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Roots of Faith: Exploring Our Parishes

We are happy to share the two part series of St. Helena titled; Roots of Faith: Exploring Our Parishes created by Catholic Life TV.  Click on to the youtube clips below or go to the local stations shown to watch the program.

  Part 1 Roots of Faith: Exploring Our Parishes

  Part 2 Roots of Faith: Exploring Our Parishes

 

Every problem is a chance for you to become a better version of yourself. Every challenge charts a path for growth and improvement.

Every setback carries the potential for powerful motivation. Every disappointment can lift you to a higher level of resolve.

Every inconvenience has the power to inspire new resourcefulness. Every frustration gives you a way to strengthen your patience.

From each positive experience, you learn a few things. From each negative experience, you learn much more.

Of course you would not intentionally seek to be hurt or disappointed. But neither would you want a life where hurt and disappointment never happen.

Difficult things can happen, do happen, and amazingly, life finds a way to make them beneficial. Difficult things can happen, and that’s what makes the good things so very good.

— Ralph Marston

A man giving his shoes to a homeless girl in Rio de Janeirojpg

Give goodness, not in the abstract, but in real places, with real people. Give goodness, not as a vague idea, but to a specific moment.

There’s quite a lot you can do to lift up life, here and now, as you are. And nothing is as satisfying as doing so.

Rather than accumulating more reasons to boast about yourself, give goodness. If you want people to care about what you achieve, pursue achievements that improve their world.

Give goodness because you can. Give goodness because it makes a difference that reverberates through lives, through time.

In ways large, small, and in between, give goodness. In ways that inspire you to give even more, give goodness.

Put your love for life into loving action. Give goodness.  — Ralph Marston

freedom 4th of july

Do you wish to be free to succeed? Then you also must be free to fail.

True freedom does not discriminate, does not favor one outcome over any other. True freedom empowers you to create an outcome that’s based on what you put into it.

When you create value, freedom enables you to own and benefit from that value. When you make mistakes, freedom obliges you to clean up after those mistakes.

Freedom is precious, and a powerful way to live. Those who don’t have it yearn constantly for it, willing to pay almost any price to obtain it.

But freedom is not a free ride. Freedom exists only when those who have it are willing to shoulder its serious, life-long responsibility.

Freedom is kept alive by responsible, respectful living, by employing that freedom to benefit yourself and others. Draw upon your strength, meet freedom’s demands, and help to spread the boon of freedom far and wide.

— Ralph Marston

 

“I was riding with Mr. Potts near to the Valley Forge where the army lay during the war of ye Revolution, when Mr. Potts said, ‘Do you see that woods & that plain? There laid the army of Washington. It was a most distressing time of ye war, and all were for giving up the Ship but that great and good man. In that woods (pointing to a close in view) I heard a plaintive sound as of a man at prayer. I tied my horse to a sapling & went quietly into the woods. To my astonishment, I saw the great George Washington on his knees alone, with his sword on one side and his cocked hat on the other. He was at Prayer to the God of the Armies, beseeching to interpose with his Divine aid, as it was ye Crisis & the cause of the country, of humanity & of the world. Such a prayer I never heard from the lips of man. I left him alone praying. I went home & told my wife. We never thought a man could be a soldier & a Christian, but if there is one in the world, it is Washington. We thought it was the cause of God & America could prevail.”

Source: Eyewitness testimony of Isaac Potts, a Valley Forge resident who shared the following story with the Rev. Nathaniel Randolph Snowden (1770-1851), who then recorded it in his “Diary and Remembrances.”

child by the ocean

 

The story is told of St Augustine of Hippo, a great philosopher and theologian. He was preoccupied with the doctrine of the Blessed Trinity. He wanted so much to understand the doctrine of one God in three persons and to be able to explain it logically. One day he was walking along the sea shore and reflecting on this matter. Suddenly, he saw a little child all alone on the shore. The child made a whole in the sand, ran to the sea with a little cup, filled her cup with sea water, ran up and emptied the cup into the hole she had made in the sand. Back and forth she went to the sea, filled her cup and came and poured it into the hole. Augustine drew up and said to her, “Little child, what are you doing?”

She replied, “I am trying to empty the sea into this hole.”

“How do you think,” Augustine asked her, “that you can empty this immense sea into this tiny hole and with this tiny cup?”

She answered back, “And you, how do you suppose that with your small head you can comprehend the immensity of God?” With that the child disappeared.

