In recent weeks, the inconveniences that we are experiencing as a result of the coronavirus are touching a nerve in our culture. There are people who don’t think the restrictions apply to them. They are the exception. This was most recently played out in Florida where young people ignored the ban and remained on the beaches during Spring Break. It has now been revealed that some of them have contracted the virus. Who knows how many other people they have infected? Our Holy Father, Pope Francis said recently: “Every man for himself is not a solution to pandemic.” When a common danger arises, it often destroys human ties and everyone begins to think only about themselves. We resent having any restrictions placed on us. It is all symptomatic of that inner rebellion – the rebellion that stems back to the very beginning of our race. We call it the Original Sin. All sin has pride at its roots. Just recently I read the story of Fr. Giuseppe Beradelli, a pastor of the parish in Casigno, near Bergamo in northern Italy, one of the worst hit regions in Italy. He contracted the coronavirus and died last week in Lovere hospital. According to the hospital staff, he refused to use a respirator his parishioners had bought for him. He chose to give it to a younger patient, instead, a respirator that his parishioners had purchased for him, to a younger patient, whom he did not know. Residents of Casnigo were reported to have applauded from their windows and balconies as the coffin was taken for burial. On Tuesday, Pope Francis led a prayer for the deceased doctors and priests, “thanking God for their heroic example in serving those who were sick.” I want to share some other encouraging stories of people and organizations out there who are making sacrifices and doing acts of charity to help their neighbor. There is a landlord in the State of Main, Nathan Nichols, who announced he won’t be collecting rent in April to ease his tenants’ financial worries. A store in England has set aside one hour every morning for elderly and other vulnerable individuals to buy the items they need. Two major car companies have pledged to cover up to six months of car payments for owners who lose their jobs in the wake of the outbreak. A number of school districts throughout the country are providing free breakfast and lunch to kids while its schools are closed. A convenience store in Edinburgh, Scotland, is giving out free “coronavirus packs” to people over 65. Chinese billionaire Jack Ma has announced that he will donate 500,000 test kits and one million masks to the U.S. to help with supply shortages. A college in the US is issuing refunds to students who live on campus, but it’s helping with moving costs! And we’ve all heard of the doctors and health care workers who are working overtime in our hospitals and emergency rooms under great pressure and experiencing a lack of resources in fighting this virus and keeping up services to all those suffering from other illnesses and diseases. I want to express my gratitude to all the doctors and health care workers, emergency workers, police, laborers, priests, clergy and lay workers and all of those people who are making sacrifices for the good of our society in crisis. I want to pray for all those whose businesses are shut down, all those affected financially by this crisis. We will remember them in a special way during Holy Week. Next week we begin Holy Week with Palm Sunday. These most holy days of the entire Liturgical Year are a reminder of the battle that happened between good and evil, between sin and love, the primordial battle that is still being waged in our world. I invite us all to reflect on how can unite ourselves with Christ in His Passion, Death and Resurrection this coming week. I know many of us are making sacrifices already, whether work, money, no school, extra duties and hours we never expected. But I am going to ask everyone to think of how we can sacrifice a little bit more – trying to focus on God’s love that brought Jesus to the cross. Let’s pray for one another and ask Our Lady to intercede and pray for all of us. Join me at 6:00 am., 12 noon, and 6 pm. when our church bells ring to pray the Angelus for all those in need. God bless, Fr. Dennis
Hi my name is Kate Davis and my husband, Ron, and I went on the adult retreat last month. We brought our 5-month old daughter, Margaret. Margaret had been fighting a minor cold for about a week, so we decided to take her to a prayer team on Saturday night. As I was standing there, holding her while she received prayers, I heard myself say to God, “I know you can heal her, but I don’t think you will.” Voicing words like that in my mind caught me off guard. Did I really not trust God to be the healer He says He is? It immediately brought back memories of another time I remember feeling this way. After conceiving 3 children quite easily, Ron and I assumed conceiving a fourth child would follow suit. However, 2 years later, we were still waiting for that positive pregnancy test. I began to lose hope that we would ever have more children. In prayer one night, I heard God say to me, “You don’t believe anymore that I can make you pregnant.” After I grimly affirmed that, I heard Him say, “Ask me to make you pregnant.” With what was admittedly zero hope and expectation, and very much like a stubborn child, I said to Him, “Fine. Make me pregnant.” I honestly am not even sure I said please.
