I would like to speak to the men for a minute. If you are a woman reading this, please pass this message along to the men in your life.
Holy Week is upon us! Praise the Lord! All the drama of the most epic story of all time is funneled into one great celebration that culminates in the most unfathomable event in history and leaves the world changed forever. The question is has it changed our hearts?
I recently attended a Catholic Men’s Conference in Southeast Indiana at which I heard Mark Houck speak. He began his talk by telling us, as the founder and president of The King’s Men, he travels around preaching the message that, as men we need to be willing to “lead with our weakness.” Of course, that statement makes very little sense in a world that seems to be ruled by power and greed. To even show ones weakness, especially as men, is to give the advantage to the other person and to give him the means to the upper hand. And yet, somehow it is exactly what we need to do. “For when I am weak, then I am strong,” 2 Cor. 12:10. So many times in the world of men we are expected to either have all the answers or be able to do everything on our own. We are expected to not need anyone or anything, but that is just a pile of …garbage!
Let’s get real for a minute. We need help! We aren’t perfect, we aren’t even strong! We are weak human beings with faults and failures and we don’t have all the answers. We do get scared, we can be hurt and there is no way we can ever save ourselves and make it to the home Jesus has prepared for us without His grace! We are weak! And that is GOOD! It is only when we admit that we need a savior that our savior can truly be who He is. It is only when we recognize who we are that we can finally let God be who he is in our lives.
So, this Sunday, when we are all singing out “Hosanna to the Son of David” and following that just a few minutes later by shouting “Crucify him!” stop and reflect, just who you want to be. Are you the man who needs a King or are you the man who wants to deny that the Savior can truly come into this world as a man riding on a donkey preaching about God’s mercy? This is the week when Jesus establishes a new and everlasting covenant with his people. Are we ready to accept that we need it? Be honest.
Lent has officially started, and perhaps on your Facebook or Twitter or Instagram feed you have already been inundated with articles and infographs like “40 things to give up this Lent” or “15 Ways to Make the Most out of Lent” or even “10 Things You Shouldn’t Give Up this Lent.” But so many of those articles seem to assume something that I’m not certain it is safe to assume: What is the purpose of fasting?
I am a member of a small prayer group here at the Archdiocese’s central offices and yesterday, on Ash Wednesday we prayed together through Luke 5:33-39 where Jesus is questioned about why his disciples did not fast. Jesus, I think, gives a very interesting response to the question. In typical Jesus fashion, he answers their question with a question, “Can you make the wedding guests fast while the bridegroom is with them? But the days will come, and when the bridegroom is taken away from them, then they will fast in those days.” He then goes on to give a parable about old wineskins and new wineskins, old cloth and new cloth and old wine and new wine. What does this really tell us about fasting?
At the surface it seems that the initial comment about the bridegroom and the parable about the incompatibility of the new and the old are virtually unrelated, but as we dig a little deeper we start to see what Jesus is trying to tell us. Let’s take first his comments about the bridegroom and his guests. It is apparent here, that Jesus is making a very simple point about the purpose of fasting: it is a means to an end. Fasting is meant to prepare our hearts and condition our wills to enter into a closer relationship with Christ. Of course, the ultimate closeness we all seek is to be with Jesus in heaven. Thus, while he was present among his disciples, there was no need for them to fast, because they were already with him who is the bridegroom and source of all grace. We have not reached that beatific vision, thus, we must fast.
Following that, then, we dive into the parable about the new and the old. In verse 38, Jesus says, “Rather, new wine must be poured into fresh wineskins.” As we make our way toward Easter, the Lord, as he always does, desires to fill us with something new, but before he can do that, we must present him with fresh wineskins to fill. Jesus says that “No one (who has gotten comfortable in the old ways) desires new, for he says ‘The old is good,’” and it is so tempting to become like that. For so many of us, our relationship with Christ has gotten really nice. It’s comfortable and safe, but Jesus desires more; he desires something fresh! Therefore, we must try to detach ourselves from all that stands in the way of his desires, even the good comfortable relationship we currently have with him, and prepare for a new relationship with Christ that would make our old wineskins burst. Through fasting, let us spend the rest of this lent preparing those new wineskins so that, on the day of his Resurrection, we can receive that overwhelming flow of new wine and end our fasting for the bridegroom has returned.
