which had been healing a couple months, I thought that I could go and enjoy the weekend. It turned out to be a wonderful experience with fellow parishioners. My luggage and I were transported from the St. Andrew's parking lot to Immaculata Retreat Center in a seemingly easy way. In fact, the whole weekend was very pleasant. There was incredible kindness by the team of people, who made it all happen, and incredible real sharing of Catholic faith journeys. What a delight!
As a very long time AlAnon member, at last, I had found the Catholic faith support counterpart. [Note from Dr. Ronda: from talking to others who made this ACTS retreat, I think that she means a place where people can be open and honest instead of trying to look better than we are, as can happen in some other groups.]
Since the retreat there has been a reunion and monthly follow-up faith sharing meetings following an evening mass. Months later, I am stunned by the generosity and thoughtfulness of the many handouts, gifts and treasures I received that weekend. I have kept many of them in one of the gift bags I received that weekend and can sit and reflect on the kindnesses of my new friends, who also share my Catholic faith. Email addresses and phone numbers distributed that weekend, have made staying in touch easy. Even team photos were given out, so recognizing these lovely people back at St. Andrew's makes it easy to recognize them again at mass or church functions.
I can't say enough positive things about the positive energy and even music. It was a fun weekend as well as spiritually moving. I'm so glad that I went!
"The purpose of the weekend is to develop in the retreat a new or deeper relationship with our Lord and with fellow parishioners through:
Adoration and daily prayers; experience of community in one's parish as a member of the Body of Christ; understanding of theology and the teachings of Catholic faith by encouraging study of God's word; and development of an awareness of service to our Lord, our parish and one another."
HA TRANG, Vietnam: Sitting cross-legged on a straw mat in the middle of the living room, Tong Phuoc Phuc sings a soothing Vietnamese lullaby. For a moment, his deep voice works magic, and the tiny room crammed with 13 babies is still. Phuc giggles like a proud papa. He’s not related to any of them, but without him, many of these children likely would have been aborted. And to Phuc, abortion is unimaginable. The 41-year-old Catholic from the coastal town of Nha Trang has opened his door to unwed expectant mothers in a country that logs one of the world’s highest abortion rates. In 2006, there were more than 114,000 abortions at state hospitals in Ho Chi Minh City outnumbering births. Most pregnant, unmarried Vietnamese women have few options. Abortion is a welcome choice for many who simply cannot afford to care for a baby or are unwilling to risk being disowned by their families. The communist government calls premarital sex a “social evil.” Abortion, however, is legal and performed at nearly every hospital. And unlike in some Western countries where the issue is hotly contested, the practice stirs little debate here. But shelters for women who want to keep their babies are rare. Phuc promises them food and a roof until they give birth, and then cares for the children until the mothers can afford to take them. In the past four years, he’s taken in 60 kids, with about half still living in his two houses.
“Sometimes we have 10 mothers living here … sleeping on the floor,” says Phuc, a thin man with dark, weathered skin and teeth stained brown from years of smoking. “The problem is that a lot of young people live together and have sex, but they have no knowledge about getting pregnant. So they get abortions.” Phuc says he made a deal with God seven years ago when his wife encountered complications while in labor with their son. He vowed that if they were spared, he would find a way to help others. As his wife lay recuperating after the difficult birth, he recalls seeing many pregnant women going into the delivery room but always leaving alone. “I was wondering, ‘where are the babies?’” he says, cradling an infant in each arm. “Then I realized they had abortions.” Phuc, a building contractor, started saving money to buy a craggy plot of land outside town. He then began collecting unwanted fetuses from hospitals and clinics to bury in graves on the property. At first, doctors and neighbors thought he had gone mad. Even his wife questioned spending their savings to build a cemetery for aborted babies. But he kept on, and now some 7,000 tiny plots dot the shady hillside, many marked with bright red, pink and yellow artificial roses. “I believe these fetuses have souls,” says Phuc, who has two children of his own. “And I don’t want them to be wandering souls.” Vietnam was ranked as having the world’s highest abortion rate in a 1999 report by the U.S.-based Guttmacher Institute, which tracks the statistics. More recent reliable data for both public and private clinics are unavailable. Aid agency Pathfinder International says abortions remain high in Vietnam but appear to be declining slightly. Dr. Vo Thi Kim Loan has run her own clinic just outside Ho Chi Minh City since 1991. She says the number of young, unmarried women seeking quick, discreet abortions has increased with more teen girls having sex before marriage. She also still sees a steady stream of married women coming in for repeat abortions because their husbands disapprove of contraceptives. Preference for boys is another factor. Vietnamese women with access to ultrasound sometimes terminate pregnancies after discovering they’re carrying girls in a country where couples are encouraged to have just two children. Phuc isn’t sure why so many Vietnamese choose abortion and says more women need to understand safer forms of birth control are available. He says word of his unusual graveyard eventually spread, and women who had undergone abortions started visiting to pray and burn incense. Phuc urged them to tell others considering the same option to talk with him first. Phan Thi Hong Vu looks lovingly at her chubby 7 1/2-month-old baby boy sucking on a pacifier surrounded by all the other babies on Phuc’s floor. She shivers at the thought of how close she came to losing him. “I actually went to the hospital intending to get an abortion, but I was so scared,” says Vu, who was 3 1/2 months pregnant at the time. “I decided to go home and think about it. Two weeks later, I met with Phuc.” She moved into the 904-square-foot (84-square-meter) house soon after and remains there with seven other new or expectant mothers. They spend their days washing, feeding, burping, changing and playing with the babies all but one are under a year old. The constant chorus of crying, coughing and cooing fills the living room, which is lined with pink and blue cribs and adorned with a crucifix, the Virgin Mary and a photo of the late Pope John Paul II. It’s a full-time operation that involves Phuc’s entire family. His older sister manages the chaos, mixing vats of strained potatoes and carrots and preparing formula for bottles, while shushing crying babies and chasing crawlers. The entrance to the single-level cement house tells the story: rows of bibs, booties, jumpers and spit rags hang drying in the sun. It costs about US$1,800 (1,200) a month to care for all 33 babies and the women. Phuc gets donations from Catholic and Buddhist organizations and from people who have heard about his work. On a recent day, a local family dropped by with an envelope sent from their daughter in California who had read about Phuc on a Vietnamese Web site. Two years ago, he even got a letter from Vietnamese President Nguyen Minh Triet praising him for caring for women and children scorned by society. Health authorities say they support what he’s doing, but also keep a close eye on him to ensure everything is legitimate in a country where baby selling and child trafficking are a problem. Some people accuse Phuc of condoning premarital sex. Phuc’s operation is not a registered orphanage, which means he cannot put any of the children up for adoption. But even if he could, he shakes his head and says his goal is to reunite each child with its mother or to raise them as his own. So far, 27 babies have gone home. “I will continue this job until the last breath of my life,” he says. “I will encourage my children to take over to help other people who are underprivileged.” This man saves children from abortion by adopting them! He also rescues the bodies of aborted children from clinics and buries them in a cemetery he’s built. There are 9,000 children buried there. What an amazing witness!
