Tag Archives: Divine Mercy

The Last Shall Be First

Mark 10:28-31

This Gospel passage continues from where the rich youth rejected our Lord’s counsel to cast away his riches and thus, went away sorrowful. It is in this context that the Apostles began to inquire of THEIR reward for they had ALREADY fulfilled this precept of leaving everything behind.

However, Jesus replies with a general answer. He instructs the Apostles to prefer the Glory of God over the things of this world. Finally, He closes the discourse by telling them the famous verse which all Catholics love: “But many that are first will be last, and the last first.” (Mk 10:31)

From a human perspective, this may seem daunting, illogical and unfair. Even in the depths of my heart, I do ponder why this must be so. How is it fair that the last will become first? (The sin of envy is a very ugly sin.)

The fundamental principle to remember is that God’s ways are DIFFERENT from ours. If we can’t accept this, then we do not understand a thing about True Christianity. The heart of Mark 10:31 is God’s generosity. It’s about the way God deals with us and the way He asks us to deal with each other. The last will be first.

The world’s view is the exact opposite. The world loves winners and has no time for losers. The brightest student gets the scholarship while the weakest goes to work in McDonald’s. The world doesn’t have time for those who are last. Jesus invites us through today’s Gospel to ask ourselves: shall we act in the way the world does?

With God, there are no losers. Remember that He loves us all equally. Whether we choose to accept that love though, will always be our choice alone.

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Originally posted on Instagram.
Image: PD-US

Remain in Me

Before meeting Jesus on the road to Damascus, Paul was “breathing murderous threats against the disciples of the Lord,” and yet today we remember him as a great evangelizer and prolific New Testament writer. What happened? Nothing less than an inbreaking of divine grace.

For the powers of humanity, there are a great many situations that are beyond hope: souls that have been irrevocably corrupted, systems that are beyond repair. But for God, no one is beyond hope. No matter how hardened a person, God can break through any barriers to offer them mercy and an opportunity for transformation. He stopped Paul right in his murderous path, turned him away from Damascus and out into all the world a changed man. He channeled Paul’s zeal toward its natural, rightly ordered purpose: building up the Kingdom of God. In the same way, our own human purpose can only be understood through an encounter with the divine.

Whoever eats my Flesh and drinks my Blood remains in me and I in him (John 6:56).
Jesus has given Himself to us in the Eucharist as an opportunity for encounter with Him, that we too might be transformed by His grace. He instituted this sacrament so that we might share a radical intimacy with Him. Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati understood this deeply—he received Communion daily, meeting Jesus every morning and carrying Him throughout the rest of the day. This is the key to his sanctity: not Pier Giorgio’s own goodness, but his openness to divine grace, to deep intimacy with and vulnerability before God.

“I urge you with all the strength of my soul to approach the Eucharist Table as often as possible. Feed on this Bread of the Angels from which you will draw the strength to fight inner struggles.”
—Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati

Conversione_di_san_Paolo_September_2015-1aThe great things that Paul achieved after his conversion stemmed from this intense closeness with God and awareness of God’s perfect love. This is what opened Paul’s heart to allow God to work through him rather than imposing his own will. When the scales fell from his eyes and he saw his life with sudden clarity, he fell to his knees in humility before God. Throughout the rest of his life, as he wrote and preached and converted a great many souls, he was ever aware that it was all due to God working in him: It is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me (Galatians 2:20). Paul knew all too well the cold, cruel man he would be without God, and thus he was able to recognize that any good fruits that flowed from his work were not due to his own power or talent or goodness, but from Jesus Christ working through him.


1. Domenico Morelli, Conversion of Saint Paul / PD-US
2. Caravaggio, The Conversion of Saint Paul / PD-US

Originally posted at Frassati Reflections.

The Treasure of Sin?

Some of us (me definitely included) fall into despair sometimes when we believe that we are too damned.

"The confession" by Pietro Longhi, ca. 1750
The Confession, Pietro Longhi, ca. 1750

We detest sin — as we all should! — but we detest sin not because we desire the good, but we detest it out of frustration, out of a belief that God might not forgive us again.

Peter Kreeft in his book Three Philosophies of Life talks about the Treasure of Sin and he has basically given me hope again!

Wait. What?! Sin? A treasure? Yes, read on.

