Saturday, January 23, 2016

Giving Your Life to God


It's amazing how people resist devoting their lives to following Jesus.  I was definitely one of them until very recently.  I know I did love Him and tried to be faithful for many years after I became a Catholic--in fact, I even entered religious life (but left after 6 years).  Despite taking that significant step, I now realize that I was not really deeply committed to Him, although I sincerely thought I was at the time.

A friend posted on Facebook about how sports fills a void in peoples' lives, and I remarked on how trivial that seemed... and then eventually felt compelled to post this:  "To be perfectly honest, I am trying very hard to live a holy life devoted to Christ. It is challenging but also exciting, ecstatic, really. I am filled with indescribable joy. Most people do not want to hear that, but it's the truth for me."

Although only one person clicked LIKE for that post, I'd be willing to bet that several more read it but were afraid to click LIKE because of the implications of doing that:  "if I click LIKE, why am I not doing it too?"

I think it is because of our unwillingness to cede control of our lives to anyone besides ourselves.  We all have so much pride, we want to call the shots and not let anyone else tell us what to do--at least, that was the way I felt.  Much like St. Augustine, "Lord make me pure but not yet," we want God, but we also don't want to give up what we perceive to be the pleasures of life, either. 

The truth is that you can't have it both ways:  you either decide to give your life to Christ, including all that means, or you don't:  there is no halfway.  However, the surprise is that once you do it, your life really does become filled with incredible joy and happiness, beyond what you were ever able to imagine before, and you don't feel like you gave up anything:  actually, you got EVERYTHING you could possibly want.  It's like a taste of Heaven on earth, and you find out that you can't wait to see Him in person.   You live every day in complete peace and trust, no longer even afraid of death, because it will bring you at last to the One you love above all things.   

A good book to read in this regard is Father Jean-Pierre de Caussade's Abandonment to Divine Providence.  Don't be afraid: ask God to give you the courage to make the leap.  You will be so glad you did!  +

Thursday, January 21, 2016

I Finally Understand Why We Have to Allow Illegal Immigrants to Stay


For most of my adult life, I was never financially secure, so I know only too well how it feels to be worrying all the time about making ends meet.  It was only in the past 5 years or so that I have earned enough to be stress-free about money--back in the 1980s, for example, I used to regularly submit to the humiliating necessity of going to a pawn shop to exchange things I owned for cash in order to make it to the end of the month.  I frequently reflect on how grateful I am not to have to worry like that anymore--and whenever the weather turns cold, I especially think about people who are having trouble paying their utility bills.  Although my income was cut in half when I retired, I still have more than enough money to meet my needs--and so I had the impulse earlier this week to withdraw $1,000 in cash from my bank account and take it with me when I went to Confession last night.

After the Sacrament was concluded, I asked Father Rafael if there was anyone he knew of in our parish who was struggling and in need of money right now, that I could help.  He immediately named a woman with 3 children whose husband had just been detained by the INS a few days ago.  I offered to give the money to him on the spot, but he preferred (and I think I understand why), that I give it to her myself, so he asked if it was OK for him to contact the brother-in-law of this woman (she speaks almost no English) and have him get in touch with me--and of course I agreed.

Until now, I must confess that I had never personally felt all that bad about efforts to deport illegal aliens.  Like many typical Americans--and I am myself descended from Polish and German immigrants--without thinking much about it, I tacitly thought that "well, my ancestors came here legally." 

After Confession I stayed for the Holy Hour, and needless to say, I prayed mostly for this desperate woman, because--confronting a situation like this so closely for the very first time in my life--it was not hard for me to imagine how depressed and frightened she must be under these horrible circumstances.

I checked my email when I got home, and going by the time stamp on the email, Father Rafael had obviously emailed the brother as soon as I left the Confessional, which also hinted at how serious this situation is.  I heard from him this morning; he gave me his phone number and said he could meet me any morning before noon.  This was around 10:00am, and although I am not one to get up and out of the house quite that early, I called him and said I'd be glad to meet him at the Church that day if he could make it.

We arranged to meet at 11:30, and did.  He told me that two of his brother's children were actually born in the United States, and I asked him if he thought that would make any difference to the INS, which he did not know.  He said his brother was feeling positive though, because he knew so many people are praying for him.  As of this moment, no one has any idea what the judge will decide.

I never understood until today what the real impact of deportation is.  This is a hard-working man who has been in the United States for 14 years, who undoubtedly struggled to make into the U.S. in the first place, happily married with three children and a loving wife, a member of MY church family--who is suddenly threatened with having his entire life destroyed.  I do not know him or his wife, of course, but I did meet his brother this morning--who is also married with three children-- obviously a loving parent (he brought his toddler son with him), and so I imagine his brother is just as nice as he is.

I cannot endure the thought that the lives of these sweet people, who have not harmed anyone by being here, are in such great danger.  I wish I knew something more constructive to do than just help them financially.  I will add that I feel extremely privileged to have had the opportunity to be Jesus' heart and hands on earth, in aiding these deserving people.  If you feel moved to do so, please pray for them yourself!  The mother's name is Brenda, and I am thinking about her all the time now.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

A Book Every Christian Should Read


I am re-reading Romano Guardini's beautiful book, The Lord.  I discovered it while I was in the convent, and it was a book I returned to over and over again.  As an indication of how great a masterpiece it is, the book, originally published in 1954, is still in print and available for purchase on Amazon.

