God’s GPS by Monsignor Ferrarese

What did we do before we had the benefits of the GPS?

I remember pulling over on dark roads in New Jersey, and by the tiny light in the interior of my car, poring over a map that was so large that I needed the whole front seat to spread it out! And even then, I had to look for an open gas station and walk into a disheveled and grimy store to ask directions. Even then, who could follow the explanations: “When you see the third light make a left. If you see the Hess station, you have gone too far and you have to make a U-Turn!” It is a wonder I ever got to my destinations. (This was true not only in Jersey!)

Finding out how to get to a desired location is not only a physical, travel concern; there is a need to find a way through the massive territory of the human soul in trying to find our way home to God. We are lost. This is a fundamental and foundational insight of the spiritual life. All the advisory words of the prophets and saints are attempts to get us home to be with God. But this ‘soul country’ is vast and dangerous. Even with the benefits of Revelation, it is easy to stay lost or to be going in circles.

Things are not made any clearer by the fact that there is a deceiver afoot who is eager and motivated to give us the wrong directions. He wants us to stay lost or, even better, not to get home, but to enter another kingdom, his, where we encounter only suffering and slavery. The stakes are high.

The great saint Ignatius of Loyola gave some practical help in discerning who is speaking to each of us in the depths of our heart. Is it friend or foe?

The first rule is to be sensitive to what is going on inside you. What are you feeling within? When God speaks, we feel peace and go about our business with joy in our hearts. Even when we have to do something difficult, one encounters a serenity. Not so with the evil one. He brings agitation, turmoil, concern for appearances, and a feeling of excitement that leads invariably to more turmoil. God works gently and slowly. The devil is quick, loud and disturbing. For Ignatius, the devil’s way is like a drop of water hitting a stone. It is a splash and you can hear it. But when God speaks to us, it is like a drop of water falling on a sponge: quiet and imperceptible.

The action of God leaves us filled with joy even days after it happens. The devil can fake a little happiness, but not for long. Soon the disturbing turmoil returns.

While we were on our Parish Pilgrimage this year, we went to Loyola. It was in that ancestral castle that Ignatius discovered an important truth in the discernment of spirits.

He had just been seriously injured in war for he was a soldier by profession. As he recuperated from his wounds, he asked for some books to read. There were a couple of books about knights and their exploits, but also a book on the life of Christ and one on the lives of the great saints. He noticed that when he read the books about the knights, he was excited and moved, but he was also moved and excited by the life of Christ and the saints. However, there was one important difference: when he put
down the books about the knights and their fighting, he was depressed and bored again. But when he put down the books of the life of Christ and of the saints, his excitement continued and even grew! He was able to experience for the first time the discernment of spirits (feelings) that would become one of the foundation stones of his Spiritual Exercises. He had discovered God’s GPS!

God does communicate with us and prompts us as to what is best or worse for us. Unfortunately, so does the evil one. So we have to learn to train our spiritual senses so that we can perceive what God is moving us toward. Dante wrote in the Divine Comedy: “In His will is our peace”. It really pays for us to learn how to listen to God. It is counterproductive to remain deaf to His appeals.

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Trust by Monsignor Ferrarese

The story of Abraham is key for the entire religious cosmology of the West. In the three monotheistic religions of Christianity, Judaism and Islam, Abraham emerges as a very important, almost archetypal figure. As portrayed in the Book of Genesis, he marks a new beginning in the relationship of God to humankind.

There are many references to him in the New Testament as well: in the Gospels and the Letters of St. Paul, as well as the Letter to the Hebrews. While we are not physical, biological descendants of Abraham, we consider ourselves spiritual heirs of Abraham as “our father in faith”, a line used in the First Eucharistic Prayer (Roman Canon).

At first, his name is given as Abram (God often changes a favored one’s name to show his sovereignty). He is a very old man who has no descendants. He and his elderly wife Sarai (soon to be Sarah) are simply told by God to pack all their belongings and move to the area (no specifics!) that God wants him to live. So Abram puts his trust in God and pulls up all his roots in the land he grew up in and where he spoke the language and moves into the unknown.