This is piece is from an e-mail Marty Barrack sent to Dr. Ronda. Marty Barrack is a well-known Jew who become a Catholic. He is part of the Hebrew-Catholic Association and author of wonderful books. This story concerns the recent death of his wife, Irene.
The greatest love a man can have for his wife is to do all he can to help her reach heaven. I believe she would easily have made it in any case, but all the same I made abundantly sure she had the sacraments. Irene had the Church's Last Rites, including the Apostolic Pardon, four times as her hour approached, though once would have sufficed. During the last days I kept telling her, "This is the Crucifixion, my love, but the Resurrection is coming soon."
Several times on the last day she looked at me and gathered herself to say, “Marty!” Only the one word, but the sound of her voice said, “I love you so much my darling,” and “Goodbye.” I told her gently I have always loved her and always will, and I also said, “Goodbye.”
During all that time I had asked more than 60 friends to pray to Father Hardon for a miracle that would restore Irene to health so that we might grow old together. During his lifetime Father Hardon was my mentor and teacher, to this day I describe myself as a "Father Hardon Catholic." He loved Irene and me dearly, as we loved him. Father Hardon did intercede for a miracle, though not the one I'd asked for. As always with Father Hardon, he had a better idea.
I received the phone call on Sunday August 7 on my way home at about 8:00 pm. I immediately phoned Ken James, a good friend and parishioner who works for our preferred local funeral home. Ken said he would leave immediately for St. Bernard's Hospital in Jonesboro to pick up her body. He arrived at St. Bernard's ICU about 11:00 pm and went to her room. There he saw Irene in the darkened room with a very soft glow coming from her body. He told me that the whole room felt heavenly. In the room was the night nurse who had been caring for her, sitting with her back to the room door, with the lights out, facing Irene. Ken made a sound so the nurse would turn around to see him. She told him that, at about 7:45 pm, she walked into the room and offered Irene some pain medicine. Irene's voice was so nearly gone during the last few days that I had to put my ear within an inch of her mouth to hear her, and on the last day even that wasn't enough. But the nurse told Ken that, in response to her offer, Irene opened her eyes and said clearly, "My Jesus bore so much pain on the Cross for me. I can offer this little bit of pain for him." She smiled and closed her eyes. Within a few minutes she was gone. The soft glow appeared about her body and the room was filled with a heavenly presence. I thought the glow and presence might be Father Hardon's miracle, a sign to me that she had gone straight to heaven as we both had so ardently desired.
Father Hardon's longtime secretary Susan and I have remained close friends ever since. On that Sunday evening Susan had been praying for Irene's soul when she suddenly blurted out, "In this hour take her home St. Joseph." Susan was startled by this, and immediately e-mailed to ask me if I knew anything about it. I asked her what time it had occurred, and she named the exact time that Irene had passed into eternity. At that point she and I both understood that Father Hardon had arranged for St. Joseph himself, patron saint of the dying, to personally carry her soul to Jesus. Usually we believe that holy angels carry our souls to heaven. Among the Father Hardon disciples, Susan was and remains by far the closest to Father.
*Requiem aeternam dona ei, Domine, et lux perpetua luceat ei*. (To read more of Marty Barrack’s thoughts on many other subjects check out our link to him in Links.)
A True Story about Hope by Daniel P. Petruccio
I lost my mom after having watched her deteriorate over ten years from advanced Alzheimer’s disease. This reflection is my own way of coming to grips with her death but more importantly the ten years that she was physically with us but already mentally gone. The question of eternal life for me is directly tied to this experience. My belief in God and eternal life was strengthened by this experience. To look in my mother’s eyes in those last years and realize that there was no recognition of who I was might have been one of the most difficult spiritual challenges in my life. I could go to the nursing home and visit a woman that looked like my mother but the lack of interaction and communication made me wonder. Where is my mother? The woman who struggled for twelve years to have children and then had me after losing a child prematurely. The woman who raised me and sacrificed so that I could have an education and a roof over my head and three simple but well prepared meals. This is the circumstance that made me ponder the question I wished to avoid at all costs. What happens to us when we die? What exactly is eternal life? My mother’s circumstances in the last year’s of her life is proof to me that there is something in store for us after our death. The only weapon against despair is faith in a loving and merciful God that wants us to join him in his eternal life. I am not an overly emotional person and I keep my spiritual side very close to the vest. That being said I have two moments which for me are examples of God’s grace and signs of his role in our lives. In the hours before my mother’s death we knew it was coming we didn’t know when. My sister and father live about ten minutes from the nursing home and they got the call before me that they needed to get to the hospital because the end was eminent. My sister dropped my dad off at the front door of the nursing home and went to park the car. Dad didn’t wait for her and went straight up to the room, arriving moments before she looked up at him and took her last breath. This grace filled moment is my moment of faith in eternal life. By the time I arrived at the nursing home about forty minutes later she was already gone. I had my personal experience on the first Mother’s Day after her death. My connection to my mother was solidified by the fact that my parents struggled to have children and then after one failed attempt I was born on May 10th 1959. You might have guessed it! Mother’s Day. For the rest of our time as son and mother we shared my birthday and her celebration as a mother. I was in Boston to attend my daughter’s college graduation on this first Mother’s Day since her passing. We originally had plans to attend Mass in the North End but found a chapel in the Copley Square Mall in which our hotel was located. As I sat down to pray before Mass I looked around the chapel I was in for the first time and I realized that we had taken seats directly next to a statue of St. Jude. This was always my mother’s favorite saint. We asked that people donate to St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital at her wake. I knew that was her way of telling me that things were going to be alright and that she was safe. If you don’t have faith I can’t give you that gift I can only share my gift of faith through this story. The love we possess for our parents, siblings, children and spouses is more powerful than any other force on earth. This is my proof of eternal life. We really aren’t meant for this world only. Everything we do has a purpose in relationship to our eternal life. How we love is the most important factor. This gift of faith I possess was first nurtured by my grandmother and my mother so it is very appropriate that once again it was my mother that reminded me that there is a God and He is a loving and merciful God and if He wills it we will be with Him and our loved ones for eternity. That’s a very reassuring thought for all those who believe. All I can do is share my story and ask you to be open to recognizing your personal moments of grace. If you aren’t watching sometimes you might miss the signs. That doesn’t mean they aren’t there!
Broken – to whom? - by Frank Hareslak
Once on the beach I found a small conch shell, complete – not broken or chipped (entire) and to my amazement it had a hermit crab in it – it was still in active occupancy by one of God’s creatures. Wonderful! Beautiful! What a treat! I felt privileged and blessed to make that discovery, but I did not know that God had a better treat for me.
When I went to return the hermit crab and its conch shell dwelling back to the water; I found a spot that I thought would be safe, and set it gently down. In a few seconds, the feelers of the crab were extended, and feeling safe, the crab, carrying the shell, started moving away. I watched, fascinated as this was going on, how fortunate I was…but now something else caught my eye. Drifting into my vision was a broken conch shell! There was not enough current to give this motion to the shell, because smaller and lighter shells were lying motionless. There couldn’t be a crab inside that shell – it was decimated, broken – not what you would call “normal”. I picked up the shell by the narrow end, and to my surprise there was a crab inside the shell providing the motion. When I realized the significance of this revelation I was overwhelmed with humility, enlightenment, and awareness.