One of the many questions that a seminarian is asked is “how does one discern God’s call?”, especially to the priesthood. This is a question that for me is hard to answer. Many times people see seminarians as people who have discernment all figured out and mastered. While this would be great if true, seminarians have just as hard of a time figuring out how to discern. This is something that I have to think about and contemplate on a daily basis. It was not until last month that I finally think I can understand discernment better.
Last month, the seminary had their annual retreat down at St. Meinrad Seminary in southern Indiana. The retreat was lead by international writer and speaker, Fr. Larry Richards. This retreat has changed my life in many ways, but one in particular is that of discernment. At this retreat Fr. Larry talked to us about Holiness, and one of the resounding themes is having a relationship with God. Not only just having a relationship with God, but understanding how much He loves us and how we should love Him. This relationship is more that that of two friends, it is so much more than that. This relationship is of a Father and Son. For we were made in God’s image and likeness, and He loved us so much that he sent His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ, to die on the cross for us.
This relationship is almost indescribable. We are able to cry out to our God saying Abba, daddy, to the very God that created the whole universe and all that is contains. This is where discernment starts. It starts with God our Father. We have to start with crying out to our Father and knowing how much He loves us and desires a relationship with us. Forming a relationship with God is one of the most important steps into having a healthy discernment. No matter what vocation you are called to, one thing will always remain constant within every calling: A loving relationship with God our Father. Through this relationship and love we are able to know Him, walk with Him, know what He is calling us to, and most importantly, are not afraid to do the things that scare us in a particular vocation.
Now, this may seem like an impossible task; we sin, do bad things, say things we shouldn’t, etc. and we make God angry. However, God is not calling us to only form a relationship with Him when we are perfect; quite the opposite actually. God wants us to come to Him in our broken state. God does not just leave us out to dry when we fall; hence why he sent His Son to redeem us and allows us access to the Sacraments of Penance and Holy Eucharist. He wants us to depend on Him and know that He can save us from our brokenness.
Many people do not think they can have a good relationship with God and His Son because of their sin. Many have a dictator-like persona of God. There is a very important lesson I learned this year on this very question. It is not that God is mad when we sin because He said not to do it. No, He is worried about us when we sin, and He hates to see us enslaved to sin. God is not someone who sits in heaven wagging His finger at you when you sin, but one who sits in Heaven who wants you not to sin because not sinning will make you happy and is good for you. Sin corrupts us and turns us into slaves of ourselves and evil. God is not out to get us; He is here to love us and help us one day spend eternity with Him. This is an important lesson in forming a relationship with God.
As stated before, this is a relationship with God, and with that means it is something we have to work on. I can tell you that many priests who have been ordained for years are still working on their relationship with God. This is not to scare us however; as a relationship takes time. It helps us to realize a very important point: Vocation is not about ourselves, but for He that calls us. Through this relationship with God we begin to realize what He is calling us to more and more.
To look at priesthood specifically, this call has as it’s root a call from God the Father to a loving relationship with Him and to be an instrument of His love to His Church. This can seem like a hefty job that God calls a young man to do, but to echo the words of Pope St. John Paul II “Be not afraid!” God knows that a young man has to give up certain worldly pleasures for this call, but it is important to note that God calls a young man to the priesthood because He has made Him for that purpose and He knows the young man can do it. This is true for any vocation that God calls people to. God doesn’t call us to something we cannot do; He calls us to what He knows we can do for His Greater Glory and Love.