“But we are all philosophers, unless we are animals. Men live not just in the present but also in the future. We live by hope. Our hearts are a beat ahead of our feet. Half of us is already in the future; we meet ourselves coming at us from up ahead. Our lives are like an arc stretching out to us from the future into the present. Our hopes and ideals move our present lives. Animals’ lives are like an arc coming to them out of their past; they are determined by their past. They are pushed; we are pulled. They are forced; we are free. They are only instinct, heredity, and environment; we are more; we are persons.

The determinists, from Marx and Freud to Skinner, who deny this fact, insult us infinitely more than any preacher who shouts sin and damnation at us. It is a great compliment to call a man a sinner. Only a free man can be a sinner. The determinists mean to steal from us the great treasure of sin. They deny us our freedom, and therefore our hope, our ability to live not just from our determined past but also from our undetermined future.”

— Kreeft, Three Philosophies of Life, p. 29

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Originally posted at Catholic Rambles.

Miserere Mei, Deus, Domine et Pater

O Father, Brother, Lord,
And God, Spouse of my soul,
Forgive my many sins, my crimes.
Lave my wriggling, red, whinging soul
And wipe away the deeply layered grimes,
The residue that clings
The stench that stings
Your nostrils. Take sandpaper
To the corroded rust
Of all my lies, my pride,
My many acts of lust,
And leave me clean and naked, pure and white,
That I might rest forever in your sight.

 But O Good God, still more I petition
You to grant me sorrow
For all my lack, especially of contrition,
Sorrow for all my omission
Of every good and worthy deed.
I reach out in utter need
From the depths of my abstraction,
The aching distraction and nagging
Sense of loss, the dragging
Weight of never-to-be-filled void,
Vacancy and vacuum where does not exist
The good that I was called,
Challenged,
Capable to perform.
Culpable omission, Father.
I did not do what I could,
What I should,
What I would have, if I loved you.

 For the good I might have done,
O Father, Mercy.
For the back I turned on you in your great need,
O Lord, Have Mercy.
For the vicious self-absorption which paid no heed,
O Brother, Mercy.
For the hanging (frightened) back to let you bleed,
O Savior, Mercy.
For the vacuous “I don’t care” behind my lack of deed,
O Lover, Mercy.
For the love grown stagnant, cold,
O Giver, Mercy.
For the calling shirked, shoved aside, shouted down and put on hold,
O Caller, Mercy.
For justice unwrought,
Battles unfought,
Truth untaught,
Pearls unbought,
And the good infection of grace uncaught,
O Divine Fisher, Have Mercy.
For the saint I might have been
And am not,
O Sanctifier, Have Mercy Upon Me.

Water

God is closer to us than water is to a fish. – St. Catherine of Siena

Water is weird. Have you ever had that thought? I’ve been having it lately as I sip from my glass. Water is this transparent, tasteless substance that our bodies naturally thirst for; it composes 71% of the world and 65% of the human body (75% for infants); it is necessary for life. “Water, with its amazing dissolving properties, is the perfect medium for transmitting substances, such as phosphates or calcium ions, into and out of a cell… all life on Earth uses a membrane that separates the organism from its environment. To stay alive, the organism takes in important materials for making energy, while shuttling out toxic substances such as waste products.”1

Angelica Kauffman, Christus und die Samariterin am Brunnen (1796)

Jesus told the Samaritan woman that He was the bearer of the water of life (John 4:10), which is the Holy Spirit (John 7:37-39). Knowing the chemical and biological properties of water, we may reflect on the richness of Jesus’ metaphor. The Holy Spirit sustains us; He transmits God’s grace into our innermost being, and He cleanses us of toxic impurities like sin and despair. Our bodies are the temples of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19).

In the Old Testament, the prophet Ezekiel records his vision of water issuing out of the side of a temple, a spring which became a river so deep that no-one could cross it (Ezekiel 47:2-5). This has traditionally been interpreted in light of John 19:34, the piercing of Jesus’ side with a lance – blood and water flowed out of His side, His very heart.2 Jesus told us that the Holy Spirit, our Paraclete or Advocate, would not come until He departed (John 16:7). After Christ’s sacrifice on the Cross, which made perfect atonement for our sins, man was reconciled to God and able to enter into His life, life without end.

