Thursday, May 30, 2013

Facing Challenges {Embracing Hope}

Today's Office of Readings touched my heart and gave me new inspiration to face the many and various challenges each day brings.  Maybe it will touch yours, too.
If you set your heart aright
and stretch out your hands toward him,
If you remove all iniquity from your conduct,
and let not injustice dwell in your tent,
Surely then you may lift up your face in innocence;
you may stand firm and unafraid.
For then you shall forget your misery,
or recall it like waters that have ebbed away.
Then your life shall be brighter than the noonday;
its gloom shall become as the morning,
And you shall be secure, because there is hope;
you shall look round you and lie down in safety,
and you shall take your rest with none to disturb
~ Job 11:13-19
Pondering today...
What would I sacrifice for Love?
How does Pure Love guide my decisions and interactions with others?
Where does self love poison my life and misdirect my thoughts, words and actions?
How do I carry the crosses (bear the sufferings) in my life?
"’s lively concern for others is reflected in all the virtues. It begins with two commands, but it soon embraces many more. Paul gives a good summary of its various aspects. Love is patient, he says, and kind; it is never jealous or conceited; its conduct is blameless; it is not ambitious, not selfish, not quick to take offense; it harbors no evil thoughts, does not gloat over other people’s sins, but is gladdened by an upright life.
The man ruled by this love shows his patience by bearing wrongs with equanimity; his kindness by generously repaying good for evil. Jealousy is foreign to him. It is impossible to envy worldly success when he has no worldly desires. He is not conceited. The prizes he covets lie within; outward blessings do not elate him. His conduct is blameless, for he cannot do wrong in devoting himself entirely to love of God and his neighbor. He is not ambitious. The welfare of his own soul is what he cares about. Apart from that he seeks nothing. He is not selfish. Unable to keep anything he has in this world, he is as indifferent to it as if it were another’s. Indeed, in his eyes nothing is his own but what will be so always. He is not quick to take offense. Even under provocation, thought of revenge never crosses his mind. The reward he seeks hereafter will be greater in proportion to his endurance. He harbors no evil thoughts. Hatred is utterly rooted out of a heart whose only love is goodness. Thoughts that defile a man can find no entry. He does not gloat over other people’s sins. No; an enemy’s fall affords him no delight, for loving all men, he longs for their salvation.
On the other hand, he is gladdened by an upright life. Since he loves others as himself, he takes as much pleasure in whatever good he sees in them as if the progress were his own. That is why this law of God is manifold." ~From the Moral Reflections on Job by Saint Gregory the Great, pope
 Such security comes with wholehearted hope in God.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Questioning Confirmation {IF You Believe...}

Bishop Elizondo confirms Joseph Benedict, sealing him with the Holy Spirit

Baptism in the Holy Spirit (click & listen)
 Preaching on Pentecost Sunday, Father Jim Northrop shares the down-side of receiving confirmation without proper preparation, and offers hope and concrete suggestions for a renewal of our relationship with the Holy Spirit.

Flowing from the great joy of Joseph's confirmation on Ascension Thursday came a few insights into the tremendous cascade of grace possible through this sacrament.  Confirmation completes Christian initiation and infuses us with the Holy Spirit, flooding our souls with graces and gifts to support us on our mission.  Celebrating the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles at Pentecost 9 days after Ascension (& confirmation) allowed each one of us (if properly disposed and willing) to receive anew the gifts and graces of our own confirmations and baptisms.