The revealed lesson: that no matter how broken the shell, God’s plan and will can be fulfilled if there is a will and drive to fulfill that purpose. That broken shell was and is a perfect shell to fulfill God’s purpose. We are perfect human beings if we are working for and dedicated to doing God’s will. God sets no limitations; only man does.
Letter from a Dying Man to his Mentor - by Tom Prendergast
(Tom Prendergast was a sporty young man struck down by a totally disabling illness lasting for many decades. This is from a letter he wrote when he was close to death in his 70’s.)
“...The only premonition of death I’ve ever had was after I first had this affliction or sickness around eighteen. It never entered my mind that I would live long, so I was psychologically startled when thirty years old came around.
There was the usual young man angry at being afflicted with such a serious humiliating affliction, (involving a urinary catheter (sp) and for the first two years because of a kind of false promise or hope, a sort of frantic hoping and praying that it would be cured and all would be well). Finally the gradual shocking depressing realization that it would not and I had to find a way to live with this thing. Then it was that the only consolation that remained for me was that unthought conviction that I knew I couldn’t live long.
Then I turned to God, to Jesus his Son, His wonderful beautiful Son, and Mary His mother, Oh how I truly loved this beautiful Mother of Jesus and ours. Oh I don’t mean that I didn’t believe in Jesus and Mary before, I did and prayed to them more or less. But this was a completely different situation, God seemed to have left me with nothing, the way had been narrowed; there was nowhere else to turn, no one in this world could help me. Therefore I had to seek and look for Someone in another world and being a Catholic the only one I knew was Jesus Christ and His Mother Mary.
At the same time there gradually developed the strange feeling of transiency, wherever I lived, wherever I looked and wherever I went I never seemed to feel at home in the world. Everything was strange, everyone was strange, although there were loved ones and they were devoted to me, no one could help, and there was only anguish, darkness and strangeness. This feeling of transiency and strangeness that came over me was as I thought at the time a direct result of this physical affliction, but actually was the workings of Christ pouring His grace into my soul...to understand in my innermost being that we are strangers and sojourners in a foreign land in this life. In this way God gives us longings for heaven, an infinite, happy and eternal world.
Yet as I say, I turned to God and as I felt at the time neither did He seem to help; but I never doubted Him, many times I became angry with Him, but strange to say I never doubted Him – how can I ever thank Him enough for this great grace in this so trying affliction – for in spite of no let up in this most serious physical ailment He never let me doubt Him.
...all I could do was follow Him and carry my cross with His cross and above all loving, He loving me and my loving Him. But oh what can be said about this loving! Perhaps only what Jeremiah said, “Ah, ah, ah, Lord I cannot speak, for I am a child.”
...I long to be in heaven with all my heart and soul, I yearn for death in order that I might be in heaven and see Jesus – as they said to Andrew the Apostle, “we wish to see Jesus” – to see Him and to be happy with Him for all eternity and to see that beauty that He is; sometimes I cannot wait, but the will of God is part of this beauty so I can wait as long as God wishes I should wait; but still I think, I often think of those words “Eye cannot see, nor ear hear, neither has it entered into the heart of man what God keeps for those who love or wait for Him,” the contemplation of this love and beauty that Jesus is keeps me.
Here is another Amazing Story:
If you haven’t read about Abby Johnson, go on-line and check out her book and her other messages. Abby was a Christian who worked her way up to be running an abortion clinic. Outside were pro-life people every day offering her clients wonderful alternatives to abortion. After many years Abby, who usually worked at the front desk, had to see an abortion. Find out about how she turned around and is now a pro-life activist. Just type into search Abby Johnson and read all about it.
You may not know about Immaculee ...
This was an African teen-ager from Rwanda who hid in a bathroom with 3 others girls for months during the Rwanda civil war and massacre. During this time she could hear the tribal enemies in her own village, who she knew personally, killing everyone in her family except one brother at the university.She survived this experience by praying the rosary continually, in this way inviting Jesus in her heart every moment.(The rosary is simply using the Biblical announcement of the angel to Mary as a prayer accompanied by meditating on the life of Jesus and the early Church in its joyful, sorrowful, luminous, and glorious facets.)When got out she asked the guards of the prison where the assassin of her family was staying to let her visit him. When he saw her he cowered with fear. She said to him, I have nothing to give you but forgiveness.
From Bob Olson’s blog:
For a while now I have been sharing with you a number of miracles which have happened in Catholic Churches around the world while people were sitting in the “real presence” of Jesus before the “Tabernacle” or exposed on the altar for Eucharistic adoration.
Now today on the Eve of Pentecost I want to share a colossal miracle that happened on Long Island recently.
A counselor friend of mine told me about one of his patients who related this story after the fact. It seems that he was contemplating suicide. But before he did it he decided to go to Jesus in the chapel in his church and make a deal with him. He told Jesus: “if you can show me one person who is worse off than me, then I will not kill myself.”
So he went to the chapel and sat before Jesus in the Tabernacle. He was there for quite a while in prayer before Jesus reminded him about the New York Police officer McDonald who was shot a number of times by an assailant and became paralyzed and will wind up living the rest of his life in a wheel chair. “Oh Jesus,” the young man said, “that’s too easy. Everyone knows about him. You’ll have to do better than that.”
So he sat there for some more time. Then he heard the door open in the rear of the chapel, He turned around to look and there was Officer McDonald rolling though the door in his wheel chair.
The young man ran to McDonald and told him the story and they fell into each other’s arms and cried and cried and cried. Then McDonald said “I need this too.”
By this story, Jesus wants to show us that he waits for us in every Catholic Church in the world. He wants to be the calm for every storm, the comfort for every sorrow. If we knew the value of each and every visit made, there would be crowds all through the days and nights. He invites these crowds now. God bless you.
For more from Bob Olson’s blog, hit useful links on this web.
The Way of the Pilgrimess
Dr. Ronda says: one of the most extraordinary and inspiring life stories I ever learned of was of a French consecrated woman who walked from Paris to Jerusalem in her middle years. She dictated it to me. You can read it here.
Audio coming soon:
A Catholic mother was praying and praying that her sons would come back to Church. Many years passed. One morning at Mass, there they were one on each side. With tears in her eyes she asked them what brought them back. They told her this story:
They were driving along the highway in pouring rain. They saw an old man limping down the road. They picked him up and drove him the 3 miles he had been walking to Sunday Mass. Then they thought, since it was still raining, why don’t we wait and drive him back home after Mass. Getting bored sitting in the car they decided to go into the Church. Hearing the sermon and then seeing the consecration where the priest raises the host and repeats what Jesus told us “This is my Body, this is my Blood,” they got the gift of faith and decided to come back. They said, it feels like coming home after a long, long trip.