Fast forward a few weeks, and Ron had just come home from a Holy Spirit Encounter night at church. He told me he had asked for prayers for our infertility journey. After receiving prayers, one of the individuals who prayed over him said that during the prayer, he had a vision of a child. When Ron told me this, my response was, “I don’t want to talk about this anymore.” Hoping had become too painful. Besides, I had already taken a pregnancy test that month, and it was negative. About a week later, I took a second test and found out I was pregnant. When Ron was being prayed over, I was already pregnant but didn’t know it. God had delivered on His promise.
Despite receiving this miracle of our daughter, Margaret, I realize that I am still a work in progress. While I believe that God is who He says he is and that He can do anything, I don’t always believe it will happen to me. Perhaps you also find that when things aren’t going the way you want them to, it’s hard to give up the control and trust that God’s plan is better than yours. I recently read a book by Danielle Bean called You are Enough. In it she said (paraphrasing), “perhaps sometimes God makes us wait for something so long so that we believe it is impossible…simply to prove to us that nothing is impossible for God.” In the moment, God’s plan doesn’t always make sense. But we trust that one day, either in this world or in Heaven, it will make sense. Until then, may we all use this time of Lent to draw closer to God, be brave enough to ask for exactly what we want and be bold enough to trust that whatever we receive is exactly what we need. God bless you all!
How does the saying go, “time flies when you’re having fun?” That’s certainly been the case with our adult retreats! It’s hard to believe that in February we completed our fifth year of having them! That’s quite the milestone, especially since I don’t know of many parishes who have ever put one on. Retreats are common for youth groups and confirmation prep but very rare for adults. And yet here we are, just having completed our ninth one, which is pretty awesome!
Milestones like these always inspire me to reflect on the journey we’ve been on. I can remember discussing the idea of a retreat with our staff for a couple of years before we finally decided to have one. At one point we had even scheduled and advertised one, but had to cancel as complications came up. I ran the idea by a few other people in the diocese that worked in adult evangelization, but no one really sounded very excited about it. But, retreats have been such an important part of our youth ministry and young adult programs, that our rationale on the parish staff has always been that it only made sense they would have a big impact on our adult ministry.
Our goals for our first retreat in September of 2015 were quite simple. We wanted people to have an opportunity to encounter Jesus similar to how the youth does at Steubenville: through a powerful time of Adoration. We also wanted our parishioners to have an opportunity to grow closer, while building on a sense of community in our church. And lastly, we hoped that by putting the retreat on, our Evangelization Team of parish staff members would be able to build trust with parishioners, so they would feel comfortable coming to us as they had questions and grew in their relationship with the Lord.
Looking back, I can see many ways that these goals have been met. A common response on our survey after the retreat is how powerful the time of prayer and Adoration was. Most people leave there with a renewed sense of their relationship with God and a desire to pray more. A lot of people just feel different in ways that they sometimes aren’t even able to describe. We have seen small groups develop from these retreats, a lot of times because people enjoyed their small group discussions so much that they wanted to try and keep that going in their regular life. It’s also been quite common for people on the retreat to contact staff afterwards for advice or to pray together to see where the Lord might be asking them to go next.
As I continue to reflect on all of our retreats, the first one still holds a special place in my heart. The excitement of doing something completely new and seeing people experience it for the first time was very cool. I remember one couple mentioning how the husband had been on many men’s retreats before but this was the first time that he was able to go one a retreat with his wife and how special that was for them to be able to share an experience like that together. The highlight of the weekend to me was being in a small group with other men in the parish, some that I knew well beforehand and some that I didn’t. The journey that we went on during the retreat was pretty incredible as we shared what brought us there and how the Lord worked throughout the weekend. My relationship with all of those guys has been different ever since. There’s just a deeper relationship now when we see each other at Mass than in the past where we probably wouldn’t have even noticed one another.
In addition to completing our fifth year of retreats, another milestone that we crossed in February is that we have now had over 100 parishioners attend the weekend at least once! Just over half of those people have come back again. One person has even been on all nine of the retreats! Interestingly enough she was also the person who told us back when we first pitched the idea that we would never get people to give up a whole weekend for a retreat! God definitely has a sense of humor with these things!