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and  the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.  (2 Cor 13: 14)

We love distraction and don’t listen. Even when saving knowledge is offered to us, we are too often tuned out, distracted, and resistant. ADHD is nothing new in the human family. God said through Jeremiah, To whom shall I speak and give warning, that they may hear? Behold, their ears are uncircumcised, they cannot listen; behold, the word of the LORD is to them an object of scorn; they take no pleasure in it (Jeremiah 6:10). Jesus invoked Isaiah to explain why He spoke to the crowds only in parables: For this people’s heart has grown dull, and with their ears they can barely hear, and their eyes they have closed (Is 6:10).

We are opinionated. We tend to think that something is true or right merely because we think it or agree with it. There is nothing wrong with having opinions, even strong ones, about what is right and true, but if God’s Word or the Church’s formal teaching challenges your opinion, you’d better consider changing it or at least making distinctions. The last time I checked, God is just a little smarter than we are. His official teaching in the Scripture and the Doctrine of the Church is inspired; we are not. Scripture says, All we, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way (Is 55:8). Can the pot say to the potter, “You know nothing”? (Is 29:16) Woe to those who quarrel with their Maker, those who are nothing but potsherds among the potsherds on the ground. Does the clay say to the potter, “What are you making?” (Is 45:9) Despite this, many go on with their own opinions and will not abide even the clear correction of God.

We have darkened intellects due to unruly and dominating passions. Our strong and unruly passions cloud our mind and seek to compel our will. Too easily, without training and practice in virtue, our baser faculties come to dominate our higher faculties, making unreasonable demands for satisfaction. We love to tell ourselves lots of lies. We suppress the truth and our senseless minds become darkened (Romans 1:21). The Catechism says, The human mind … is hampered in the attaining of … truths, not only by the impact of the senses and the imagination, but also by disordered appetites which are the consequences of original sin. So it happens that men in such matters easily persuade themselves that what they would not like to be true is false or at least doubtful (CCC #37). The Second Vatican Council, in Lumen Gentium 16, says, But very often men, deceived by the Evil One, have become vain in their reasoning and have exchanged the truth of God for a lie, serving the creature rather than the Creator.

We are lemmings. We are too easily swayed by what is popular. We prefer modern notions to ancient and tested wisdom. Tattoos, tongue bolts, and piercings are in? Quick, run out and get one! Whatever the fad or fashion, no matter how foolish, harmful, or immodest, many clamor for it. Hollywood stars get divorces and soon enough everyone is casting aside biblical teaching against it. The same goes for many other moral issues. What was once thought disgraceful is now paraded on Main Street and celebrated. Like lemmings, we run along with the crowd to celebrate what was once called sin (and is still sinful). Instead of following God, we follow human beings. We follow them and the “culture” they create, often mindlessly.

If all this isn’t enough, consider a “few” others: We are so easily, in a moment, obnoxious, dishonest, egotistical, undisciplined, weak, impure, arrogant, self-centered, pompous, insincere, unchaste, grasping, harsh, impatient, shallow, inconsistent, unfaithful, immoral, ungrateful, disobedient, selfish, lukewarm, slothful, unloving, uncommitted, untrusting, indifferent, hateful, lazy, cowardly, angry, greedy, jealous, vengeful, prideful, envious, contemptuous, stingy, petty, spiteful, indulgent, careless, neglectful, prejudiced, and just plain mean.

So, if the road to destruction is wide (and Jesus says it is), don’t blame God. The road is wide for reasons like these. We are a hard case; we are hard to save. It is not that God lacks power; it is that we refuse to address many of these shortcomings. God, who made us free, will not force us to change.

We ought not to kid ourselves into thinking that we can go on living resistant and opposed to the Kingdom of God and its values, yet magically at death we will suddenly want to enter His Kingdom, which we have resisted our whole life. Jesus said that many prefer the darkness. Is it really likely that their preference will suddenly shift? Will not the glorious light of Heaven seem harsh, blinding, and even repulsive to them? In such a case is not God’s “Depart from me” both a just and merciful response? Why force a person who hates the light to live in it? I suppose it grieves God to have to abide such a departure, but to force a person to endure Him must be even more difficult. I am sure it is with great sadness that God accepts a person’s final no.

Yes, the road is wide that leads to destruction. It is wide because of us. The narrow road is the way of the cross, which is a stumbling block and an absurdity to many (1 Cor 1:23), who simply will not abide its message.

So, we ought to be sober about the Lord’s lament. We ought also to be more urgent in our attempts to secure our own unruly soul and the souls of those we love for the Kingdom. The blasé attitude of most moderns is rooted in the extremely flawed notion that judgment and Hell are not real issues. That is a lie, for it contracts Jesus’ clear word.

Why is the road to destruction wide? Because we are hard cases; we are difficult to save. We ought not to be unduly fearful, but we ought to run to Jesus in humility and beg Him to save us from our worst enemy—our very self. If you don’t think you’re a hard case, read the list above and think again.