Actually a series of homilies that Guardini gave to his congregation, reading it leads you right into prayer:  he will say something very beautiful or profound about Jesus, and you can't help but put the book down to spend some time adoring and loving Him.

In a chapter I just read a couple of days ago, he quoted John the Baptist: " "Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!"  Were more beautiful words ever spoken?  I don't think so.  I have been unable to move on, because I just can't stop meditating on this overwhelming and deeply moving sentence!  I highly recommend this book to everyone who loves Christ and wants to be closer to Him.  +

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

A Blessed Day!


I did go and buy my cemetery plot at Our Lady of Perpetual Help today, and it was a lovely experience.  Had an inspiring chat with the Office Administrator about how God has acted in our lives, and caught a big break:  I was able to get a spot quite close to the church in the old part of the cemetery, because just a month or so ago, a couple had relinquished their plot for two, in order to move to a bigger one which would accommodate their children.  (1) it is very unusual for a cemetery this old (1950s) to even HAVE spaces left, and (2) getting a place in the original part of the cemetery is unheard of.  For some reason, this meant a great deal to me.  We walked out to the cemetery together so I could visit my final resting place, and it is very nice.  I find this amazing, but she said this is the only Catholic cemetery in the Atlanta Archdiocese. The $1,000 I paid goes into a trust fund for perpetual care.

As if this was not enough for one great day, I needed to meet a friend to give her a recommendation for a grad school application, so I decided to go to a local coffee house where she goes frequently, and let her know I was there by phone text so she could swing by and get it.  As I came in, two professors I know from my previous job were leaving, and we stopped to talk for a bit.  They did not know I had retired, and asked what I was up to.  I mentioned that I was in the process of getting active in my parish, AND, it turns out, they are BOTH members of Our Lady of Perpetual Help AND they attend the same Mass that I do (Saturday night Vigil)!  I like both of them very much, and could not believe I never knew they are Catholic.  Of course they didn't know I was, because I have not been there for 2 decades, LOL!  We will definitely be hooking up, sitting together at Mass and doing some social things, I am sure.

I could not believe how wonderful God has been to me today, but then, I never stop being amazed at His goodness. WHY ME?  I keep asking.. I am so unworthy of all this love, but oh! how I do appreciate the beautiful blessings He keeps bestowing on me!  "How can I repay the Lord for His goodness to me?"  + 

Monday, January 4, 2016

Planning my Catholic funeral, Part 1


It just occurred to me the other day, that since no one in my family is Catholic--or even religious at all--that if I want a Catholic funeral, I will need to plan, arrange and pay for it myself--and so I am just beginning to do that. I know from past performance that they would just have me cremated, and that would be it, no prayers required. I don't think having a Catholic funeral matters to God, but it would be a comfort to me to know that it will happen, and since nearly everyone who comes (assuming anybody does!) will be non-Catholic, it would be my final evangelization attempt :-)

Tomorrow I am going to my parish to purchase a gravesite in the cemetery which is next to the church, Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Carrollton.  The cost is $1,000, and you get to choose the location you want. They told me that it is a perpetual care cemetery, and it is actually managed by the Archdiocese of Atlanta, which I like.  

The church is also going to give me some information to help me plan, which I totally need because I don't believe I have ever actually been to a Catholic funeral myself--so I have a lot of questions. For one thing, investigating this topic online, it seems as though a Wake/Vigil is required, but I really don't want to have a funeral home visitation because I think they are macabre (been there, done that).  However, I read that the Vigil can be conducted at the church (a Rosary, I guess?).  I am sure the church staff will be able to advise me on that.

I have some favorite St. Louis Jesuits' songs that I would love to have played, but another thing I learned is that the Church forbids the playing of recorded music, which was a new one on me.  I am pretty sure that Protestants allow that, but the Catholic Church does not, because participating in playing/singing at Mass is part of worship.  Interesting, I did not ever realize that!  

Music is preeminent among the signs expressed by the participants in any liturgy. Therefore, recorded music is not to be used within the liturgy to replace the congregation, the choir, the organist, cantor, or other musicians. (Liturgical Music Today, #60)
By a stroke of serendipity, I discovered today that I could buy a casket made by monks, and that funeral homes are now required to allow that, even though they hate it, because they make so much money on caskets!  There seem to be two plausible options for me, distance-wise:  St. Joseph Abbey in Louisiana, or New Melleray Abbey in Iowa.  I think Louisiana is probably closer, and thus shipping might be less, so I am trying them first.  I know I will have a big fight with the funeral home, but I am willing because I love the idea of getting something I need made in a prayerful manner, but also supporting a monastery.  However, the biggest problem is where to store it until it's needed.  I can't keep it in my house, because the cats would have their way with it:  can you imagine how much fun they would have, working on a nice big pine box?  I have a rented storage space, but I don't know how hard it would be for the funeral home to get it from there, since I would be dead and unavailable to give them access.  If anyone reading this has any creative ideas--or you own a barn with extra space, and wouldn't mind doing me this favor, I'd love to hear from you!

More on this topic later....