Looking ahead I hope that these weekends will continue to be a blessing to our parish. If you have never thought about coming on a retreat before, or if you just think it’s for “other people”, I encourage you to take it to prayer and consider attending our 10th retreat on September 25th to the 27th. At our last retreat a few people mentioned how they didn’t really want to “give up a whole weekend” when they thought about whether they wanted to attend. I challenged them to think about what God might give them as opposed to what they were missing out on.
We all have stuff weighing on us. Often, those things are outside of our control. What if the Lord changed something inside of us so that we were better able to respond to the challenges in our lives? Or what if he gave us a gift that helped us to relate to someone in our life differently? These are things that can and do happen when we give our time to the Lord, especially when we take steps outside of our comfort zone or try things that we never thought we would have before. The bigger the risk we take the bigger the reward that the Lord often gives us. So, whether you have been on a retreat before, whether you’ve had a bad experience on a retreat before, or whether you’re not a “retreat person” and have never been on one before, I encourage you to take this to prayer and consider if the Lord might be calling you to join us in the future. Who knows, maybe you’ll be a part of the story of our next five years!
The Year of the Word of God and Lent
During this Lenten season I want to encourage everyone to pray with and learn from the Scriptures. The two primary ways I want to speak about today are: Scripture helping us with personal prayer, and Scripture in the Liturgy. How can we receive more from the Word of God because the Word is Jesus, who speaks to us if we are open. The Catechism of the Catholic Church says: “In Sacred Scripture, the Church constantly finds her nourishment and her strength, for she welcomes it not as a human word, but as what it really is, the Word of God. In the sacred books, the Father who is in heaven comes lovingly to meet his children, and talks with them.” (CCC #101)
Scripture in the Liturgy
The words of Sacred Scripture are unlike any other texts we will ever hear, for they not only give us information, they are the vehicle God uses to reveal himself to us. What is more, the Word of God proclaimed in the Liturgy possesses a special sacramental power to bring about in us what it proclaims. We believe that all Scripture, both the Old and New Testaments, are inspired by the Holy Spirit.
What, then, must we do to receive what God has to say to us in the Word of God proclaimed at Mass?
1. Prepare yourself. The General Instruction tells us that "the readings from the Word of God are to be listened to reverently by everyone" and it admonishes us to "be carefully prepared.” One suggestion I would make is to read the readings before you come to Mass on Saturday evening or Sunday morning. Not only that, I would encourage everyone to pray with them; not on Sunday morning, but sometime during the week. I do this to prepare my homily. I read the readings on Monday, and then again on Tuesday and I let them sit in my mind and think about them. Inevitably a story or a thought comes to mind – this is the Holy Spirit speaking through the Word. Then I leave it for a day or so and then read the Scriptures again and allow the words to mull around in my mind.
This is what St. John Paul II encouraged in his work: Dies Domini (The Day of the Lord) “Reflect beforehand upon the Word of God, because it is difficult for the liturgical proclamation of the word of God alone to produce the fruit we might expect" In this way we will till the soil, preparing our souls to receive the seeds to be planted by the Word of God so that seed may bear fruit.”
2. “I don’t get anything out of Mass” Many say they don’t get anything out of Mass, but maybe it’s because they fail to first bring anything to it. We often bring our issues, stresses, anxieties, fears, concerns, and personal baggage to Mass. May I suggest that you check your bags at the doors of the church. Focus rather on thanksgiving, a special intention with you, someone or something you want to offer up to the Lord upon his altar alongside the gifts. Your problems are not unimportant to our Lord. But, let’s remember, as the Word of God tells us: “He knows our needs even before we ask them…” Turn your attention for the hour of Mass to the “divine space and time” of Mass - the Lord is offering up His very life for you. Don’t you think that He will take care of you? When we enter into God’s time and space, He is able to work His divine power and grace in us.
3. A pure heart, a clean heart Create in me Oh God. Are you really putting your heart upon that altar during Mass? Are you really giving God permission to have his way with you, entrusting him with your health, your finances, your job, your marriage, your children, your vocation, and your future? At Mass, Jesus, the Word of God is offering to give you a “new heart” a “heart of flesh, not of stone.” Give God permission to speak to you and transform your heart.