 In the gospels there is a warning from Jesus that too many people just brush aside:

Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the road broad that leads to destruction, and those who enter through it are many. How narrow the gate and constricted the road that leads to life. And those who find it are few (Matt 6:12-13).

To summarize, most people today have the teaching backwards. Whereas Jesus said that many are on the road to destruction and only a few travel the narrow road (of the cross) to salvation, most claim that many go to Heaven and only a few (if any) go to Hell. Don’t make that mistake. Jesus is not playing games with us. No one loves us more than Jesus does, and no one warned us more of judgment and Hell than He did. Even though He didn’t provide exact percentages for each category, do not try to make many mean few and few mean many.

An obvious question to ask is why so many walk the wide road to destruction and Hell. Is it because God is stingy or despotic? No. God wants to save us all (Ez 18:23; 1 Tim 2:4). The real answer is that we are hard to save, and we must become more sober about that. We have hard hearts, thick skulls, and innumerable other traits that make us a difficult case.

If a third of the angels fell, that ought to make us very aware of our own similar tendency to do so. This should make us humbler about our own situation. The fallen angels had intellects vastly superior to ours, and their angelic souls were not weighed down with the many bodily passions that beset us—but still, they fell!

Adam and Eve, possessing preternatural gifts and existing before all the weaknesses we inherited from sin, also fell. Are we, in our present unseemly state and vastly less gifted than the angels, really going to claim that we are not in any real danger or that we are easy to save?

We need to sober up and run to God with greater humility, admitting that we are a hard case and in desperate need of the medicines and graces that God offers. He offers us His Word, the sacraments, holy fellowship, and lots of prayer! We need not panic, but we do need to be far more urgent than most people are about themselves and those they love.

Consider some of the following things that make us difficult to save:

We have hard hearts and stubborn wills. While some of what this includes is specified in more detail below, this is a good place to begin. God, speaking to us through Isaiah the Prophet, said, I know that you are obstinate, and your neck is an iron sinew and your forehead is bronze(Is 48:4). He is talking about us!

We are obtuse in our desires. If something is forbidden, we seem to want it all the more. St. Paul laconically observed, When the commandment came, sin sprang to life (Rom 7:9). If something is harmful, we want it in abundance, but if it is helpful, we are often averse to it. We like our sweets and our salty snacks, but vegetables rot in the refrigerator. In the desert the people of Israel longed for melons, leeks, onions, and the fleshpots they enjoyed in Egypt. Never mind that they were slaves. When it came to the Bread from Heaven, the Holy Manna, they said, We are disgusted with this wretched manna (Num 21:5). We are obtuse; that is, we are turned outward toward sin instead of inward toward God in a Holy embrace. Jesus sadly remarked that judgment would go poorly for many because The light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed (Jn 3:19).

We don’t like to be told what to do. Even if we know we ought to do something or to stop doing something, the mere fact that someone is telling us often makes us either dig in our heels and refuse, or else comply resentfully rather than wholeheartedly.

We are not docile. When we were very young, we were fascinated with the world around us and kept asking, “Why, Mommy?” or “Why, Daddy?” As we got older, our skull thickened; we stopped asking why. We figured we knew better than anyone around us. The problem just worsens with age, unless grace intervenes. St Paul lamented, For the time will come when people will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths (2 Tim 4:3-5).

Continue next week...

carrycross
There may be days when you get up in the morning and things aren’t the way you had hoped they would be.
That’s when you have to tell yourself that things will get better. There are times when people disappoint you and let you down.
But those are the times when you must remind yourself to trust your own judgments and opinions, to keep your life focused on believing in yourself.
There will be challenges to face and changes to make in your life, and it is up to you to accept them.
Constantly keep yourself headed in the right direction for you. It may not be easy at times, but in those times of struggle you will find a stronger sense of who you are.
So when the days come that are filled with frustration and unexpected responsibilities, remember to believe in yourself and all you want your life to be.
Because the challenges and changes will only help you to find the goals that you know are meant to come true for you.
Keep Believing in Yourself!

mary with child jesus 2

When the Good Lord was creating mothers, He was into His sixth day of overtime when the angel appeared and said ”You’re doing a little of fiddling around on this one.”

And the Lord said”Have you read the specs on this order?”

She has to be completely washable, but not plastic;

Run on black coffee and leftovers;

Have a lap that disappears when she stands up;

A kiss that can cure anything from a broken leg to a disappointing love affair;

And six pairs of hands.

The angel shook her head slowly and said “six pairs of hands ... no way.”

“It’s not the hand that are causing me problems,” says the Lord.  “It’s the three pairs of eyes that mothers have to have.”

“That’s on the standard model?” asked the angel.