Now, this may seem like a young man entering seminary must have it all worked out before entering, and that you must have this great relationship with Christ. This cannot be further from the truth. Seminary is a time of formation where you learn new and better ways of forming your relationship with God. These 9 years of seminary are not here because it takes 9 years to learn how to be a priest. These 9 years are here to help form men be rooted in a strong relationship with God and how that translates into priestly ministry. Seminarians work everyday to form their relationship with God, and that means there is no one easy way to do that. Each guy is different. A young men entering may have many doubts, fears, and uncertainty about what this life can lead to. That is normal and every guy goes through that. You are not alone. One may have many fears about God and His love, but through formation a young man is able to discover a healthy relationship with God, the root of any vocation. Let us pray daily that we may accept God’s love and grow closer to Him.
For the first time in a number of years, Catholic men of the Greater Cincinnati area once again have the opportunity to gather and be ignited in their faith at this year’s E6 Catholic Men’s Conference happening on Saturday, March 5, 2016 from 8am-3:30pm at East Central High School in St. Leon, IN. Drawing from the scripture passage from Ephesians 6: 11-17 in which St. Paul tells believers to “put on the armor of God,” this year’s conference aims to strengthen men in their resolve to be men of faith and disciples of Jesus Christ.
There are many great reasons why you should attend this year’s conference, not the least of which is that we will be there! To learn more about E6, check out this short write up by The Catholic Beat and then go to www.e6catholicmensconference.com to register and watch a couple of fantastic videos that give you a glimpse into what you expect at the conference. Finally, if you are able, please help spread the word in your parish about the conference by making copies of the 2016 E6 Men’s Conference Flyer.
See you there!
If you are a young man who has lately (or for a very long time) felt a tugging at your heart toward the vocation of the Holy Priesthood, then it is well worth your time to check out the opportunites that are fast approaching to visit a seminary or religious community for a weekend with no strings attached. These opportunities cost nothing but time and your own travel expenses and give you unmeasurable benefits: a small taste of seminary life, interaction with seminarians (with whom you may one day be studying), discussions on discernment and practical tips on how to discern your vocation, and answers to all the practical questions you might have. Check out the details and flyers below and plan to attend.
Friday and Saturday, March 4-5, 2016: Welcome Weekend at Mount St. Mary’s Seminary of the West – This weekend takes place at the seminary of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati. Mount St. Mary’s Seminary of the West is currently housing the highest number of seminarians it has seen in more than 35 years and is looking to increase that number with the help of God’s grace. Fr. Benedict O’Cinnsealaigh, Rector and Fr. Anthony Brausch, Vice Rector along with Frs. Earl Fernandes, David Endres, Paul Ruwe and Tom McQuillen provide the leadership for the seminary and set the tone for both a rigorous and pastoral formation environment in which all seminarians become better men while being formed to be holy priests.
Thursday-Saturday, March 10-12, 2016: College Live-in at Pontifical College Josephinum – This extended weekend takes place at the only Pontifical Seminary outside of Italy. The Josephinum has a long proud history of forming men to become great priests and the tradition has continued under the leadership of Rector Msgr. Christopher Schreck and College Vice-rector Fr. John Rozembajgier. In addition to the typical visit to a seminary which always includes the daily horarium of prayer, this visit also gives guests the opportunity to sit in on seminary classes to get a feel for the level of education our seminarians undergo. Register for the Live-in here.
Friday-Sunday, March 18-20, 2016: Come Away weekend at New Melleray Abbey in Peosta, Iowa. From the informational brochure: Would you like to learn more about religious life? Do you have questions about discerning your vocation? You are invited to share in our monastic celebration of the Liturgy of Hours, joining with us to pray together in the simplicity and beauty of our church. There will be time to talk about your personal story and to hear how we discerned our vocations. You will be able to share with others participating in the weekend, your experiences, hopes, and concerns about making life decisions. “Come Away” is offered as a retreat experience for single Catholic men between the ages of 23 and 45 who are discerning the possibility of a call to monastic life.
All three of these opportunities provide much for a person who is discerning a call to the consecrated life! Please prayerfully consider attending and giving God the opportunity to speak more clearly to your heart in a place where He is currently forming the hearts of men to be more united to His.