Last Flight to the New Jerusalem - 2010
(Note from Ronda: Many of us dream of perfect self-sustaining Catholic communities. This novella, by Esther Le Beau-Kerr, describes such a community. You can view the novella in .pdf format here. An audio version may follow in June).
At Lyon in the 19th century, two French professors who were total atheistic sceptics decided to make a trip to Ars to try to understand why the peasants were so stupid as to rush to see the Mass of the Cure d’Ars (later declared a saint, St. John Vianney). One of them seeing the Consecration noticed that the saintly priest looked at the professor and seemed to read his mind. “Raising the Sacred Host, he continued the prayers, but the Sacred Host glided from his fingers and placed itself upon the tongue of the first of the communicants kneeling at the altar rail.” The professor couldn’t understand how a piece of bread could travel in space all the way from the altar to the mouth of this communicant. He started to worship Christ in the Eucharist at that moment. He was baptized soon after and made his first confession. Then he became a priest!
Battered Woman: Child of God – The Struggle – My Story by Julie Clay
(Note from Dr. Ronda – all of you know that there is a terrible plague of battering in our society at this time. The author of this book chose to use a pseudonym to protect herself and her children. I found the story an amazing witness to how God can help anyone in any circumstances with any background.) You can read this article by clicking here.
Talk by Dr. Ronda about her mentor, Charles Rich,
given to the charismatic prayer group at St. John's Church in Middletown, CT., May 12, 2011
Listen to Adrian's story:
From Drug Addict Seeker to Confirmed Catholic Believer - by Jim Thomas
I’m 49. Life has become very different since my conversion and confirmation into the Catholic Church. I seem to walk in different air and talk another language. My awareness is different. The change is inside and the changer is Love himself, Jesus. This journey is just beginning; there is much to look forward to.
Let’s go back to 2007:
I got on my bike and decided to disappear into the coast range (of Oregon?) My goal was to pedal my bike until my heart exploded. I had a few cigarettes, some Copenhagen, no money, some water and a 6’ marijuana plant. I had a sleeping bag and some clothes. I didn’t say good-bye. It’s embarrassing to say these things! Before I got to the incline of the coast range a bee stung me right between the eyes. My heart didn’t explode going up the hill. I unrolled my bag in a spot away from traffic. I ate that pot and slept in the woods. I had found the spot where I would starve myself to death. It would be a slow death but I was ready. That night I was woken by an elk or something very loud, near me. As I looked out from my sleeping bag I saw the moon through the fir trees. It looked like a giant castle structure; I am talking huge, like the size of many city blocks. In my heart, I was advised that this is my Father’s house of which there are many rooms. That’s about it for the wood’s experience. I stuck it out till 4:00 PM the next day and then pedaled back down to town. My wife picked me up at a gas station and I puked before going to bed from all the pot I had eaten. How does a man of 47 decide to end his life this way? There was no forethought. It was completely selfish and immature. I didn’t have the patience to kill myself much less the guts to get through the suffering of starving. I look at this story and feel so little, so ignorant, and that’s exactly what I am. It’s a good thing I am such a mess because that is how our good God found me.
Let’s go back even further:
My mom was a TV news reporter. We lived in Quincy, Illinois. She was busy. I learned what the world was from TV and the pain that social and educational failure felt like at school. I never knew my father. I was a straight D and F student. My mind never stopped looking for anything other than where I was. In my world, men seemed to be drunks and sex maniacs. I didn’t trust men, women I trusted except for women in my age group. I was under the impression that young women were not trained in life yet, so they allowed the devil to guide them in Project Smash Jim’s Self Esteem.
When I was ready for 7th grade, Mom put me in a Lutheran school. For some weird reason I blossomed into the class clown. I was the new guy and made friends with the cool guys. That school was my first experience with Jesus. I got confirmed so I must have known some answers to some questions but it didn’t take, at least it wasn’t apparent. I will say this, I remember sitting on the right hand side of the church with a sun beam landing on me and I remember that being just the right place for me. I also remember lighting the candles during the service.
In high school I fell apart. I found drugs and alcohol. My grades became D’s and F’s again. I started missing school and this progressed into not going to school at all. I got a job as a bus boy. I found a girlfriend who didn’t really know she was my girlfriend and I dove into mental confusion trying to manage a relationship that she didn’t know existed. That didn’t stop me; I pursued her; was devoted to her. She was my everything and she gave nothing back. She was busy with other boys and drugs. She told me to get her a pack of cigarettes, one evening, and I stole a pack of smokes and then went to jail. My family gave me a one-way bus ticket to Oregon to live with my brother. I stumbled around in Oregon for awhile and then joined the Navy.
In the Navy, life got very strange. I bumped around the world, a lost soul. One day a kind man came forward and tried to tell me of Jesus Christ. His words illumined a place in my soul that was very dark. I asked Jesus to come into my heart with that guy’s help. The words in the Bible started leaping out at me. I had become aware of true love. This was a conversion experience. It happened and it was supernatural. The Holy Spirit was moving in me. He was working in me but I wasn’t done walking in darkness. My experience in the eighties was difficult. There were a lot of hard drugs. This was the era of cocaine and methamphetamine. My world involved these substances. When doing these drugs the Holy Spirit is called upon only when necessary, and God in his infinite wisdom allows it to a certain extent.
When I got out of the Navy, I realized that I was now in the real world. I could not get this loaded and still stay alive. I kept the actions of the Holy Spirit, from previous conversion experiences, close to my heart, but God had not given me the grace to fall into His arms yet.
I started the nice guy spiral into total darkness. I moved in with my brother and he was clean and sober so I became that way also. He had kids and we had a great time together, I’ve always got on well with children. I got a job landscaping and through hard work and exercise, I learned to make money for those who employed me and maintain a certain lifestyle.
Then the friends with drugs problem came up and darkness set in during a period of out-of- town work. That experience scared me so I got sober and managed to get through it all although it was terribly empty. As I get closer to the present in my story, things get more painful because the wounds are still open. This was a time of little perceived growth, a time where interactions with people was life draining. This was a confusing and misdirected period in my life. This is how it seems to me but, of course, Jesus was guiding me through this darkness for a greater purpose.
A friend of mine from the landscape company that we both worked at introduced me to my wife, Shirley. We got married. I’m not sure what the outcome of this marriage is going to be even now but it has been going on for 20 years. We are in love and I can’t imagine my life without her. Shirley is Catholic. I assume she has been praying for me this whole time but she isn’t the type to tell me that. I had gone to church with her a few times but didn’t get much out of it. Shirley got pregnant before we were married but we lost our child in a miscarriage. Shirley had a child already. I was a step father and that was unbelievably difficult for me. I got through this somehow… it could have been worse. My stepson is well adjusted but there has to be residual damage due to my uninspired attempts at fatherhood.
After my stepson moved out when he turned eighteen, I started to explore my prospects in life. There were failed businesses and lost jobs and lost opportunities. I had a lot of energy but my ability to find my place in the world was unsuccessful. My wife worked in a local factory and basically supported us in between my limited successes.