Then God promises him a land (which Abram never actually inhabits) and a people that will descend from him “as numerous as the stars or the sand on the shore of the sea”. Abram is in his 80’s and childless! So, once again, he puts his trust in God, though he sees nothing that would be evidence of things changing in the future.

Finally, he has a son by his elderly wife Sarai! He must have raised little Isaac with such love and devotion, even perhaps spoiling him a little! How proud he must have been about him!

Then came the bad news: The God who gave Isaac to Abraham and Sarah (their new names) wants Abraham to sacrifice him on the altar and to burn his little body as an offering to Him. One has to remember that, at that time, human sacrifice, especially of one’s own children, was common in many of the ancient religions of the Middle East. So Abraham would not have been shocked by the request. But that does not mean that he liked it!

But, again, he put his trust in God, even in this most terrible time, and took the fire and the knife along with a bundle of wood placed on the back of his son, and went up to the holy mountain to obey God.

In halting this horrendous act, God instilled in Judaism an aversion to human sacrifice, which eventually spread to all of civilized humanity.

The point that I want to make and even underline is that the greatness of Abraham was his faith in God that was tested so much. It seemed that everything was against this faith and, for most people, a reaction to this problem would be laughter as it happened with Sarah who laughed when the Angelic visitors at Mamre foretold that Sarah at her old age would soon be a mother.

It is not easy to believe. It is not easy to have trust in God.

Abraham lived at a time of general belief in the Divine, expressed in diverse ways. He lived in a religious cosmos where everyone assumed that the divine realities were behind everything.

We have the opposite situation. We live in a godless environment where science and materialism have created a vacuum of disbelief. To believe today is not the default setting of our culture. Quite the opposite: the new “normal” is that we live in a godless universe where we are just accidents of nature and are all condemned to death, a death which means total annihilation. There is no judgment or accountability. Whether you are a Hitler or a Mother Theresa, you will end up just ashes and a memory.

How liberating is the Gospel in this environment! And how difficult to believe! But, if we have faith and trust in God, all is transformed. Every one of our actions are important and noted by God. All our thoughts, words, and actions are fraught with meaning: they sum up a life and point to an eternity of either joy or sorrow of our own making. Everything about us has eternal consequences. We are so important that God takes a personal interest in us and, like a loving Father, wants the best for us.

I want to stand with Abraham. My life matters and is not just a drop in a mindless ocean. This is what I choose to believe. This is the Truth of my life.

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Let Go Let God by Monsignor Ferrarese

Most of reality is in the middle of things. By that, I mean you are called to keep both sides of the question in mind and balance two seemingly opposing statements that are both true and need to be kept in a kind of creative tension. A lot of our Catholic dogma is like that: Three persons in One God (Trinity), the Incarnation in Jesus (both human and divine), Mary is both Virgin and Mother. Heresies have come about when a group of people decide to take one or the other poles as the only truth. Hence, Jesus is just a man (Arianism) or a God playing at being a human being (Docetism). Both realities are true and, even though they seem to contradict one another, they still need to be affirmed in what Nicholas of Cusa calls, “going beyond the coincidence of paradox”.

This is true even of the most basic questions of human reasoning and belief. One of the issues that any believer has to confront is when is it my responsibility to do something in the spiritual or moral life and when do I leave it up to God. In other words: do I have a responsibility to act, or will it be putting all in the hands of God that will be the best path.

Like in many things, the Church has had to face this question because of single minded heretics that did not subscribe to the central proposal of this essay: it is not either/or, but both/and that the true road is found.

The heresy that developed on the side of “taking everything on myself and that I am able by my own powers to run my life and build my future” was the heresy called Pelagianism after the priest named Pelagius who was its chief proponent. He basically said that we can do everything ourselves and that we do not need the grace (intervention) of God to accomplish good in our lives and to construct our own salvation. This was vigorously refuted by St. Augustine who said that we need the grace of God for salvation.