The Lord nodded. “One pair that sees through closed doors when she ask, ‘what are you kids doing in there?’  when she already knows. Another here in the back of her head that sees what she shouldn’t but what she has to know, and of course, the ones here in front that can look at a child when he goes up and says, ‘I understand and I love you’ without so much as uttering a word.

“Lord” said the angel, touching his sleeve gently, “come to bed. Tomorrow...”

“I can’t” says the Lord, “I’m close to creating something so close to Myself. Already I have one who heals herself when she is sick. Can feed a family of six one one pound of hamburger... And get a nine-year-old to stand under a shower.”

The angel circled the model of a mother very slowly.  “It’s so soft,” she sighed.

“But tough!” said the Lord excitedly.  “You cannot imagine what this mother can do or endure.”

“Can it think?”

“Not only think, but it can reason and compromise,” said the Creator.

Finally, the angel bent over and ran her fingers across the cheek.  “There’s a leak,” she pronounced.  “I told you we were trying to put too much into this model.”

“It’s not a leak,” said the Lord, “it’s a tear.”

“What’s it for?”

“It’s for joy, sadness, disappointment, pain, loneliness and pride.”

“You’re a genius,” said the angel.

The Lord looked somber.  “I didn’t put it there.”

   Erma Bombeck

jesus wounds in hands

One day, I woke early in the morning to watch the sunrise.  Ah the beauty of God’s creation is beyond description. As I watched, I praised God for His beautiful work. As I sat there, I felt the Lord’s presence with me. He asked me, “Do you love me?” I answered, “Of course, God! You are my Lord and Savior!”

Then He asked, “If you were physically handicapped, would you still love me?” I was perplexed.  I looked down upon my arms, legs and the rest of my body and wondered how many things I wouldn’t be able to do, the things that I took for granted. And I answered, “It would be tough Lord, but I would still love You.”

Then the Lord said, “If you were blind, would you still love my creation?” How could I love something without being able to see it? Then I thought of all the blind people in the world and how many of them still loved God and His creation. So I answered, “Its hard to think of it, but I would still love you.”

The Lord then asked me, “If you were deaf, would you still listen to my word?” How could I listen to anything being deaf? Then I understood. Listening to God’s Word is not merely using our ears, but our hearts. I answered, “It would be tough, but I would still listen to Your word.”

The Lord then asked, “If you were mute, would you still praise My Name?” How could I praise without a voice? Then it occurred to me: God wants us to sing from our very heart and soul. It never matters what we sound like. And praising God is not always with a song, but when we are persecuted, we give God praise with our words of thanks. So I answered, “Though I could not physically sing, I would still praise Your Name.

And the Lord asked, “Do you really love Me?” With courage and a strong conviction, I answered boldly, “Yes Lord! I love You because You are the one and true God!” I thought I had answered well, but God asked, “THEN WHY DO YOU SIN?” I answered, “Because I am only human. I am not perfect.” “THEN WHY IN TIMES OF PEACE DO YOU STRAY THE FURTHEST? WHY ONLY IN TIMES OF TROUBLE DO YOU PRAY THE EARNEST?” No answers. Only tears.

The Lord continued: “Why only sing at fellowships and retreats? Why seek Me only in times of worship? Why ask things so selfishly? Why ask things so unfaithfully?” The tears continued to roll down my cheeks. “Why are you ashamed of Me? Why are you not spreading the good news? Why in times of persecution, you cry to others when I offer My shoulder to cry on? Why make excuses when I give you opportunities to serve in My Name?” I tried to answer, but there was no answer to give.

“You are blessed with life. I made you not to throw this gift away. I have blessed you with talents to serve Me, but you continue to turn away. I have revealed My Word to you, but you do not gain in knowledge. I have spoken to you but your ears were closed. I have shown My blessings to you, but your eyes were turned away. I have sent you servants, but you sat idly by as they were pushed away. I have heard your prayers and I have answered them all.”

“DO YOU TRULY LOVE ME ?” I could not answer. How could I? I was embarrassed beyond belief. I had no excuse. What could I say to this? When the tears had flowed, I said, “Please forgive me Lord. I am unworthy to be Your child.”

The Lord answered, “That is My Grace, My child.” I asked, “Then why do you continue to forgive me? Why do You love me so?” The Lord answered, “Because you are My creation. You are My child. I will never abandon you. When you cry, I will have compassion and cry with you. When you shout with joy, I will laugh with you. When you are down, I will encourage you. When you fall, I will raise you up. When you are tired, I will carry you. I will be with you till the end of days, and I will love you forever.”

Never had I cried so hard before. How could I have been so cold? How could I have hurt God as I had done? I asked God, “How much do You love me?” The Lord stretched out His arms, and I saw His nail-pierced hands. I bowed down at the feet of Christ, my Savior.