4. The Word of God calls us to Mission. Do you leave Mass with a mission? There are people who desperately need what you have! Before you exit that pew, before your genuflection is complete, and before you deactivate the car alarm in the parish parking lot, have a goal, a purpose, and a plan. This is an important way we can allow the Word of God to produce fruit in us. Who are you going to invite next week? Who are you going to reach out to at work or school? What do you need to work on personally, and how do you plan to unleash the powder keg of grace within your soul in the coming hours and days? The question is not whether you have been empowered at Mass but whether you comprehend the power that exists within you—and what you plan to do about it.
Scripture in Personal Prayer
Did you know that God wants us to talk with Him as we read His Word? He wants us to actively talk with Him in our heart. We gain so much strength as we read His Word and listen to Him.
1. First of all we must listen. God is interested in our needs. He knows them before we ask, but He delights that we come and ask Him. And there is certainly a place in prayer for asking and interceding for our needs and the needs of our neighbor. However, the Lord wants to speak to our heart as well. And to do this, we must cooperate. We must listen. “If you abide in Me, and My words abide (live) in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you” (John 15:7).
2. Give thanks and open your heart and mind. First, give thanks to God for who He is, and all that He has done. Then invite the Holy Spirit to open your mind and heart to the Lord. Ask for understanding. Become aware that you are always in the presence of a loving God. Thank God for creating you, loving you, adopting you as God's own child. Ask God for an increase in faith, hope, love, or any other grace you may need.
3. Read with Faith. Scripture is the living Word of God. When we read God’s Word, we encounter God Himself. When you read with Scripture, make sure that you proclaim in your heart that you believe God’s Word is true. Anyone can read the Bible, but the person who reads in faith, this will transform them.
4. Have something to help you focus. I encourage all those who come to me for spiritual direction to have a holy icon or image, a candle, a Bible open to a certain passage (a Gospel story, a psalm, etc.). Distractions are normal and common in prayer. When we are distracted, simply focus on the holy image or candle, and refocus on the Lord’s presence.
5. Reflect. As you end your prayer period, reflect on what you have just experienced, the key thoughts, feelings, interior movements. Thank God for giving you this time and opportunity to encounter and communicate with God, your loving Father. Speak aloud a short concluding prayer, such as the Lord's Prayer, the Hail Mary, a prayer by your favorite saint, etc.
6. Journal. As you grow and become more comfortable and more faithful in prayer, consider taking time to journal. It doesn’t have to be a big, long process. Simply jot down your thoughts as you pray-read the Bible. Journaling helps us to capture the truths that God wants to give us.
During Lent we will be offering a couple evenings of prayer. This may be something which can help you in your personal prayer journey.
The Holy and Joyful Season of Lent is approaching. “Return to me with your whole heart, with fasting, weeping, and mourning. Rend your hearts, not your garments, and return to the Lord, your God, For he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, abounding in steadfast love.” Joel 2:12-13
For the Christian, Lent is above all, a journey, a journey of repentance. It is important to stress that repentance is different from regret or remorse. The truth is many people can live their whole lives tormented about remorse without changing anything about themselves. Repentance is responding to God’s call through Jesus Christ our Lord. We turn to God, who heals us from sin and its destructive effects.
How do we repent of our sins?
1. Confession: Well, the Sacrament of Confession is one of the greatest graces we have as believers, where sacramentally the Lord absolves and frees us from the sins which create an obstacle between us and God.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church reminds us: "God created us without us: but he did not will to save us without us. To receive his mercy, we must admit our faults. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” And the Apostle John writes: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just, and will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness." (1 John 8:9). Lent can be a turning point for us. The disciplines of Lent help us to leave behind old habits and the lazy addiction to the evil that deceives and ensnares us.
2. Practicing Self Denial: The Scriptures and the Church have always encouraged us to “practice” repentance. How do we do this? By removing some things from our lives during Lent, like certain foods, or activities on which we relied for comfort. This helps us to realize how spoiled we have become, how much we cling to worldly things. Giving up certain foods, candy, entertainments, etc. all help us to intensify our spiritual journey. These practices help us to acknowledge that God is the only true source of peace and happiness. Do something that hurts – make sacrifice, fast and give alms. Don’t make it a token act out of obligation – pray and ask the Lord how we can really sacrifice ourselves and unite ourselves to the cross. No true self-denial is real without this dimension of penance. We should be distrustful of a something that costs nothing and does not hurt.