Water is a tremendously precious substance. We who live in more developed countries can so easily take it for granted, but “only 1% of the world’s water is readily available for human consumption. Approximately 97% is too salty and 2% is ice.”3 One in nine people worldwide do not have access to clean drinking water;4 “6 to 8 million people die annually from the consequences of disasters and water-related diseases.”5

We who know we live by the Holy Spirit have been commissioned by Christ to bear this Living Water to others: “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:19). Jesus’ encounter with the woman at the well has ‘been described as “a paradigm for our engagement with truth”.’6 He reached out to her across strict social taboos – The Samaritan woman said to him, “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink? For Jews do not associate with Samaritans” (John 4:9). He asked her for the water she had, just as we may ask a non-believer for his friendship. Jesus’ ultimate aim was to offer the woman the gift of God Himself; likewise, through our human friendships, we too may draw others into relationship with God, offering our friends new life in Christ, so that they may discover their true identities as beloved children of God, the source and ground of their being (Acts 17:28).

You can bring a horse to water, but you cannot make it drink – let us be prudent and gentle in offering this precious life-giving Water to others, lest they develop a distaste for it without even trying It properly. Everyone is thirsty in some way – some thirst for beauty, so you can share the musical, artistic and architectural treasures of the Church with them;7 others thirst for truth, so you can find openings for reasoned discussions of the faith. Still others thirst for goodness, which you may exemplify by your living with the grace of God irradiating your life with peace, joy and charity in the midst of earthly trials. Find out what your friends are thirsty for, and you may deliver God to them in a Divine ice-cube to cool the fevered achings of their souls, or a flask of aqua vitae to give them new heart, or perhaps a sweet, fresh breeze that lifts their spirits to highest Heaven. Then you would have accomplished the best act of friendship, sharing your greatest treasure.

I have opened my Heart as a living fountain of mercy. Let all souls draw life from it. Let them approach this sea of mercy with great trust. Sinners will attain justification, and the just will be confirmed in good. Whoever places his trust in My mercy will be filled with My divine peace at the hour of death.
Diary of St. Faustina, #1520

desire for God

Images: Angelica Kauffman, Christus und die Samariterin am Brunnen (1796); Catholic Images.

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1 Tia Ghose, “Why Is Water So Essential for Life?”, Live Science.

2 Bishop Wilhelm Keppler, “The Thrust of the Spear”, in The Passion (1929).

3 Jonathan Sarfati, “The Wonders of Water”, Creation.com.

5An increasing demand”, UN World Water Day 2013.

6Jesus Christ the Bearer of the Water of Life”, Pontifical Council for Culture & Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue.

Extraordinary Jubilee: Extraordinary Divine Mercy

This year is the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy. I am sure that many of us still recall the Jubilee song of 2000:
It’s a time of joy, a time of peace/A time when hearts are then set free…/It’s the time to give thanks to the Father, Son and Spirit/And with Mary, our Mother, we sing this song/Open your hearts to the Lord and begin to see the mystery/That we are all together as one family/No more walls, no more chains, no more selfishness and closed doors/For we are in the fullness of God’s time/It’s the time of the Great Jubilee.
But what is the Jubilee? What does it mean?
The tradition of the Jubilee year goes back to Ancient Israel. God decreed that every 50 years would be a Jubilee year. On the 50th year all debts would be cancelled and all conflicts reconciled. People returned to their homelands, and they bought back any land they may have sold. Life would begin anew. This economy of mercy emphasized the need for repentance, conversion, mercy and renewal.

Normally, the Jubilee occurs every half century. Yet in November 2015, Pope Francis declared an extra-ordinary Jubilee of Mercy. A mere 15 years later! Why so soon?

