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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.