3. Works of Charity: It’s not however, just about what we take out, but it is just as much about what we put into our lives this Lent. Sadly in the Western world, we seem to be moving more and more toward self-indulgence and selfishness. It is our fallen human nature that calls to us – to be anxious, to worry, to be fearful, and to try to fulfill all our wants and desires. This too is so harmful to the spiritual life. Lent is leading us on a journey to learn to trust God, for He alone can provide us with what we need. Only the Creator, not the creature, can offer us what we really need.
3. Almsgiving: One specific act of charity is to give alms, to help our brothers and sisters in need. It is clear in Scripture that God desires us to focus our attention on the needs of our brothers and sisters. Scripture speaks clearly to the fact that if we ignore the poor, we endanger our spiritual lives. We fill ourselves with heavenly treasure when we empty our pockets for the poor and needy. In the Catechism (#2443) it says: “God blesses those who come to the aid of the poor and rebukes those who turn away from them: “Give to him who begs from you, do not refuse him who would borrow from you.” (Matt 5:42) “The Church's love for the poor is a part of her constant tradition." (#2444)
4. Prayer: Prayer is not distinct to the Lenten season. But what the Lord asks us is to intensify our prayer life. There are many ways to do this. Stopping for a few moments throughout the day, at lunch time, in the car, early in the morning before we begin the day, and to pray and recollect ourselves, asking for God’s grace and taking time to listen to Him. Another profitable way to pray is to use the Scriptures. The goal of prayer is to dispose ourselves so that the Lord can make our hearts like His. “Fac cor nostrum secundum cor tuum” translated: “Make our hearts like yours” (Litany of the Sacred Heart of Jesus). In this way we will receive a heart which is firm and merciful, attentive and generous.
Pope Francis writes: In the face of so many wounds that hurt us and could harden our hearts, we are called to dive into the sea of prayer, which is the sea of God’s boundless love, to taste his tenderness. Lent is a time of prayer, of more intense prayer, more prolonged, more assiduous, more able to take on the needs of the brethren; intercessory prayer, to intercede before God for the many situations of poverty and suffering.”
“It’s hard to get in shape spiritually if you only work out on Sunday”
God Bless, Fr. Dennis
This Wednesday, February 19th, Bishop Boyea will give the Sacrament of Confirmation to thirty high school students here at Most Holy Trinity. This is an exciting day for our parish and the students being Confirmed! It is always great to have our bishop visit. Please come to the 7:00pm Mass that evening if you can!
Also, because Confirmation is this week, I wanted to take this opportunity to talk about a common misconception surrounding this sacrament and to clarify some of the changes we’ve made to Confirmation preparation in light of that.
Over the past couple of years I was on an advisory committee at the diocese that focused on making changes to how we prepare students for Confirmation in order to address the growing reality of more and more Catholics leaving the faith after they received Confirmation as teenagers. Being a part of that group encouraged me to focus on what the Church teaches about Confirmation and let that be my starting place for what preparation for this sacrament should look like. Ultimately, going back to the Catechism forced me to see that I had some false assumptions about Confirmation and that we needed a dramatic shift in how we prepare students for this sacrament.
The Catechism says that Confirmation is the "sacrament of Christian maturity.” I was raised to believe that this meant Confirmation is a kind of “rite of passage,” a sacred ritual where someone accepts the faith for themselves and commits to the responsibilities of being an adult Catholic. In this way the student is “confirming” their own faith. That understanding of Confirmation is, and has been, very widespread and has led to most preparation programs becoming sacrament conveyor belts. What that has looked like here at MHT is that when a student reached a particular grade they started Confirmation preparation and were, for the most part, expected to receive the sacrament along with everyone in that grade.
However, that is not at all what the Church believes about Confirmation. When the Catechism calls this the sacrament of Christian maturity it means that God is maturing the person receiving Confirmation by giving them more of what they already received at Baptism. An authentic understanding of Confirmation is that it’s the completion of a person’s baptism and a continuation of Pentecost.
The Catechism says “the sacrament of Confirmation is the special outpouring of the Holy Spirit as once granted to the apostles on the day of Pentecost.” And then goes on to list the effects of this sacrament on the recipient:
- brings an increase and deepening of baptismal grace
- it roots us more deeply in the divine filiation which makes us cry, "Abba! Father!”