A Protestant friend who could not attend Joseph's confirmation sent a card instead.  Curiously, the words of congratulations were tampered with a great big 'IF:"
I remember when I was confirmed.  I was 12 years old and I thought I was just graduating from my Sunday School classes!  I couldn't understand what all the fuss was about!  I believed all the right doctrines~ but nothing happened in my heart~ so there was no real faith to confirm!
It wasn't until I was 16 that someone told me how I could know Jesus personally.  I decided then that I wanted to follow Him~ and I've never looked back.
The confirmation of true faith is a doorway to a meaningful and abundant life; it's a decision you'll never regret.  If that's what's in your heart, Joseph~ to follow Jesus, to live your life for Him~ then I commend you.  And I wish you all God's best and His richest blessings as you live each day for Him.
At first read, the card's remarks were a bit shocking.  Reading 'between the lines' seemed to reveal the sender's doubt that someone being confirmed in the Catholic Church could have the "true" faith.  After prayerful consideration, I've come to appreciate the card's undercurrent of apostolic zeal.

It's almost as if our Protestant friend was privy to the pre-Pentecost preaching of Pope Francis. Warning us repeatedly not to fall into the trap of being lukewarm Christians, Pope Francis urged us to be like Saint Paul and step out of our comfort zones to reach out with the love of God to everyone:
Paul is a nuisance: he is a man who, with his preaching, his work, his attitude irritates others, because testifying to Jesus Christ and the proclamation of Jesus Christ makes us uncomfortable, it threatens our comfort zones – even Christian comfort zones, right? It irritates us. The Lord always wants us to move forward, forward, forward ... not to take refuge in a quiet life or in cozy structures, no?... And Paul, in preaching of the Lord, was a nuisance. But he had deep within him that most Christian of attitudes: Apostolic zeal. He had its apostolic zeal. He was not a man of compromise. No! The truth: forward! The proclamation of Jesus Christ, forward! .
There are backseat Christians, right? Those who are well mannered, who do everything well, but are unable to bring people to the Church through proclamation and Apostolic zeal. Today we can ask the Holy Spirit to give us all this Apostolic fervor and to give us the grace to be annoying when things are too quiet in the Church, the grace to go out to the outskirts of life. The Church has so much need of this! Not only in distant lands, in the young churches, among people who do not know Jesus Christ, but here in the cities, in our cities, they need this proclamation of Jesus Christ. So let us ask the Holy Spirit for this grace of Apostolic zeal, let’s be Christians with apostolic zeal. And if we annoy people, blessed be the Lord. Onwards, as the Lord says to Paul, ‘take courage!'  ~ Pope Francis 
Text from page  of the Vatican Radio websi

We know, with absolute~Biblical~certainty, that the fullness of Truth resides in the one, holy, Catholic, Apostolic Church founded by Christ Himself (1 Timothy 3:15).  We believe~Biblically~that Jesus remains physically, visibly present in every Catholic Church in His Real Presence in the Holy Eucharist (John 6:53-58).  From the day of the Last Supper, our priests, by the power of the Holy Spirit conferred at ordination, transform ordinary bread and wine into the Real body, blood, soul and divinity of Jesus Christ.

When we are confirmed in this Truth, anointed, we are fully prepared to defend and proclaim it with love and conviction by our lives.  This outpouring of the Holy Spirit should lead us to a greater love for our Lord Jesus and a deep conviction to follow wherever He may lead.  Unfortunately, as Father Jim Northrop outlined in his powerful Pentecost homily (linked above), many Catholics are not taught to receive the sacrament of confirmation in a state of grace (confessing and repenting) and so may be spiritually dead at the time.  This need not be a permanent state of spiritual misery, for when we approach the Lord in a spirit of repentance and confess our sins, God in His mercy will restore us to full stature.  Then we can begin to pray earnestly for graces and our prayers will be answered.

If this awesome Truth sounds annoying, blessed be the Lord!

Our Protestant friend, a believer and a follower of Christ to be sure, (and a very nice person to boot)  has yet to accept the Biblical fact that Jesus really did leave us with a visible authority on earth.  To this day~ despite relentless attacks and countless harms brought by sin from within and without~ our Church has been protected from the gates of hell, as promised.