Today we added to our website a new resource for all parish vocation ministries across the Archdiocese. Initiated by a group of women from Immaculate Heart of Mary in Anderson Township and passed along to our office, the Spiritual Motherhood of Priests prayer apostolate.
This movement comes out of a recommendation by the Congregration for the Clergy when they published a document back in 2007 entitled Eucharistic Adoration for the Sanctification of Priests and Spiritual Maternity. In this document we read, “Pope St. Pius X rightfully confirms his experience that, ‘Every vocation to the priesthood comes from the heart of God, but it goes through the heart of a mother!'” And in this statement he does not mean to limit motherhood to those who are physical mothers, but, along with Pope St. John Paul II, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI and Pope Francis, he extends that meaning to all women who commit their lives to holiness and to prayer for priests. Children, mothers, widows, religious sisters, all can be spiritual mothers and the world needs them to become just that!
Please, take the time to read the documents found on our resource page, be inspired by the power of a mother’s prayers, look into the other great information on Spiritual Motherhood and pray about becoming a spiritual mother yourself and bringing a Spiritual Motherhood Sodality to your parish.
Merry Christmas!! What joy it is to know that the Savior of the world has come and will come again that we may be with him in Heaven for all eternity! And yet, as many of us have realized throughout the Advent season, there are things that we still need to do to remain ready for the second coming.
The beginning of John’s gospel contains these two verses: “In the beginning was the word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (John 1:1), and “And the word was made flesh and made his dwelling among us, and we saw his glory, the glory as of the Father’s only son, full of grace and truth” (John 1: 14). These two verses point to a reality that so many of us either have taken for granted much of our lives or have just not realized: Jesus is the Word. God is truly present in the Word and, in fact, God IS the Word.
I was at Mass with my wife and five young children a few weeks ago and when it came time for the Gospel Acclamation, our youngest, who was in my arms at the time and had previously been squirming around me like one of those little chinchillas, turned and watched as the Deacon began making his way to the altar and slowly processing to the ambo with the book of the Gospels held high. During this whole time, my son was mesmerized. He began pointing at the book and reaching for it. What could have made him change so quickly from a South American rodent into a focused young boy in such a short time?
There are, of course, so many factors that could have drawn my son’s attention at that moment. The fact that we had all stood up at that moment, or the fact that the Deacon had moved from his place by the priest, or the fact that two young men were carrying candles, or perhaps it was the first time he noticed the big shiny book on top of the altar, or maybe it was that he noticed the book but, since it was in someone’s hands he knew this was his chance to get it. All of those could easily explain his sudden change in behavior, but those are not what made me reflect that day. To me, there was something special about that book that my son noticed, there was something that was drawing my son to that book at that moment and I knew that I should be drawn to it as well.
In Psalm 63 we read, “O God, you are my God—it is you I seek! For you my body yearns; for you my soul thirsts, in a land parched, lifeless, and without water.” In that moment, my son’s body was pining to be near to God. Perhaps it was the shiny book cover or the candles, or whatever other explanation, but he was reaching for God in that moment and he was reaching in the right place. Jesus gives himself to us in two ways at every Mass. He gives himself to us in his Word and he feeds us with his body and blood in the Eucharist. So often times we nod off, or don’t pay attention to the first half of the Mass because it is just a bunch of words. “Perhaps they are special words because they are in the Bible,” we say to ourselves, but do we realize that not only are they special words, but they are truly a gift of God, from God?!
As we enter into this new calendar year and celebrate the coming of Jesus as savior of the world at Christmas, let’s make a resolution to be attentive to the Gift of God in the word each and every time we go to Mass and to spend time daily seeking that gift as well. It is in doing so that He will begin to truly reveal to us the person he has created to be.
If you would like to make a commitment during 2016 to read the Bible everyday, here is a good place to start for advice and a plan to read just 10 minutes a day and make your way through the entire Bible!
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