- it unites us more firmly to Christ;
- it increases the gifts of the Holy Spirit in us;
- it renders our bond with the Church more perfect;
- it gives us a special strength of the Holy Spirit to spread and defend the faith by word and action as true witnesses of Christ, to confess the name of Christ boldly, and never to be ashamed of the Cross
Notice the “more than” language here. The person being confirmed already has baptismal grace, is already a child of God, is already united to Christ, etc. All these things happened at their Baptism. However, what God planted at Baptism He brings to maturity in Confirmation. God is the one “confirming” the candidate in their identity as His beloved son or daughter.
It is from this perspective that we have made the recent changes to Confirmation preparation. This sacrament is something that is personally discerned depending on the desire and disposition of the individual wanting to receive it. It is not a rite of passage. Neither is it the decision of a candidate’s parents or family. There are only two people that discern the readiness of a candidate to receive Confirmation: the person themselves and the Church.
What that looks like here then is that anytime after a student finishes 8th grade, if they desire to be Confirmed, they will meet with Corey or me for an initial interview. At that interview we will discern that student’s desire and disposition for this sacrament based on the Church’s guidelines that include a candidate’s prayer life, sacramental life, parish life, moral life, and their ongoing catechesis. Based on that interview we will give each student a preparation program tailored to them that could include recommendations for daily prayer, retreats, catechesis, Mass, Confession, etc. These recommendations are their Confirmation requirements and each student’s recommendations will look different. We will follow up with each student throughout the year and when they are ready for Confirmation they will attend a two-day Confirmation retreat and will be able to be Confirmed at the next Confirmation Mass with the bishop.
It has only been a few months since we have implemented this new process and we are already seeing the fruit. The personal interviews focused on helping students articulate their relationship with God now and where they want it to grow have been invaluable. These meetings have already caused Corey and I to adjust our other events in order to meet the needs that we hear being expressed in the interviews. This new program also empowers students to see their faith life as their own rather than just their family's, allowing them to invest personally in their relationship with the Lord. It puts the decision of whether or not to be confirmed and when to be confirmed more into their hands rather than the sacrament being an automatic thing because they reached a certain age.
Because we are in a transition year where the high school sophomores are going through the old preparation program while the freshman are going through the new process I want to address some potential confusion. This Wednesday it is only sophomores being Confirmed. In future years we will begin to see students across grades being Confirmed, and the only reason freshman are not being Confirmed this week is because we haven’t been able to meet with them more than once for their interviews. If you have any questions at all about Confirmation preparation please don’t hesitate to reach out to me.
Finally, I would like to encourage you to pray for these Confirmation candidates in a way perhaps you haven’t before. As I said above, the Church teaches that someone receiving Confirmation is receiving the same outpouring of the Holy Spirit that the Apostles did at Pentecost. With that in mind, please pray for these candidates specifically that they will be filled with the Holy Spirit as the Apostles were. Pray that the Spirit will reveal Himself personally to them. Pray that they will be empowered to perform signs and wonders. Pray that they will have a renewed relationship with the Holy Spirit and, like Mary, hear His voice and respond to His promptings throughout their entire life.
Personally, this time of year is always kind of crazy for me. I get a little caught up in planning mode and get semi-overwhelmed, and then kind of zero in on what is important for just me. Our youth ministry has a lot on the schedule for this spring. There’s the Mission: Wixom coming up, the Spring Break trip, 8th grade weekend retreat, then after that is Steubenville already. Having four big events in a matter of four months ends up putting me in a place (sometimes) of just living and breathing the plans and the details. Planning is a good thing and it is important, but there are different times when I am planning these things without the mind of Christ, and I get stuck in just what I am doing.
When my mind is so inwardly focused like this, I end up forgetting and not being totally mindful of the busyness of all the lives of people around me. Whether it’s the parents of kids that I have in my youth group or the high schoolers that I work with, everyone is absolutely so so BUSY. Between school, work, practices, sports, appointments, etc., there is sometimes no space in our lives to think about anything else. We just end up living and breathing the plans and details, right? Like I said before, planning isn’t a bad thing, but if it isn’t balanced by an overall bigger perspective or direction for our life, then what does it do for us? If we don’t have that balance then usually, from what I have perceived from the kids I work with, I think it just creates anxiety. When we don’t know who we are or what direction we are meant to go then planning is kind of pointless right?