Perhaps our age is the age of which Jesus spoke to Saint Faustina, the apostle of mercy. We are living in the era of Divine Mercy! According to Father Michael Gaitley MIC, the graces raining on us now are the fruit of the countless martyrs of the 20th century. World wars, dehumanizing ideologies, and violent revolts in the 20th century resulted in more martyrs in the past century than all the martyrs of the Church of previous years combined.
Fra Angelico
These martyrs united their suffering with Christ, their blood shed as His blood was shed. When we beg for mercy, the graces we receive are the fruit of Christ, the Vine and His holy branches. We harvest the fruits of these martyrs — in their self-giving love they sowed the seeds of toil and tears.
What does this mean for us? As recipients of abundant mercy, we are called to be merciful to others as the Father has been merciful towards us. Love is a gift, an act of self-giving. Hence, love only exists in the measure that we give it away. When we hoard love, love disappears. Love is replaced with selfishness and pride. When we share ourselves with others, love grows and multiplies.
But this still doesn’t answer our question — What is so special about this year?
It has been said that the day Jesus was conceived in Mary’s womb to the
day He died was a perfect cycle. We celebrate Christmas on December 25. On March 25, we celebrate the Annuciation, exactly 9 months before Christmas. This year, Good Friday fell on March 25, exactly 9 months before Christmas. A perfect cycle!
divineMercy
Affirming this perfect cycle, a relic of the blood of Jesus in Italy liquefies on Good Friday, whenever Good Friday coincides with the Annunciation. The last time this happened was in 2005.
Do you remember anything remarkable about 2005? 2005 was the year that the Divine Mercy Pope, St. John Paul II, passed away on the Eve of Divine Mercy Sunday. In 2005 and in 2016, Good Friday coincided with the date of the Annunciation. In 2005 and in 2016, Divine Mercy Sunday fell on April 3. Proclaiming the Jubilee of Divine Mercy in this year affirms the Divine Mercy devotion propagated by St. Pope John Paul II.
Truly, this Jubilee of Divine Mercy is extraordinary! It is replete with proof that God has prepared this period of grace and mercy to bring His people back to their homeland; to give them a chance to renew their baptismal promises and live a life of deeper intimacy with Him!
Leia Go
Leia Go is a Filipina law student. She graduated in 2011 with an AB in Interdisciplinary Studies, focusing on Literature and Philosophy from Ateneo de Manila University (Loyola Schools). Her patron saints are Mama Mary, Saint Thérèse of Lisieux and Saint Faustina. She has been a lector and altar server in her schools’ campus ministry offices since high school. She also loves volunteering at the Good Shepherd Sisters baby orphanage and is discerning a vocation to religious/consecrated life.

Trust: The Ultimate Bait-n-Switch Game

One Trick Pony, One Message Fool

At the risk of sounding like a broken record in everything I write, both at Ignitum and elsewhere, let me just say that you can trust God. Always, fully, wholeheartedly, without need for reservation. You can trust God. In every aspect of your life, you can trust God. In the biggest tragedies that crush you like a bulldozer, and in the irritating minutia of life that gets underfoot, like crumbs on your bare feet in an unswept kitchen, you can trust God.

I can look back at my life and see that every, lasting good that I’ve experienced, and am currently experiencing, has come as a result of choosing to abandon myself to the One whose ways and thoughts are . Sometimes I’m blown away by the fact that I’m currently living my dream of being a speaker, paid writer, and missionary, with a strong and vibrant marriage and two beautiful boys, adopted from the island we currently live on.

Please note, though, that none of this is “boastable”material. Quite the opposite. I’m actually trying to show you that I’m a clueless fool who, left to his own devices, would ruin everything, but has found a safety net in trusting God. No matter how pristine the snapshot of my life is right now, it is paradoxically true that whatever good I do have in my life is a direct result of letting go of the sub-par screenplay I’d previously scripted for myself and trusting a better Writer.

In fact, let’s take a glance at this very moment in my life, made possible by the wonderful, productivity-destroying social media site, Vine. See below or click here.

Beautiful, right? I’ve got my ol’ donated laptop, the quiet, luscious Roseau Valley, and the Caribbean Sea. True, it’s all amazing. However, if you look more closely at those 6 seconds, you see hints of what it took to get here.

Did you see that blue, 55-gallon barrel? It represents the fact that our whole lives had to be crammed into a few suitcases and a couple of barrels, leaving behind 99% of the comforts we were used to. Did you hear the rain in the background? It’s been raining on and off for days, which makes it impossible to dry your clothes, which already have the permanent odor of sweat due to the sweltering heat. Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love the heat; but, I also love having a dryer to give me dry, freshly-scented clothes.

Notice that huge Caribbean Sea? Gorgeous, of course, but it also means we’re island-locked on a 16 x 29 mile rock with very few of the conveniences that we usually take for granted. No Target, no Wal-Mart, no Uncle Louis Cafe (pic on left), no Home Depot, no Best Buy, no super grocery stores, no dollar menus, no vehicle of your own, no family, and far less reliable health care.