And for the first time, I truly prayed.

old work truck in snow
Jake the rancher went one day to fix a distant fence.
The wind was cold and gusty and the clouds rolled gray and dense.
As he pounded the last staples in and gathered tools to go,
The temperature had fallen, the wind and snow began to blow.
When he finally reached his pickup, he felt a heavy heart.
From the sound of that ignition he knew it wouldn’t start.
So Jake did what most of us would do if we had been there.
He humbly bowed his balding head and sent aloft a prayer.
As he turned the key for the last time, he softly cursed his luck
They found him three days later, frozen stiff in that old truck.
Now Jake had been around in life and done his share of roaming.
But when he saw Heaven, he was shocked — it looked just like Wyoming !
Of all the saints in Heaven, his favorite was St. Peter .
So they sat and talked a minute or two, or maybe it was three.
Nobody was keeping’ score — in Heaven, time is free.
‘I’ve always heard,’ Jake said to Pete , ‘that God will answer prayer,
But one time I asked for help, well, he just plain wasn’t there.’
‘Does God answer prayers of some, and ignore the prayers of others?
That don’t seem exactly square — I know all men are brothers.’
‘Or does he randomly reply, without good rhyme or reason?
Maybe, it’s the time of day, the weather or the season.’
‘Now I ain’t trying to act smart, it’s just the way I feel.
And I was wondering’, could you tell me what the heck’s the deal?!’
Peter listened very patiently and when Jake was done,
There were smiles of recognition, and he said, ‘So, you’re the one!’
That day your truck, it wouldn’t start, and you sent your prayer a flying,
You gave us all a real bad time, with hundreds of us trying.’
‘A thousand angels rushed, to check the status of your file,
But you know, Jake , we hadn’t heard from you in quite a long while.’
‘And though all prayers are answered, and God ain’t got no quota,
He didn’t recognize your voice, and started a truck in Minnesota’!
IT’S BEST TO KEEP IN TOUCH!
Jeremy was born with a twisted body and a slow mind. At the age of 12 he was still in second grade, seemingly unable to learn. His teacher, Doris Miller, often became exasperated with him. He would squirm in his seat, drool, and make grunting noises. At other times, he spoke clearly and distinctly, as if a spot of light had penetrated the darkness of his brain. Most of the time, however, Jeremy just irritated his teacher.
One day she called his parents and asked them to come in for a consultation. As the Forresters entered the empty classroom, Doris said to them, “Jeremy really belongs in a special school. It isn’t fair to him to be with younger children who don’t have learning problems. Why, there is a five year gap between his age and that of the other students.”
Mrs. Forrester cried softly into a tissue, while her husband spoke. “Miss Miller,” he said, “there is no school of that kind nearby. It would be a terrible shock for Jeremy if we had to take him out of this school. We know he really likes it here.” Doris sat for a long time after they had left, staring at the snow outside the window. Its coldness seemed to seep into her soul. She wanted to sympathize with the Forresters. After all, their only child had a terminal illness. But it wasn’t fair to keep him in her class. She had 18 other youngsters to teach, and Jeremy was a distraction. Furthermore, he would never learn to read and write. Why waste any more time trying?
As she pondered the situation, guilt washed over her. Here I am complaining when my problems are nothing compared to that poor family, she thought. Lord, please help me to be more patient with Jeremy. From that day on, she tried hard to ignore Jeremy’s noises and his blank stares. Then one day, he limped to her desk, dragging his bad leg behind him.
“I love you, Miss Miller,” he exclaimed, loud enough for the whole class to hear. The other students snickered, and Doris’ face burned red. She stammered, “Wh-why that’s very nice, Jeremy. N-now please take your seat.”
Spring came, and the children talked excitedly about the coming of Easter. Doris told them the story of Jesus, and then to emphasize the idea of new life springing forth, she gave each of the children a large plastic egg. “Now,” she said to them, “I want you to take this home and bring it back tomorrow with something inside that shows new life. Do you understand?”
“Yes, Miss Miller,” the children responded enthusiastically-all except for Jeremy. He listened intently. His eyes never left her face. He did not even make his usual noises. Had he understood what she had said about Jesus’ death and resurrection? Did he understand the assignment? Perhaps she should call his parents and explain the project to them.
That evening, Doris’ kitchen sink stopped up. She called the landlord and waited an hour for him to come by and unclog it. After that, she still had to shop for groceries, iron a blouse, and prepare a vocabulary test for the next day. She completely forgot about phoning Jeremy’s parents.
The next morning, 19 children came to school, laughing and talking as they placed their eggs in the large wicker basket on Miss Miller’s desk. After they completed their math lesson, it was time to open the eggs. In the first egg, Doris found a flower. “Oh yes, a flower is certainly a sign of new life,” she said. “When plants peek through the ground, we know that spring is here.” A small girl in the first row waved her arm. “That’s my egg, Miss Miller,” she called out. The next egg contained a plastic butterfly, which looked very real. Doris held it up. “We all know that a caterpillar changes and grows into a beautiful butterfly. Yes, that’s new life, too.” Little Judy smiled proudly and said, “Miss Miller, that one is mine.” Next, Doris found a rock with moss on it. She explained that moss, too, showed life. Billy spoke up from the back of the classroom, “My daddy helped me,” he beamed.
Then Doris opened the fourth egg. She gasped. The egg was empty. Surely it must be Jeremy’s she thought, and of course, he did not understand her instructions. If only she had not forgotten to phone his parents. Because she did not want to embarrass him, she quietly set the egg aside and reached for another. Suddenly, Jeremy spoke up. “Miss Miller, aren’t you going to talk about my egg?” Flustered, Doris replied, “But Jeremy, your egg is empty.” He looked into her eyes and said softly, “Yes, but Jesus’ tomb was empty, too.”
Time stopped. When she could speak again, Doris asked him, “Do you know why the tomb was empty?” “Oh, yes,” Jeremy said, “Jesus was killed and put in there. Then His Father raised Him up.”
The recess bell rang. While the children excitedly ran out to the schoolyard, Doris cried. The cold inside her melted completely away.
Three months later, Jeremy died. Those who paid their respects at the mortuary were surprised to see 19 eggs on top of his casket……. all of them empty.