My brother had some success with anti-depressant medication. So I tried medication legal and not legal. At first medication didn’t work but then a doctor decided I had ADD. Now I was given Prozac like medication SSRI’s and amphetamine. Something was working! I was definitely acting and feeling differently. I went back to school, I started painting, and I learned how to navigate on the computer. I built furniture; I made and distilled my own alcohol. I started thinking that everything was relative. I started developing resentment toward Christians. If you have read Philosophies of the Humanist Manifestos, I was taking on that outlook on my life and the world. I resented Christians because I believed they had stopped progress in the past and would successfully stop any forward progress concerning the human condition.
I considered myself a sort of Renaissance man. In retrospect I realize my reasoning was flawed, I believe the medication choked off the Holy Spirit’s work in my soul. This time in my life was very angry. I stopped laughing, that was very weird because I have always been a laugher.
My behavior became less varied and I started focusing intensely on less healthy things than art, writing, and exercise. I started studying chemistry and taking an interest in making my own medication. I never really succeeded in doing that but I did learn enough about chemistry to see the hand of God in everything. The study of chemistry and physics was drawing me back to our Lord. He wasn’t going to let me learn this stuff without understanding His part in it. That was a beautiful thing because it taught me that to really understand something was to know truth and truth can do nothing but set you free.
Still not converted, I realized that I could abuse my legal medication. I applied for social security because I knew I was mentally screwed and I really believed that I was nearing an end. I started drinking a lot. I grew my own marijuana. Friends were disappearing; even the friends of like mind couldn’t take my disposition. My family became distant. I was more alone than at any time in my life. My mother had died a few years ago. My wife was waiting it out but she was about done, too. There were 2 little grandchildren that looked at me with love, no matter how much I screwed up.
Jim Thomas as I knew him was coming to an end.
Now you are up to where I tried to starve to death on the coast. After I got home I just lay in bed. I was done; my energy was gone. I was in the darkest place yet. I was cold turkey from my legal medication, I had a limited supply of marijuana and the booze was about gone. I had headaches, terrible headaches that required ice and too many migraine pills. If I was able to sleep the headaches might go away, sometimes. I disliked any light.
Sometimes I would be awoken by myself talking in a voice that I didn’t recognize. Even though I was physically and mentally exhausted, pornographic images dwelled in my thoughts. This period was so dark; I think I was on the verge of being possessed by something. I didn’t want to see or talk to anyone. I spent weeks in my room. I had reached the point where those who have a will to, eventually really commit suicide. I reflect back and realize that I would have committed suicide if it was assured. I thought an injection of heroin would be best. Our good God didn’t leave any heroin lying around.
I started looking for relief. There was limited time between headaches and I watched TV during these hours. An interesting thing happened. Most secular TV would actually make me physically ill. I saw sadness and desperation in almost everything. The news became twisted; the comedy shows glamorized everything that had gotten me to this point. I started seeing the pain of sin, unleashed on the world. What would have entertained me was now reminding me how I got where I was right now.
The religious programming that I saw was not resonating in my heart. Sometimes the religious programming made me more depressed than the secular. Then one day I found Mother Angelica and the sisters praying the Rosary. I knew this was Catholic, I had known some Catholics in my past but they had been party people. My wife was Catholic but not practicing her faith. It was a comfort to have her there, she was witnessing God’s work in me. She supported any positive energy in our life and is still a witness to that. So I just watched and listened to that Rosary and shortly thereafter fell asleep. That rosary was exorcizing evil and still is. I know this is true! I could only sleep soundly and find relief when the rosary was being said. I started watching EWTN just waiting for the rosary. That rosary was really the only thing I listened to at first. Nothing else sunk in even though I was watching. I was waiting for that rosary.
One day, Mary seemed to be asking me in my heart, “Do you want to be a member of this family?” Oh, I felt this great motherly presence. I was so moved. I can’t really describe this adequately except to say this was another truly supernatural experience. My heavenly Mother had deemed the time right to approach her lost little boy.
I started leaving room for her to sit on the edge of my bed, I didn’t see her, but I needed to leave that room for her.
I now was going through my conversion. EWTN was the conduit God was using. I joined my local church’s RCIA class. In RCIA, I started the first class with multiple bong hits. As I look back on it, I am not sure why I needed that but I did it and I was into the instruction. I was well adjusted to being stoned so I didn’t really feel stoned, just normal. I would say that after about three classes, I no longer wished to be high. I started attending completely sober. I guess there was a wait and see attitude in the beginning and it was adding up to something that I really needed to so I stuck with it. I got more and more zealous. In the end there was only me and another guy in RCIA.
I started attending Mass, no communion just Mass. That was very amazing. Attending Mass gave me those old feelings I used to have in church but Mass was different because there was this other thing I had to look forward to which was taking Jesus into me. I longed for that so much, I knew what it was and there was much more to learn about it, it was mystical, a miracle that happened and I was right there. I could feel it happening.
When I made my first confession to Father Jim, I didn’t feel completely lifted of the burden of my sins but I did understand I was forgiven. I had done the procedure our Lord had prescribed for us to be forgiven of those sins that had done damage. Like it or not I was going to have to deal with the damage sin does in our lives. By His grace, I now had a chance to move through this darkness and function in truth.
Oh what joy there is in the transition that occurred in such a short period of time. Father Jim warned me that this was the honeymoon and to expect this overwhelming experience to level off. I knew what he meant… and it has… but as with anything else our Father does it was not harsh or unmanageable. There was never any feeling like I was left to thrash about, at least not yet. My fellow RCIA class mate and I got confirmed on Easter. Usually events like that usually make me very nervous. I was to be presented to the whole congregation and it was a huge deal! I was eager. My wife, too, was eager. It was an anxious time, I wouldn’t say comfortable. It was the most solid indicator of my life being changed for the better that I had ever experienced. I kept feeling as if my biological mother was celebrating in heaven for me. I could feel her smile beaming down on me and encouraging me. Our blessed Mother seemed to be supervising the whole affair and it was extraordinary.
I’ve taken criticism from my newfound conversion experience. It’s been hinted to me that those who follow Jesus are weak and unable to deal with life in its stark reality. My brother called me a religious nut and smirked at my crucifix. The world, in general is turning away from Christ more and more each day or it seems that way sometimes. How does one deal with all the doubts that arise and the influences that those you care about put upon you as a Christian? I think about scripture and what Jesus says to his disciples, “oh ye of little faith.”
Faith is hard work, you don’t get faith without grace but that doesn’t make it easy because, in a way, you don’t get grace without faith. I have to want Jesus; my free will comes into play. To those that claimed I am weak and unable to handle life in the reality as they see it, I say simply, “I’ve done that. I walked with my back to Jesus for many years yet I saw Christ in everything even when I wasn’t looking.” I had given up and wished to die before my conversion. Not just towards the end but for many years I walked in the grey dusk of life without hope. In this dusk I found the strength to continue working and maintaining things. I was in the act of living without our Lord’s grace but living. It was empty and I saw nothing redeeming in it except that it was the journey to Jesus, so I would say it was my God’s classroom and I got through it. Thank you Jesus for letting it be, past me!