Finally, in the last few frames of the clip, you’ll notice a small, green pyramid shape in the bottom right corner. You can’t see the cross, but that’s the steeple of St. Alphonsus’, in our little village, wonderfully named Goodwill. St. Alphonsus is a great community of believers with a vibrant faith life and joyous celebration. The people are wonderful and the music is beautiful. (Click HERE to listen to this week’s processional hymn.) However, as great as St. Alphonsus is, that steeple still represents the fact that we had to leave our home church of St. Benedict’s in Duluth, MN, where we not only had family and friends, but I also had a solid job, with opportunities to speak about Theology of the Body and all the other aspects of God’s love all over the diocese and elsewhere.

Trusting the Rungs

By way of example, let me sum up much of the good in my life and what each rung of the ladder has looked like:

  • As a fame-hungry 18-year-old, it took me giving up my dreams of applause and lights to find the vibrant fulfillment that comes from using time, treasure, and talents in the service of Christendom.
  • As a female-obsessed 20-year-old, endlessly distracted from God by the girls around me, it took me finally throwing up my hands and begging for “the either/or”, marriage or celibacy, to finally find my way to Jacelyn.
  • As a Jacelyn-obsessed 21-year-old, it wasn’t until I entrusted God with my future goals of ministry in America, that I was able to see the exhilarating life being offered to me as a missionary. (Jacelyn had known since she was ten that she wanted to be a missionary, and I’ve known since I met Jacelyn.)
  • As bright-eyed newlyweds, if we’d never trusted God enough to work as teachers in China for two years, which was a terrifying decision for us at the time, we’d never have visited Cambodia, where, on one of the 4 roads in the country, Jacelyn had “the light bulb moment” of feeling called to med school.
  • As fervent-but-frustrated Christians, if we hadn’t been open to change and willing to admit where we were wrong, even on points of our deeply-held faith, we would literally have been unable to to have found, embraced, and experienced the solid, transforming, and life-altering power and presence of God in the Catholic Church.
  • As emotionally exhausted, sexually hopeless spouses, if we hadn’t trusted Christ with our marriage, our intimacy, and our attempts at love, we’d never have been able to experience the intense depth of transformation and, yes, sexual healing, that we now enjoy. If we hadn’t gone celibate for a while, placing every attempted act of affection into the care of the One who created intimacy, we wouldn’t know how to truly love. We’d still be digging the grave for our marriage.
  • As a discouraged couple who has struggled with infertility, one of whom was/is in med school, both of whom were/are penniless, it was incredibly daunting to trust that God was, indeed, leading us to adopt two wonderful brothers–Davey and Christian–from a local village; but, having taken the latest of the insane leaps God’s lined up for us, we can’t imagine life without them.

Gesu Confido In Te

In January of 2010, we were blessed to be able to take 6 of my youth to Rome on a pilgrimage. Having lived there for 6 years, Fr. Eric Hastings, my boss in Duluth and our guide in Rome, would just take us walking through the streets, in and out of various churches. On one such outing, we stopped in to the Church of the Holy Spirit in Sassia, not far from St. Peter’s Basilica, and off to the side is a large, vibrant painting of the famous “Jesus, I Trust In You”, or “Gesu Confido In Te“.

Gesu Confido In Te

At that point in our lives, Jacelyn had been turned down by the one medical school she desperately wanted to attend, and had been struggling with not only the confusion of rejection, but also as to what our next step should be. Kneeling in front of the painting for times of prayer, multiple days in a row, Jacelyn was able to once again let that eternal message, “Jesus, I Trust In You,” permeate her heart and become her desire, committing her next breath, her next 7 years, and her life to her true Beloved.

And here we are today.

Bottome Line

If you pry your fingers from all the joys in your life that you’re grasping and allow God to look them over, like inspecting a great find in a thrift store, you will very quickly see God hand them back to you, polished, tweaked, and finished, “that your joy may be full“.

If you invite God to that table full of worries that you’ve spread out in front of you, desperately trying to get your mind around how to keep it all afloat, you will invariably see that the God who told us not to let the good news be choked out by the “worry of the world” is also the God who created water and then walked on it.

If it seems like I’m complaining, let me assure you that I wouldn’t consider changing anything about my life right now. I’m as giddy as a schoolgirl about it. Everything we’ve given up has, after the fact, been a pallid substitute to the radiance that trusting in God can bring. Lewis was right when he said that God “always gives back to them with His right hand what He has taken away with His left.”