Palm Sunday image for website

A mom whom I respect very much recently told me about an incident with her teenage son. Her son, rather uncharacteristically (he is a good kid) was lashing out at her, spitting out the most awful invectives, screaming “I hate you” over and over again. She tried to reason with him in a calm voice but his anger only intensified. “So I just grabbed him and held him as tight as I could, not saying a word, while he screamed. And after a while, he started crying. He was crying like a baby in my arms. It was awful, but the only way to respond to that much anger is to take it until it disappears.”

I thought of this story as I worked through the readings for Palm Sunday. I’ve never noticed the prominence of the theme of non-resistance to evil.

The theme is introduced in our first reading:

I have not rebelled, have not turned back.

I gave my back to those who beat me, my cheeks to those who plucked my beard;

My face I did not shield from buffets and spitting. . .

I have set my face like flint, knowing that I shall not be put to shame.

The theme continues in the gospel, both explicitly and implicitly. For example, when Peter tries to defend Jesus with the sword, we read,

Then Jesus said to him,“Put your sword back into its sheath, for all who take the sword will perish by the sword.”

Jesus’ non-resistance is seen at the table of The Last Supper where He refuses to defend Himself against Judas, before Pilate when He refuses to defend Himself, in front of the crowds who cry for Barabbas, and on the cross while He suffered innocently.

Why doesn’t Jesus do something to defend Himself, to respond to His attackers? The answer might be seen in part in the answer my friend gave: the only way to respond to such awful anger, such intense violence, was to accept it.

Morally, this answer creates problems. When non-resistance is embraced as normative, it can make us negligent in our responsibility to work for justice, to defend the innocent and vulnerable. Women who are being abused by their husbands, or children by their parents, or students by their teachers do not need to hear to “take it.” But then again, we don’t want resistance, even proportionate resistance, to become normative either. The witness of the cross, of the suffering servant is too powerful. One critical task in the Christian moral life is to determine when non-resistance, when the way of the cross, is most appropriate.

Fights with loved ones often provide such opportunities. When a loved one lashes out in anger, especially uncharacteristic anger, often this is coming from a place of fear or hurt. Responding with anger or injury often serves to exacerbate the situation, not resolve it. Refusing to respond or to resist can help to resolve the situation by refusing to perpetuate the cycle of anger and violence.

Other opportunities present themselves online, especially with social media. Why is it that people feel comfortable hurling insults or unfriendly criticism online in a way that they would never do in person? It is tempting to respond but often this does more harm than good. Sometimes non-resistance is the best way to undermine the violence and meanness of an angry Facebook or blog comment.

For the Christian, the key to such moments of non-resistance is not to ignore the injustice, but rather to place our hope in God to resolve what we know we cannot.

The great spirituality writer Ronald Rolheiser uses Mary under the cross as another example of appropriate non-resistance. In his book Sacred Fire, he writes

In essence, what Mary was doing under the cross was this: her silence and strength were speaking these words: “today, I can’t stop the crucifixion; nobody can. Sometimes darkness will have its hour. But I can stop some of the hatred, bitterness, jealousy, and heartlessness that caused it—by refusing to give it back to kind, by transforming negativity rather than retransmitting it, by swallowing hard in silence and eating the bitterness rather than giving it back in kind.”