The readings for this weekend give us a clear direction for our planning. “Just so, your light must shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father.” We are made to be lights to the world! We are made to draw people into Christ and glorify the Father just by being that light! The mission of all of our youth ministry is to help kids realize the light that God has made them into and then take that light to the dark parts of the world. Most of our retreats are built around building the kids up as lights to the world, but especially our Spring Break trip coming up is one where some of our youth will actually get to go be a light in a place that really needs it, which happens to be in Appalachia.
The people in the Appalachian mountains have had the darkness of poverty around them for a long time, and this year I am very excited that MHT and St. Mary’s will be able to partner with Christian Appalachian Project. This organization will put us to work in different impoverished areas of Kentucky that need home repairs. We will get to know the families we are working for and give them our light of help and hope. Like I said before, it’s really easy to get caught up in our own lives/planning, but it’s in the core of our identity to be able to bring God to people. Now, not all of us can take time off and dedicate a whole week to helping others but I’m hoping some of you will be willing to help our young people be a light with the work we do.
If there is anyone who has been feeling personally called to help those in poverty, please reach out to me through email, or if you have been feeling more called to financially help the youth or those in poverty then please consider partnering with us on this mission!
In prayer, one of our team members got an image of a pulsating warm light, like an invitation. It was more than just an image, but a feeling. The light was an invitation to you, offering warmth and protection.
You know those cold, late night, fall bonfires that have you standing as close to the fire as you possibly can, constantly switching from your front to your backside. The ones you instinctively find yourself drawn to the warmth of the fire. You just try to take it in the warmth for as long as you possibly can. You are also very aware of the deep ache the side facing away from the fire feels, so you find yourself constantly turning to soak up the heat for as long as possible until the side facing away from the fire just can’t take it anymore and you turn again to share the warmth.
Another person saw a building that was completely dark with two old doors. The two old door slowly opened and then a warm light began to rise like a nice summer sun rise. Slowly the light began to brighten and fill the room with warmth and light.
God’s invitation for all of us is to be in communion with him, simply to have a relationship. God’s desire is to bring joy, hope, love, renwal, and transformation. "I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life." John 8:12
My invitation to you is to pay attention to how God is speaking to you. It may be in prayer, it may be through friends and family, or it may be through this bulletin article. God is trying to draw all of us closer to him, and our adult retreats provide an environment and opportunity to do just that. Pay attention to your heart's desires. God maybe placing things on your heart. Have you been drawn to the adult retreats in the past, but it just wasn’t good timing? Have you been invited, but fears are holding you back? His love is stronger than anything of this earth. I really want to encourage you to prayerfully consider attending the retreat. God is inviting you to come to him. Come and embrace the Father’s Love February 14-16 in DeWitt. More information on the retreat and registration can be found on the parish website.
Bonnie and Vern ~What does the path to a relationship with Jesus look like? For us baby boomers and generations before, this phrase “relationship with Jesus” is something new. Our faith was based on following the rules, do all the church teaches, seek absolution when we fail, and we will someday be in Heaven via purgatory. What was presumed to work back then does not work today. Recently we heard this slogan, “Rules without relationship cause rebellion.” The need for the new evangelization efforts underway testify that just obeying the commandments and Church teaching often fails.
Vern ~In my life this happened through High School and into my middle twenties. I call them my minimalist years. Thanks be to God he did not abandon me. He continued to make the first move pouring grace and mercy on me. Just enough to stay involved during a long slow period of learning and growth, slowly getting to know Jesus. A million little moments spread over 30 years or more. God kept putting opportunities in my path, most of which were missed as wealth, power, honor, and pleasure kept me too busy to notice.
Bonnie and Vern ~Things began to change as our children left the nest and daily influence over them melted away. Suddenly prayer took on a whole new meaning. We always had our individual prayer time but now it seemed natural that we spend more time in prayer together. We had a common need. The increased prayer time slowly led to the start of a relationship with the Trinity. So, in a way our children became the initiative from God that required a response of faith from us. Our response, more prayer time, then opened us up to receive more grace. We are sensing this repetitive cycle with God where He initiates, we respond in faith, He initiates again, and on and on. Each time the amount of grace seems larger.