You can trust him. With peril and prosperity, dirges and dances, sex and cents. What does a life of trust look like? To me, it looks like the final minutes of this video.

Your Misery Has Disappeared in the Depths of My Mercy

WEBERHYLA
Hyla by Kathleen Weber, Divine Mercy Image, 1992

It is at the confluence of hope and despair where the message of the cross shines the brightest, where the love of its Victim is seen in its fullest light. There, Jesus beckons us and at Calvary, he calls out and says, “I thirst” (John 19:28). What does he thirst for? He thirsts for souls, for you and I, because he loves us.

As a simple line from a children’s book tells us, “God made me to know Him, to love Him, and to serve Him in this world, and to be happy with Him forever in the next” (Baltimore Catechism #150). If we lose this, there is nothing left. But imagine if we really believed this truth? Nothing, ultimately, could shake us.

Who in this world needs this message more than those contemplating suicide or facing death? I have been recently reflecting upon some of these things because of the reported suicide of Ariel Castro. His terrible crimes need no mention here, as that has been copiously covered elsewhere. I also do not want to in anyway diminish the sufferings borne by his victims, nor mitigate culpability for his crimes.

What I have wondered, though, is could his story, and many others who have also chosen that path, have ended in a different way? The Catechism of the Catholic Church says this about suicide:

 Suicide contradicts the natural inclination of the human being to preserve and perpetuate his life. It is gravely contrary to the just love of self. It likewise offends love of neighbor because it unjustly breaks the ties of solidarity … to which we continue to have obligations. Suicide is contrary to love for the living God. (CCC #2281).

Yet, at the same time, the Catechism also mentions that God’s mercy is not necessarily denied towards those who do commit suicide:

Grave psychological disturbances, anguish, or grave fear of hardship, suffering, or torture can diminish the responsibility of the one committing suicide. We should not despair of the eternal salvation of persons who have taken their own lives. By ways known to him alone, God can provide the opportunity for salutary repentance. The Church prays for persons who have taken their own lives. (CCC # 2282-2283).

For those who chose to intentionally end their lives, neither I, nor can any other person, presume to know the state of their souls. What we can do is pray for them and entrust them to God’s justice and mercy. But we must remember that for every sad, and tragic, and heartbreaking story, there are countless more testimonies that show us the power of grace and forgiveness, of repentance and healing:

We must not forget Alessandro Serenelli, a murderer forgiven by his victim, St. Maria Goretti, and her mother. We must not forget St. Dismas, the “Good” thief forgiven by our Lord and promised paradise while still on the cross. We must not forget Henri Pranzini, who was on death row, but was prayed for by St. Thérèse of Lisieux and found salvation before his execution. On one level, this is scandalous, but on another is this not amazing? Are these not miracles to see dead souls spring back to life?

Naturally, we also must not forget, if we are Christians, the story of our own lives and how our souls found God’s healing rays of mercy and forgiveness. No soul, I repeat, no soul is beyond the reach of God — yours included! For those burdened, for those anguished, for those sorrowed beyond all grief, Jesus opens wide his arms and says, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28).

Jesus was no fool, nor naïve, nor sentimental in his love for you and for I. From his earliest days, he was intimately aware of the depths of evil that the human heart was capable of. And yet he was faithful till the utter end. With his whole self he loved us. He saw us despairing and hopeless, and rather than staying far off, he came close to be and to suffer with us. His love is the fulcrum upon which we can begin to make sense of the great chasm between hope and despair, between justice and mercy, between faith and unbelief.

Love, it seems to me, is the only power in the entire universe that can respond adequately to the despairing soul. It is at the point of no return, it is at our darkest hour, when we have nothing else to cling to, when the only words are tears, when our souls are at the very brink, that is where we begin to realize that the only place we can find rest, and quietly be, and experience peace is in the arms of Jesus, in the arms of the Beloved. “Lord, to whom shall we go?” (John 6:68).

In whatever way you struggle, even if it is with thoughts of suicide, I implore and beg you to consider this beautiful, precious truth that you are loved, really loved by the one who is Love. Your life has meaning. And it is good that you exist. Find good, solid help and support from those you can trust and then, hopefully just then, you’ll come to see this in the light of the Resurrection and find peace. Do not give ever up!