Had Mary, in emotional and moral outrage, began to scream hysterically, shout angrily at those crucifying Jesus, or physically tried to attack someone as He was driving the nails into Jesus’ hands, she would have been caught up in the same kind of energy as everyone else, replicating the very anger and bitterness that caused the crucifixion. What Mary was doing under the cross, her silence and seeming unwillingness to protest notwithstanding, was radiating all that is antithetical to crucifixion: gentleness, understanding, forgiveness, peace, light, and courage.

May we have the grace to have the prudence to know when also to not respond in kind.

boy baseball

Two 90-year old guys, Leo and Frank, had been friends all of their lives. When it was clear that Leo was dying, Frank visited him every day.

One day Frank said, "Leo, we both loved playing baseball all our lives, and we played all through high school. Please do me one favor: when you get to heaven, somehow you must let me know if there's baseball there."

Leo looked up at Frank from his deathbed and said, "Frank you've been my best friend for many years. If it's at all possible, I'll do this favor for you."

Shortly after that, Leo passed away. A few nights later, Frank was awakened from a sound sleep by a blinding flash of white light and a voice calling out to him, "Frank.. Frank '......

"Who is it?" asked Frank sitting up suddenly. "Who is it?"

"Leo-- it's me, Leo."

"You're not Leo, Leo just died."

"I'm telling you, it's me, Leo," insisted the voice.

"Leo!. Where are you?"

"In Heaven," replied Leo. "I have some really good news and a little bad news."

"Tell me the good news first," said Frank.

"The good news," Leo said, "is that there's baseball in heaven. Better yet, all of our old buddies who died before us are here too. Better than that, we're all young again. Better still, it's always springtime, and it never rains or snows. And best of all, we can play baseball all we want, and we never get tired."

"That's fantastic," said Frank. "It's beyond my wildest dreams!   So what's the bad news?"

"You're pitching Tuesday."

bird protecting young

After a forest fire in Yellowstone National Park, forest rangers began their trek up a mountain to assess the inferno’s damage.  One ranger found a bird literally petrified in ashes, perched statuesquely on the ground at the base of a tree.

Somewhat sickened by the eerie sight, he knocked over the bird with a stick. When he gently struck it, three tiny chicks scurried from under their dead mother’s wings.

The loving mother, keenly aware of impending disaster, had carried her offspring to the base of the tree and had gathered them under her wings, instinctively knowing that the toxic smoke would rise. She could have flown to safety but had refused to abandon her babies.

Then the blaze had arrived and the heat had scorched her small body, the mother had remained steadfast….because she had been willing to die, so those under the cover of her wings would live.

He will cover you with His feathers, and under His wings you will find refuge.

(Psalm 91: 4)

old man smilingJerry was the kind of guy you love to hate. He was always in a good mood and always had something positive to say. When someone would ask him how he was doing, he would reply, “If I were any better, I would be twins!”

He was a unique manager because he had several waiters who had followed him around from restaurant to restaurant. The reason the waiters followed Jerry was because of his attitude. He was a natural motivator. If an employee was having a bad day, Jerry was there telling the employee how to look on the positive side of the situation.

Seeing this style really made me curious, so one day I went up to Jerry and asked him, “I don’t get it! You can’t be a positive person all of the time. How do you do it?” Jerry replied, “Each morning I wake up and say to myself, Jerry, you have two choices today. You can choose to be in a good mood or you can choose to be in a bad mood.’ I choose to be in a good mood. Each time something bad happens, I can choose to be a victim or I can choose to learn from it. I choose to learn from it. Every time someone comes to me complaining, I can choose to accept their complaining or I can point out the positive side of life. I choose the positive side of life.”

“Yeah, right, it’s not that easy,” I protested.

“Yes it is,” Jerry said. “Life is all about choices. When you cut away all the junk, every situation is a choice. You choose how you react to situations. You choose how people will affect your mood. You choose to be in a good mood or bad mood. The bottom line: It’s your choice how you live life.”

I reflected on what Jerry said. Soon thereafter, I left the restaurant industry to start my own business. We lost touch, but often thought about him when I made a choice about life instead of reacting to it. Several years later, I heard that Jerry did something you are never supposed to do in a restaurant business: he left the back door open one morning and was held up at gunpoint by three armed robbers. While trying to open the safe, his hand, shaking from nervousness, slipped off the combination. The robbers panicked and shot him. Luckily, Jerry was found relatively quickly and rushed to the local trauma center. After 18 hours of surgery and weeks of intensive care, Jerry was released from the hospital with fragments of the bullets still in his body. I saw Jerry about six months after the accident. When I asked him how he was, he replied, “If I were any better, I’d be twins. Wanna see my scars?”