To those who called me a nut, I had no reply. The grace put in me from God made me a fool for Christ, drove me to be a committed Christian. I am not perfect but striving. I may be nuts but I had that feeling that one gets when there is no doubt what he is doing is for the good God’s pleasure.
From the Desert to Priesthood - by Deacon Daniel Bastarache
(Deacon Daniel of the diocese of St. John in New Brunswick has one of the most fascinating late call stories. It gives hope of the possibility of priesthood not only to others with addiction in their pasts, but also hope of living in a wholesome manner to all of us whose lives seem out of control in one way or another.)
I was born in 1952 in the city of St. John. My father was a Roman Catholic but he left the church to marry my mother. She was originally Catholic but when she was 6 years old she had medical problems. As a result my grandfather approached the priest and asked if he could enroll her into the Protestant school that was closer for her to walk to. The priest did not accept this solution, so my grandfather, being a stubborn Highlander of Scotland, pulled the whole family out of the Church and put them into the Baptist Church.
My twin brother and I were raised Baptist. We attended Sunday School. I went to Church and Sunday school all the way up to the age of seventeen when I entered the Armed Forces as a medic. Prior to this, at sixteen, I was set to be baptized. However, I hesitated for reasons that are pertinent to my eventual late call. My grandmother on my father’s side used to watch Fulton Sheen on TV. I used to watch, too. I always wanted to be a priest and a Catholic. I held on to that and because of this I didn’t feel right in my heart at sixteen to be baptized in the Baptist Church. I chose not to. Of course this was a concern for my family.
In the Army I went to Church sporadically. Occasionally I would go to the Catholic Church but not participate except as a spectator. I never participated in Holy Communion in any Church because I had not been baptized. That would sometimes make me feel insecure wondering if others were speculating about why I didn’t receive.
At the Army Base I began to drink heavily and within a couple of years I was drinking alcoholically. I was in and out of many relationships in a sinful pattern. I was in the army for 8 years. When I came out at twenty-five I got into the Canadian Coast Guard where I sailed with them for twelve years.
I had more relationships. Sometimes the woman would have wanted to be married but I wasn’t ready to make a commitment, partly because the alcoholism had weakened me physically, mentally, and spiritually. This affected my self-esteem. I didn’t think I could be a good husband or father. To my knowledge none of these women became pregnant, probably because they were contracepting.
I always prayed, more so if I had my back to the wall. I would always go to the Catholic Church because it was always open, because the priest was always in the rectory attached to the chapel, whereas Protestant pastors lived in married quarters separate from the chapel.
I always thought one day I would like to be a Catholic, but I took no steps because of my sinful lifestyle. I would think “Why would God want me?” I think many people think that way more than we would hope.
My first exposure to AA was when I was nineteen. I went in and out 6 times between then and when I was thirty-one years old. When I began I drank daily mostly at clubs in the Army Mess. By the end of my drinking career I was mostly binge drinking. I thought daily drinking was the problem and so I would only drink on the weekends, but I came to find out that I was putting as much in me on the weekend as I would have done on a daily basis. I am a big man and I could drink twenty-four beers and then get into the whisky.
But with binge drinking the tolerance diminished so that I could get drunk on much less. I didn’t pass out but I would black out and function but not remember what I was doing.
When I was thirty-one I had been in a common-law relationship for a year with a mother of 4 children. My job was on the line because of my drinking. I was told to clean up my act or leave by both the Coast Guard and my “wife.” So I returned to AA for the 7th time completely broken but knowing I had to make some changes in my life. I adopted the 12 Steps into my life, especially Step 3 “We made a decision to turn our wills and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.” This was very powerful because I always believed in God and was still open to whatever He might want to do with me. I had never gotten as far as the 3rd Step in the past because of my fear of God and what He might think of me.
So I got my first 6 years sobriety on the ship and with the same wife. We talked about marriage on occasion. In my program I found it was growing in a different direction and my partner thought I shouldn’t keep going to AA and that she could have saved me, herself. This is a common mistake. It isn’t about being a savior wife. The spouse should support your efforts to change sticking to the tried and true 12 Steps.
After eleven years of sobriety I started going to Matt Talbot retreats. Matt Talbot was an alcoholic in the late 19th century and early 20th century in Ireland. He had a spiritual awakening which eliminated his alcoholism, and then he helped others. Whereas previously he spent all his spare time in bars, after his conversion he went every morning before his longshoreman job to 5:30 AM Mass. He is in the process of consideration for canonization. This movement of Matt Talbot Retreats is in honor of this courageous man.
The retreats are normally facilitated by recovering priests and nuns! Because of this it rekindled my thoughts of maybe looking into the priesthood some day. In 1992 my relationship with my “wife” ended by mutual agreement. One day I was asked to be a pall bearer at a Catholic funeral Mass. This was the first time I had ever gone to a Catholic funeral so I was not expecting what took place. I was very nervous. The priest had a very deep voice that resonated right through me. When he came to bless the casket some of the holy water fell on my hand and it tingled. I remember looking at the priest who smiled at me and I got the feeling I should meet this man another time.
So I went through the service. When it came to communion I stayed in my pew wondering what others were thinking. I could have gone up but my heart told me not to do it because I was not baptized.
On the way out of the Church we stopped to remove the pall. I lost sight of the priest. At the back of the Church he was standing and again he smiled at me and bowed and again I had the feeling I should meet this man.
At this time I had left the Coast Guard and was working in addiction de-toxification for the Province of New Brunswick. I felt that this way I could give back what had been freely given to me by God through AA. Quite a number of people who stay with AA find it is a bridge back to the Church.
I was in another relationship and a short time later I was living with this woman. I decided I needed another round of Step 4 – “We made a fearless moral inventory of ourselves,” and Step 5 – “We admitted to God and to ourselves, and another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.”
I went to the rectory of the priest that I had seen at the funeral a few months before. I asked him if he had any knowledge of the 12 steps and he said “I may,” with a smile. So after he gave me his ideas about 12 Steps in general, I realized I had made a good choice which is very important when you decide to tell your faults to someone. He told me to take my time. I did my 4th and 5th steps and I came up with about forty-four pages of thing I had done wrong I needed to admit! When it was done I felt so light and alive and I explained to him that I had always wanted to become a Catholic. He suggested that I take a year and return to my roots and make sure I didn’t belong more to the Baptists. That was a very good move because what it did was bring me back to my rejection of baptism at sixteen. After the year of going back to the Baptist Church I still felt a void in my heart.
So I went back to the priest and we talking about the RCIA process. I started in 1993 and I was baptized at the Easter Vigil in 1994. In the process I had to give up my extra-marital sexual relationship and live alone for the first time in a long time. At the baptism for the first time I felt completely clean inside, totally sin free. What a feeling!
It was very humbling. I remember after the ceremony an elderly lady who was a part of the RCIA group looked at me in the alb and said, “Someday….” I replied, “Oh, please, one day at a time.” But I knew that was still there.