If instead someone close to you has committed suicide, you must not focus upon blaming yourself either but rather pray, and hope, and do not fall into despair. The Lord’s mercy is greater than we can ever know. One of my favorite quotes is from St. Faustina’s diary. It has helped me much in my own life. Regardless of what you have done or have failed to do, I think and hope it will encourage you too:

 “My mercy is greater than your sins and those of the entire world. Who can measure the extent of my goodness? For you I descended from heaven to earth; for you I allowed myself to be nailed to the cross; for you I let me Sacred Heart be pierced with a lance, thus opening wide the source of mercy for you.

Come, then, with trust to draw graces from this fountain. I never reject a contrite heart. Your misery has disappeared in the depths of My mercy. Do not argue with Me about your wretchedness. You will give me pleasure if you hand over to me all your troubles and griefs. I shall heap upon you the treasures of My grace.” (Conversation of the Merciful God with a Sinful Soul, Diary of St. Faustina #1485).

Pope Francis, in recently announcing the date of Blessed John Paul II’s beatification, set it for Divine Mercy Sunday April 27th, 2014 and said, “This is the time for mercy.” Indeed it is! The world needs this message now more than ever. May God bless you!

The Fusion of Three Christological Devotions

Photo Credit: thedivinemercy.org

Believe it or not, the Catholic Church and her faithful are devoted to Jesus Christ. With all our hyperdulia and dulia (devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary and the saints), we can often lose sight of the Church’s Christological devotion. Most clearly, the Church’s faithful are dedicated to the Eucharist—to receiving Christ in the Holy Eucharist and adoring Him, whether reserved in a tabernacle or exposed on the altar in a monstrance. Besides devotion to the Eucharist, the Church has three popular Christological devotions: Divine Mercy, Sacred Heart, and the Precious Blood, all of which have been the highlight of special devotion in recent months. The Sunday after Easter was Divine Mercy Sunday which many people observed by praying a nine day novena in honor of the Divine Mercy. June was the Month of the Sacred Heart and July is dedicated to the Precious Blood.

One of the temptations of the devotional world is to see devotions in competition with one another, as if they detract from one another or are diametrically opposed. This was made quite clear to me a number of years ago when I was discerning with a religious community that promoted the Divine Mercy message. One of my friends expressed his concern and hesitancy toward the Divine Mercy devotion because he believed it took away from and was replacing devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Rather than seeing these devotions as competitive, we should instead see them as complementing and to a certain extent fused to one another.   Common to all three devotions is the blood of Christ, His love, and mercy for the entire human race.

The Sacred Heart and the Precious Blood

If one pauses for a moment and thinks about the Divine Mercy and Precious Blood devotions, one quickly would discover that Christ’s Sacred Heat is foundational for both devotions.   Within the body, it is the heart that pumps the blood through the circulatory system. If one of the valves or arteries becomes clogged, it is necessary to do surgery—either to place a stent in order to open the valve or to do open heart bypass surgery. The heart is crucial in order for maintaining life because if blood cannot be pumped serious complications can result, including death. Jesus’ Sacred Heart was responsible for pumping His blood. When He was whipped, tortured, scourged, and crucified, Jesus’ heart continued to pump the blood that was shed for our sins, for the sake of mercy.

The Divine Mercy and the Precious Blood

Jesus taught St. Faustina many different prayers; the most popular being the Divine Mercy Chaplet. In the chaplet, the devotee prays, “Eternal Father, I offer You the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Your dearly Beloved Son, in atonement for our sins and those of the whole world. “  Another popular prayer of the devotion is, “O Blood and Water which gushed forth from the Heart of Jesus, as a fountain of mercy for us, I trust in You.”  The blood of Christ is central to the Divine Mercy devotion because the faithful offer their prayers in atonement for sins and confess their trust in Christ’s saving blood. As the Responsorial Psalm for the Feast of the Precious Blood proclaims, “Your Blood O Lord is the Source of Life.”[1]  Through St. Faustina, Jesus has relayed to the world that the Blood of Christ is indeed the source of life—the source of mercy.