Vern ~One fruit from this cycle was noticing my desires change. When MHT first started the Heart of Jesus Holy Hour, I used to marvel at the volunteers that sat through the entire Holy Hour. How could they enjoy just sitting in church that long? Now nothing seems more important to me. I hunger and thirst for opportunities to pray and help others get to know Jesus. The parish retreats met this need perfectly. Initially through attending the retreats and then later being asked to help in the presentation of them. Being invited to assist with the retreats was nothing less than God putting another opportunity in our path. In the last couple years this new abundance of grace has manifested itself with an outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon us. The pinnacle of this was the Encounter Ministries Conference 2019. I came home changed. Prior to the conference I would be hesitant or somewhat intimidated to pray with others. This has been replaced with a boldness unknown before. In Ministry School they have this saying, “crossing the chicken line,” which speaks to being too timid to follow through with opportunities God puts in our path like praying with people or giving a witness. The chicken line is quickly disappearing for me. As the cycle of faith and grace continues things that used to trump faith activities have lost ground. Prayer, worship, praying with others, ministry school, and anything that has to do with faith has taken the top of my desires. It was not too long ago when I thought this kind of happiness could never be found from doing God’s will. To the contrary, as I come closer to being and doing what God created me to be, I am finding true happiness.
Bonnie ~Vern has always been one to jump into everything. I have a hard time stepping out of my comfort zone. Over the years he has talked me into some crazy things that I never thought I would do. For example, riding the DALMAC bicycle tour and starting a youth group and leading it for five years. The latest challenge is attending the Encounter Ministries School. So many times, be it little or big, I go to prayer to help with the decision. God has responded by giving me the grace I need to say yes. Every time I step out in faith and say yes like Mary did, I feel God has truly blessed me and our marriage.
So we want to push you our of your comfort zones. Please consider attending our Parish Retreat. This is an opportunity God is putting in your path. Pray about it. We promise God will deliver.
Bonnie & Vern Thelen
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
People throughout the US and the world will gather in churches and public spaces on January 22nd the Anniversary of the Supreme Court decision to legalize abortion in the US and which was accompanied by similar decisions in other Western nations.
Every year I read articles about whether the Pro Life movement should invest our time and resources in the March for Life and instead direct them to more practical and concrete pro life work. Let me say first of all, having worked for many years in the pro life ministry and encouraging support for our Crisis Pregnancy Centers, etc. I think anything we can do to public and prophetically speak to this very lost and confused culture of death is good. Flood the streets, pray at the street corners, stand in silent prayer at Planned Pregnancy Centers, whatever we can do to witness to life is crucial.
AND we need to do the practical work of accompanying women and families to save innocent lives. Throughout Church history, those scared, in trouble or need, those on the run escaping pursuers, would claim the right of sanctuary as they rushed into the safety of God’s house. That is what we need to be, out in the world, for our brothers and sisters who are hurting and wounded by abortion. We need to pray, but we also need to act. Next year we will have a national election. Those whom we elect will determine, not only the direction of our economy and welfare, but in a real sense, who lives and who dies. We are seeing, in particular in Western nations a rise in the culture of death – euthanasia, the killing of the elderly, the mentally ill. Governments and health agencies are taking upon themselves the power to determine who lives and who does not. This is very disturbing. But it reminds us that the pro life work and ministry of the Church will never end. Death is always seeking a way in…. We need to stand up for life.
Pope Francis, in his ongoing global examination of conscience, that a culture that violently intrudes upon the life of a baby in the sanctuary of his or her mother’s womb, would soon lose reverence for all places intended by God as safe, secure, and nurturing? Is this not happening in our very day? A society that treats the sanctuary of the earth’s environment as a toxic waste dump; would begin to consider homes and neighborhoods as dangerous instead of as sanctuaries where families are protected and fostered; would commence to approach the poor as bothersome instead of brothers? A society that is more and more burdening the dying with guilt for peacefully and patiently savoring each day until God takes them, pressuring them instead to suicide?
Can any of us be safe, can any of us claim a sanctuary anywhere when the first and most significant sanctuary of them all, the mother’s womb protecting a tiny life, can be raided and ravaged? Behold the baby in the sanctuary of the womb. Once that’s violated, once a society deems it legal to invade it, the integrity of the natural and the supernatural are ruptured . . . and we have no place safe and secure left to go.
We still have much to do – march down the streets of America, being the prophetic voice for those who cannot speak out, and to do the hard work in our local communities to ensure that every persons senses and knows that they are of value and inestimable worth.