In 1997 I slipped on a rubber mat covered with snow and ruptured both quadro-sep tendons. I had 2 surgeries on my legs. 3 weeks later I went home too early and they ripped out again. I was told I might never walk again and if I clotted I would die. I continually asked God for the courage to do what I had to do and lo and behold 9 months later I went back to work full steam. This incident gave me great trust later in every time of crisis. In hindsight I think this was the start of my last call to the priesthood.
I continued working in addictions and then I started working with adolescents in 2001. I had a brief relationship with a woman. I lived in a small village where there wasn’t daily Mass, but I would go as often as I could in the week and one Saturday or Sunday.
In 2004 I really got a stronger calling. I felt many times but I pushed it away. Finally I approached a lay friend of mine and asked who would be a good priest for me to consult about this call. Without hesitation he said, “Father Peter.” I had been to this retired priest’s Masses, but didn’t really know him. Part of the discernment was doubts because of feeling unworthy, but eventually the unworthiness became part of the positive discernment.
After spending about a year and a half meeting once a week with him, Fr. Peter felt there was possible a calling taking place. So I approached the vocation’s director of the Diocese, Fr. Doug. I went through the procedures.
I sold all that I had and gave it away to the poor.
In August of 2006 I was on my way to the USA to Holy Apostles College and Seminary in Cromwell, Connecticut. I hope to be ordained in 2011.
I hadn’t been in a classroom setting since I was about twenty-two, so coming in at fifty-four to the seminary was quite a shock to say the least. I had lots of help from the faculty and brothers I bonded with, a mix of some older, some younger, some from Canada, some from the US and other countries.
I found that the 12 Steps had given me a certain depth of spirituality that I can give to others whenever needed.
Who Was Charlie Rich?
One of the most fascinating Jews who became Catholics of all times was Charles Rich (1899-1998). Born in Hungary in a Jewish village similar to the one in Fiddler on the Roof, Charles was noticed by the rabbis as an extraordinarily religious boy. He loved to stay in the forests to pray alone. His father joined one of the many waves of Jews who went to America to seek better opportunities. After establishing himself in New York City, he sent for the family. This was the beginning of a very dark time for Charlie. He found it impossible to be close to God in the teeming city and among the strict legalistic rabbis he had to study with. Eventually he lost his faith. He worked as a waiter and went every day for 8 hours to the 42nd St. public library searching world literature, philosophy and religion for the God he had lost. Eventually he fell into despair and tried to commit suicide. Three times he tried; three times he failed, being rescued the last minute.
Feeling even more of a failure, one day he went into a Catholic Church. From a painting on the wall, Jesus spoke to him directly, in his heart, telling him that He was God and to trust in him. Instructed by the Jesuits, Charlie became a Catholic and then a lay contemplative, spending hours and hours of the day rapt in prayer. Catholics seeking a deeper prayer life were attracted to him, including Jewish converts such as myself.
Hungry for Heaven: The Story of Charles Rich, Contemplative, a biography of Charles Rich, by Ronda Chervin, is available here.
From Hockey Sportscaster to Lay Evangelist by Bob Olson
(note: At the bottom of this article you can find Bob's audio narration of his story).
This is the amazing story of how I went from being a sportscaster to a lay evangelist, a fool for Jesus. My name is Bob Olson and I’m from Cromwell, Connecticut. Bob is my name, Jesus is my game.
I was born in Superior, Wisconsin and the only member of my family born in this country. The rest of my family was born in Norway. I had a fairly normal childhood, went to Sunday school. It was in a church called the Christian Scientist Church. My mother had a serious medical problem and she had a lot of support and help from a Christian Scientist practitioner. We were in that church for a few years but then joined the Lutheran church.
I went to Sunday school in the Lutheran church. I got baptized and confirmed there. I had a very good pastor whose name was Reverend Arthur. He became a very good friend of mine and he encouraged me to go to the Lutheran college called Gustavus Adolphus with the idea that I might become a minister. I didn’t stay there very long. I enrolled instead at Superior State University and was there a couple of years. Then I enrolled in a radio school to become a radio announcer in Minneapolis. I got a job in Michigan at a place called Ironwood and starting DJ-ing and started talk shows.
Then I got drafted into the Army and spent almost 2 years in the Army. I did my basic training at Fort Riley, Kansas. They saw on my record that I was a radio man and so they sent me to Fort Carson, Colorado Springs, where I became a radio operator, not broadcasting but dit-dot-dit-dot.
While I was there I got a job as a radio announcer in Colorado Springs. I spent my weekends at the radio station there with an apartment in town. Five days a week I was at the base and the weekends in the apartment with a couple of other fellows. One was the sports editor of the newspaper and the other was a newsman there.
It was a good time in Colorado. The only problem was that I got away from church. I never went to church. I never prayed. I never thought about God. That was the bad thing about it.
So I got out of the army and got married and went back to Ironwood, Michigan to the radio station. My five daughters were baptized and raised Catholic. I went to Church once in a while with my wife and family but never prayed, swore a lot , read the wrong kind of magazines and the wrong kind of books, and really never thought about God.
I didn’t have anything against God. He was up there and I was down here. At the time I didn’t realize that everything was a gift from God. I thought that everything came to me because I worked harder than anyone else: radio honors, sports honors. I was a marathon runner. I bought a radio station with my partner, Joe. But then there was the chink in my armor. One of the members of my family came up with a very serious emotional problem. I tried to help. I went to the priest, to psychologists, psychiatrists, to doctors and nobody seemed to be able to find out how to deal with this problem.
It finally occurred to me that maybe there are some problems that only God can cure. So I began a search for God in my own way. I read a couple of Christian books and saw a motivational film with my radio station partner and in this particular film this man said, “Look at 6 areas in your life and apply the same enthusiasm, the same effort, the same zeal in each one of these 6 areas.”
So I looked at the first one, work. The second was family. The third was social life. The fourth was my community life, my recreation and finally my spiritual life. I saw that I was almost a workaholic. I looked at my family, and I thought I did a pretty good job with my social life. We did a lot of things together as a family. My community life was good. I was president of the Chamber of Commerce, and did other things. My recreational life? I was a marathon runner. I used to run a marathon almost every day.
And, then, I looked at my spiritual life and it was zero! It was a great big zero. So, when I put the same amount of effort and enthusiasm into my spiritual life as I did in the other areas, man, I started growing like a weed spiritually. In fact, you might say that I was a fool for Jesus.
My partner and I started talking about tithing. Things at the radio station weren’t going so well at the time. But he was a cradle Catholic and he said he used to tithe, give 10% or 20% of your earnings before taxes, and he said that when he was tithing things were going a lot better. So, he suggested we start tithing. So, on Easter Sunday, we were going to start.
When I made that decision in Holy Week before that Easter, it was like a full court press, as in basketball. Everywhere I went I heard about God. It was God here, God there, God everywhere. People would start bringing up God everywhere. For example, I used to go for coffee at a café every morning and there was business man there and he told me about how he had this beautiful experience on the weekend at a Marriage Encounter. He told me how God was doing this and God was doing that.