Conclusion

The Sacred Heart, Divine Mercy, and Precious Blood devotions are intimately linked and fused. While they are indeed three separate devotions, nevertheless, a crossover exists within the devotions themselves. It is important for us to realize that the devotions we hold dear, do not compete with one another but are three different expressions of how we tell the Lord we love Him and receive His love and mercy. During the remaining days of this month of July, let us allow the blood of Christ to wash over us, the blood that pumps through His Sacred Heart and radiates the world with mercy. Let us turn toward Jesus, whose heart was pierced for our offenses and has become a fount of mercy and source of saving blood.


[1] The Feast of the Precious Blood is observed by some communities on July 1 (e.g. Missionaries of the Precious Blood). The liturgical feast of the Precious Blood has been joined to the celebration of Corpus Christi in the Ordinary Form.

Doubting Thomas

I love Easter! I love the readings, the flowers, the extra Alleluias, the joy and of course the Resurrection.

During our weekly staff meeting our priest loves to lead us in a small Lectio Divina of the upcoming Gospel for Sunday. This weekend’s Gospel comes from John 20: 19-31. Growing up I always knew this story as the one of “Doubting Thomas” and even then, I didn’t know what to make of it. In my opinion, Thomas gets a bad rap.

“Thomas, called Didymus, one of the Twelve, was not with them when Jesus came.So the other disciples said to him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands and put my finger into the nailmarks and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.”

John 20: 24-25

Even when I was younger I wondered, where was Thomas? The streets were not safe for the Apostles. On Holy Thursday, Peter was almost captured to be prosecuted with Jesus, and by now news had spread that Jesus’ body had gone “missing.” The Apostles were hiding in a locked room when Jesus appeared and we find out that Thomas was not hiding with him. In my opinion Thomas was either very brave or very stupid. With everything that was happening in the region at the time, there must have been something very pressing for Thomas to leave the safety of that room.

Thomas was also very intelligent, he asks for very specific proof. Thomas knew the brutality that Jesus endured and that if Jesus was truly risen, there would be some marks left. Even scientists today look for very specific outcomes and if their results do not fit the norm, they question why. It is also very normal to question in order to understand. I do not think that Thomas asked this question because he did not want to believe but rather that he did not know how to believe. All the Apostles were still grieving Jesus’ death prior to seeing him again, and since Thomas hadn’t seen, we was still grieving.

“Now a week later his disciples were again inside and Thomas was with them. Jesus came, although the doors were locked, and stood in their midst and said, “Peace be with you.” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands, and bring your hand and put it into my side, and do not be unbelieving, but believe.” Thomas answered and said to him, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus said to him, “Have you come to believe because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.”

John 20: 26-29

Faith in Action

Thomas has my favorite “light bulb” moment in the Bible, “My Lord and my God!” Not just “oh hey, it is you,” or some other greeting but my Lord and my God. When Peter was answering about who Jesus was, Peter replied, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the Living God”  Matthew 16:16 (emphasis mine) but Thomas fully admits that Jesus is Lord. No doubt, no hesitation, just bold.

On top of everything, this weekend is Divine Mercy Sunday. If you are not familiar with the devotion to Divine Mercy you can check it out here. St. Faustina received many messages from Christ and often was described as “Jesus’ secretary.” The most important messages were about Christ sending his Mercy out on the world. The message can be boiled down to this 1. Ask for Christ’s Mercy 2. Be Merciful 3. Completely trust in Jesus.

In the Gospels we hear many pursuing faith and asking for help with their unbelief. We are completely human. We are limited and flawed, and because of this doubt is only a part of the human condition. Even though we doubt, with the help of the Divine Mercy Chaplet, we have the same boldness of St. Thomas and all the Saints every time we say “Jesus, I trust in you.”

If you have never prayed the Divine Mercy Chaplet or it has been a while, please take a look at this web page from the Marians of the Immaculate Conception, How to Recite the Chaplet.

Happy Feast of Divine Mercy!

[author][author_image timthumb=’on’]http://www.ignitumtoday.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/10/Amanda-e1319548807143.jpg[/author_image] [author_info]Amanda Castro is a Youth Minister and Director of Religious Education at a small rural Iowa parish. Some of her students have begun a crusade to try and stump their youth minister, even so far as asking the local Bishop for help. If they could have remembered the Latin they would have succeeded too! Aside from being happily newly married to her best friend, her passions include (but are not limited too) her 9 nieces and nephews, the Mass, Adoration, and photography. You can find her new blog at Defined by Faith.[/author_info] [/author]