Our true faith is indeed a 'doorway to a meaningful and abundant life' and we hope and pray that those who won't come near it for fear or misunderstanding will open their hearts to the prompting of the Holy Spirit; and that those who are in it will embrace the fullness of faith and enter more fully into an abundant life in the Holy Spirit.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Confirmation 2013 {Sealed with the Holy Spirit}

Joseph~confirmed~with his new St. Benedict Crucifix
Sealed with the Holy Spirit, Joseph's confirmation on Ascension Thursday left a mark on his soul, and aromatic sacred chrism oil on his head.  Bishop Eusebio Elizondo anointed Joseph, who presented himself for confirmation:
"My name is Joseph 'Benedict' and I wish to be confirmed."
"Joseph Benedict, be sealed with the Gift of the Holy Spirit."
 "Peace be with you."
"And with your spirit."
Years of preparation and formation led to this instant in Joseph's life, where his baptismal graces were completed and he was truly enriched with the special strength of the Holy Spirit.  It's amazing to contemplate the apostolic significance of confirmation:
1288 "From that time on the apostles, in fulfillment of Christ's will, imparted to the newly baptized by the laying on of hands the gift of the Spirit that completes the grace of Baptism. For this reason in the Letter to the Hebrews the doctrine concerning Baptism and the laying on of hands is listed among the first elements of Christian instruction. The imposition of hands is rightly recognized by the Catholic tradition as the origin of the sacrament of Confirmation, which in a certain way perpetuates the grace of Pentecost in the Church."99
1289 Very early, the better to signify the gift of the Holy Spirit, an anointing with perfumed oil (chrism) was added to the laying on of hands. This anointing highlights the name "Christian," which means "anointed" and derives from that of Christ himself whom God "anointed with the Holy Spirit."100 This rite of anointing has continued ever since, in both East and West. For this reason the Eastern Churches call this sacrament Chrismation, anointing with chrism, or myron which means "chrism." In the West, the term Confirmation suggests that this sacrament both confirms and strengthens baptismal grace.
Bishop Elizondo addresses the confirmandi before the rite of confirmation.
Joseph is confirmed; with Zachary as his proxy sponsor.
Joseph's Godmother and confirmation sponsor, Aileen, was unable to participate at the last minute due to a family emergency.  Joseph missed her presence, we all did.  Many family members and friends made a special effort to attend Mass Thursday night to witness Joseph's sacrament, and congratulated him wholeheartedly.  Others who were unable to attend prayed for him from afar; some sent beautiful cards and keepsakes.

Zachary went to great lengths to re-arrange his final exam schedule at Notre Dame to allow for an early departure from campus in order to attend his younger brother's confirmation.  Zachary's place as Joseph's proxy sponsor seemed a fitting honor for a solid Catholic, confirmed older brother, who is a source of inspiration and instigation for deepening faith formation in the family. 
Joseph with Father Joseph Altenhofen, holds his new St. Benedict Icon written by a talented local artist/dear friend.
Following Joseph's confirmation on Ascension Thursday, our family began the Novena to the Holy Spirit.  This 9-day prayer of adoration, consecration and supplication to the Holy Spirit assists us spiritually and deepens our preparation for the celebration of Pentecost next Sunday.   May we be lavished with the Gifts of the Holy Spirit and faithfully complete the unique mission for which each one of us was created.

Come Holy Spirit!

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Year 1 Complete {Notre Dame Releases Zachary}

Packed and prepared to depart Notre Dame for summer break
Today marks Zachary's last day as a freshman at the University of Notre Dame.  He rearranged his final exam schedule in order to be home in time for Joseph's confirmation, and will be home for almost two months before his July study abroad adventure in Munich. 

In joyful anticipation of his arrival at SeaTac tomorrow, I sent a little love via text message this morning.  Zac's reply leaves little doubt as to how he earned the nickname, Zaccurate:
  • May God bless your final 24 hours as a freshman at Notre Dame! My love and prayers, Mom
  • 25:15, but thanks (Zac)
Zac~ we are all eagerly awaiting your return home tomorrow!