Then, the next day, I’m in the restaurant and another fellow was telling me about being in a beautiful church, at a retreat, and what God was doing. Then, the next day, I was interviewing a Hollywood hair-dresser who was in the area. He worked on the hair of various movie stars. He was a Christian and he told me how he left Christian books and pamphlets around the salon and the Hollywood people would share their problems with him because they knew that he was a Christian, so they knew he wouldn’t spread it around.
Finally on Good Friday I went to church with my wife and in the Catholic church on Good Friday they always venerate the cross. So I went up with my wife and for the first time I venerated the crucifix, kissed the feet of Jesus and man, it was like an explosion, like dynamite. I had this tremendous feeling of love for God. Saturday we went to church. Then I started tithing on Easter Sunday. On Easter Monday there was really a big explosion when I was out doing my run. I ran 5 miles and when I got ready to run back I started saying things, praising God, saying God is good, things I had never said before in my life. When I got home I took a shower and realized “I’ve gotta see the priest. I gotta get in the church where my family is.” I got to the Church, rang the bell. When Father opened the door I said, “Well, I’m ready!” He said, “ready for what?” I said, “I’m ready to come in the Church. He said that was fine and made an appointment to see him the following week.
So, we got together, every week for a long time. I would tell him all the things that were happening in my life, the miracles that were going on, and people would stop by. The nuns came in one day and he said, “listen to this.” He had me tell them how I had been chairman of the United Fund drive in the community and they reached their goal for the first time in history! And, incidentally, they reached their goal every year since then. I started praying for this drive, and it was fantastic. It was a miracle.
A lot of other things were happening like that, and so the priest said, “I’m going to enroll you in this RCIA program. It’s used extensively to bring people into the church. In September you can start this class and you can help me by witnessing to the others. So I had to wait a year to come into the Church to wait for the next Easter Sunday. Just before that following Easter he took me to a Cursillo retreat and heard my confession so I could be received during the retreat but go through the other formalities at the Easter Vigil.
I came into the Church officially on Easter Saturday and then my life really started to change. I was on my journey into the kingdom of God. I changed a lot of things at my radio station. I started a daily program called Life in the Spirit. Now as a Christian hockey caster I became very bold on the radio. When a player would get hurt I would say, “Now, you folks who pray, this is a good time to start praying that this injury won’t be too serious and that he will have a quick healing.” People began to recognize me in the hockey world as a Christian. At banquets or wherever I would go it was easy to evangelize because I was so well known. But there was one thing that happened. After 19 years of broadcasting I lost my contract with the University. That was quite a blow. I asked God, “What’s going on?” He seemed to tell me, “Look at the way things are going with you. You give your testimony saying I don’t trust in my circumstances, I trust in Jesus. I put all my trust in Jesus...I don't trust in my surroundings.” And God said “That's not true. You don't trust in me. Look at yourself, you're a basket-case, just because you lost your hockey contract. It's so obvious you don't trust in me.”
The Lord was teaching me a lesson. And so after a year, with no hockey contract and very little revenue at the radio station, I had a chance to bid on the hockey contract for the next year and I did. I prepared my bid, but before bringing it to the University, I went to the church and sat before the Lord. I said, “Here it is: I'm giving my hockey contract to you, under your direction. Before, for l9 years, it was all me, for my honor and glory. But now it's in your hands. You know my heart's desire, I want to get back to hockey broadcasting. But if you want me to do something else, like being an evangelist or whatever that's fine with me, I'm indifferent about it. If you're over here, I don't want to be over there. I want to be where you are, under your direction. I want to trust in you alone.”
I brought the bid to the university and there were no other bids so I got my heart's desire. And when the hockey season started, it was like I had never left. There was a big celebration and welcome back. And now the broadcasts were under the direction of my Lord Jesus Christ. And I was bold for the Lord.
So that was the story about the radio station. But then my wife died and I felt I had to sell the station. God was getting ready to send me out to the mission field. Father Al Lauer called from Cincinnati and he wanted me to run the Presentation Ministries discipleship center and start a Christian community. So I sold the radio station, finished my sports broadcasting, and went to Cincinnati. I stayed for 5 years, then gravitated to New England and spent three years with Father Bill McCarthy at My Father's House. I am now in Cromwell, Ct and my wife, Evelyn, and I are Catholic Lay Evangelists.
Listen to Bob's Story:
Evelyn Olson’s Life Story
I was born in Grand Rapids, Michigan and attended 12 years of Catholic schooling there with the good Notre Dame Sisters. My parents were Sunday only Catholics along with my brothers. My father was a factory worker and my mother stayed home and was a very old fashioned parent to me. Being the only girl I was very sheltered and shy person. My mother encouraged me to work after high school, and as I look back it was very good for me to be out among people, other than just being by myself after school in my room.
I worked at office jobs after graduating from high school. I married at 20 and after a couple years had a son. Being very naive I did not realize my husband had a girlfriend on the side. When he left us and moved in with her, it was devastating to me emotionally. After my son was born I developed hypoglycemia and was very depressed most of the time. I was on drugs and very many medications to try to lead a somewhat normal life. I lived most of the time in a very black hole and did not want to live any more. After about 18 years of depression a doctor friend pricked my finger and discovered I had a medical condition, and needed to be on a diabetic diet. This did help, but I was still depressed.
After 20 years of this depression I went to Lourdes, France and in the healing waters I was healed of my hypoglycemia. Praise the Lord, I felt normal again.
I was dating various men and worked as a hostess at various office jobs. I found that I was always attracted to the alcoholic and abusive men. I went to see a counselor for several years, only to discover that I was sexually molested when I was very young by a family member. These episodes did have an effect on my adult relationships with men. After I faced my perpetrator and told him I forgave him for what he did to me for several years. I felt relief and was then free emotionally to make better decisions.
I sent myself to college for 2 years at night to obtain a better paying job to support myself and my son. I worked full time, went to school 90 miles away 2 nights a week and was finally able to obtain the job I needed to be the first female appraiser in the County. You can go from the bottom of life experiences to the top, if you try and ask God to help you.
After several years of being single and being set free through an annulment by the Catholic Church, I was told by my confessor Priest to go to Peebles, Ohio and live in community. There I met Bob Olson. I knew him from the Michigan Charismatic conferences I attended. Walking into the Chapel the Lord told me “Welcome Home.” I was not planning in staying, I only went to see what it was all about because Father told me too. After moving there, the Lord at Mass gave me feelings for this man Bob who was in charge. I told God He needed to take them away or give them to Bob. Guess what? 2 days later God did just that. Much to my surprise we did get married 7 years ago. Now I am a lay evangelist thanks to my husband.
You never know what God has in mind for us even in our 60’s and now 70’s. I and my husband are leaders in a Prayer Group, pray for healing for people in the “Unbound” ministry for the archdiocese here in Connecticut. We have a radio show on the internet one day a week. Where we live, we started a Bible study in the retirement community and do speaking engagements around the area. Bob and I also teach for Presentation Ministries out of Cincinnati Ohio at the Bible Institute and have traveled around the country with this ministry also. At our age I am doing more with God’s grace then I ever thought possible. “For nothing is impossible for God.”
This is my story going from a very shy girl to a lay evangelist with my husband.