I declined to see his wounds, but did ask him what had gone through his mind as the robbery took place. “The first thing that went through my mind was that I should have locked the back door,” Jerry replied. “Then, as I lay on the floor, I remembered that I had two choices: I could choose to live, or I could choose to die. I chose to live.”

“Weren’t you scared? Did you lose consciousness?” I asked. Jerry continued, “The paramedics were great. They kept telling me I was going to be fine. But when they wheeled me into the emergency room and I saw the expressions on the faces of the doctors and nurses, I got really scared. In their eyes, I read, ‘He’s a dead man.’ I knew I needed to take action.”

“What did you do?” I asked.

“Well, there was a big, burly nurse shouting questions at me,” said Jerry. “She asked if I was allergic to anything. ‘Yes,’ I replied. The doctors and nurses stopped working as they waited for my reply… I took a deep breath and yelled, ‘Bullets!’ Over their laughter, I told them, ‘I am choosing to live. Operate on me as if I am alive, not dead.”

Jerry lived thanks to the skill of his doctors, but also because of his amazing attitude. I learned from him that every day we have the choice to live fully. Attitude, after all, is everything.

By Francie Baltazar-Schwartz

Let this really sink in - then choose how you start your day tomorrow.

 finish strong quote
Fast from judging others;
  Feast on Christ dwelling in them. 
Fast from emphasis on differences;
  Feast on the unity of all life.
Fast from apparent darkness;
  Feast on the reality of all light.
Fast from thoughts of illness;
  Feast on the healing power of God.
Fast from words that pollute;
  Feast on phrases that purify.
Fast from discontent;
  Feast on gratitude.
Fast from anger;
  Feast on patience.
Fast from pessimism;
  Feast on optimism.
Fast from worry;
  Feast on God’s providence.
Fast from complaining;
  Feast on appreciation.
Fast from negatives;
  Feast on affirmatives.
Fast from unrelenting pressures;
  Feast on unceasing prayer.
Fast from hostility;
  Feast on non-resistance.
Fast from bitterness;
  Feast on forgiveness.
Fast from self-concern;
  Feast on compassion for others.
Fast from personal anxiety;
  Feast on eternal truth.
Fast from discouragement;
  Feast on hope.
Fast from facts that depress;
  Feast on verities that uplift.
Fast from lethargy;
  Feast on enthusiasm.
Fast from suspicion;
  Feast on truth.
Fast from thoughts that weaken;
  Feast on promises that inspire.
Fast from shadows of sorrow;
  Feast on the sunlight of serenity.
Fast from idle gossip;
  Feast on purposeful silence.
Fast from problems that overwhelm;
  Feast on prayer that sustains.
 

elderly couple holding hands

 Michael Duduit

 A nurse shared this story of faithfulness: It was a busy morning, approximately 8:30 am, when an elderly gentleman, in his 80’s, arrived to have stitches removed from his thumb. He stated that he was in a hurry as he had an appointment at 9:00 am. I took his vital signs and had him take a seat, knowing it would be over an hour before someone would to able to see him.

I saw him looking at his watch and decided, since I was not busy with another patient, I would evaluate his wound. On exam, it was well healed, so I talked to one of the doctors, got the needed supplies to remove his sutures and redress his wound.

While taking care of his wound, we began to engage in conversation. I asked him if he had a doctor’s appointment this morning, as he was in such a hurry. The gentleman told me no, that he needed to go to the nursing home to eat breakfast with his wife. I then inquired as to her health. He told me that she had been there for a while and that she was a victim of Alzheimer Disease.

As we talked, and I finished dressing his wound, I asked if she would be worried if he was a bit late. He replied that she no longer knew who he was, that she had not recognized him in five years now.

I was surprised, and asked him. “And you still go every morning, even though she doesn’t know who you are?”

He smiled as he patted my hand and said. “She doesn’t know me, but I still know who she is.”

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...And she said hearing her unborn baby’s heartbeat“was the most beautiful music I ever heard in my life.”

“Human life must be respected and protected absolutely from the moment of conception. From the first moment of his existence, a human being must be recognized as having the rights of a person – among which is the inviolable right of every innocent being to life.” – Catechism of the Catholic Church2270

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We, at St. Helena Catholic Church, are concerned with educating, directing, and sustaining all who visit. 

In particular those who draw near to the teachings and traditions of Holy Mother Church. 

We strive to achieve this by utilizing the Cardinal Virtues of Justice, Prudence, Temperance and Fortitude.

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