The opposite heresy emerged later in the history of the Church and has been called “Quietism”. Proponents of this extreme said that human effort was futile and all one had to do is wait for God to accomplish in us what is necessary for salvation. This is where they got the name “Quietists”, since they tended to sit and quietly wait for God to do what is needed in their lives. The Church, through the Jesuit theologians, exposed this error as a form of presumption, assuming that God will do what we want Him to do, thereby making God a kind of servant to our wishes. While this heresy seems to make God almighty, it is really a self-centered attitude which makes the ‘quiet’ Christian the selector of God’s work to be accomplished in them.

The Jesuits nicely balanced these two extremes by saying that we should pray as though everything depended on God and work as though everything depended on us. Then and only then is the balance maintained and that both sides of the truth can be honored, and not prematurely resolved by our willfulness.

Therefore, when we say that we have to “Let go and let God”, it does not mean that I can lay back and wait for God; but that I have to have an interior attitude of desiring to work with God and to accomplish in tandem the will of the almighty, which is in the end the best for me.

It is not always a comfortable place to be. It is easier to go to one extreme or the other. And it seems that, in not resolving the issue, we are not being forthright and honest about our responsibilities. But, in the end, we have to do what we think is right, relying on God to lead our efforts to their fulfillment in the plan of God. Only God sees the full picture; He alone knows the hearts and minds and futures of everyone in our lives. Only He sees the drifts of history and can accurately do what is best, not only for me, but for the rest of humankind. This stance requires a high degree of humility and a deep faith that God is leading our efforts in a pageant of salvation of which we will get a full picture only when we are with Him eternally and can see things with God’s eye and will things with God completely.

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Archbishop John Carroll’s Prayer for Government

Archbishop John Carroll’s Prayer for Government

We pray you, O God of might, wisdom, and justice, through whom authority is rightly administered, laws are enacted, and judgment decreed, assist with your Holy Spirit of counsel and fortitude the President of these United States, that his administration may be conducted in righteousness, and be eminently useful to your people, over whom he presides; by encouraging due respect for virtue and religion; by a faithful execution of the laws in justice and mercy; and by restraining vice and immorality.

Let the light of your divine wisdom direct the deliberations of Congress, and shine forth in all the proceedings and laws framed for our rule and government, so that they may tend to the preservation of peace, the promotion of national happiness, the increase of industry, sobriety, and useful knowledge; and may perpetuate to us the blessing of equal liberty.

We pray for the governor of this state, for the members of the assembly, for all judges, magistrates, and other officers who are appointed to guard our political welfare, that they may be enabled, by your powerful protection, to discharge the duties of their respective stations with honesty and ability.

We recommend likewise, to your unbounded mercy, all our fellow citizens throughout the United States, that we may be blessed in the knowledge and sanctified in the observance of your most holy law; that we may be preserved in union, and in that peace which the world cannot give; and after enjoying the blessings of this life, be admitted to those which are eternal.

Grant this, we beseech you, O Lord of mercy, through Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior.

Amen.

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Word Power by Monsignor Ferrarese

Have you ever been strengthened and uplifted by someone’s words of encouragement? When things look particularly bleak, a word of hope and appreciation can mean so much and turn the tide on a drift toward despair.

Similarly, a word of discouragement and lack of respect can have disastrous consequences in the daily struggles of life.

Words are very powerful; they can build or destroy. Hence our responsibility in using them judiciously, recognizing their power and the creative or destructive capabilities of each syllable.

We live, however, in a sea or words. Just look at TV. When you got the news only at 7 PM from Walter Cronkite, the networks had time and motivation to select words that accurately and fairly conveyed what was happening. But when the news media expanded to 24-hour news feeds like CNN and Fox, much time had to be filled up. So then the talk, talk, talk began in which the focus seemed to be filling the time and not seeking the truth. Eventually, this carelessness with the words spoken took over and developed into organized propaganda of the left and the right. Truth became elusive, especially when talk of God was tacitly rejected.

What gives power to the word is paradoxically silence, for it is in the quiet of expectation and in the desert of imageless and formless openness that the word, once spoken, has its power. Cardinal Robert Sarah, the great African voice of spiritual insight, wrote on entire book on this subject called “The Power of Silence” in which he warned that the dictatorship of noise takes away meaning from our lives and purpose from our future. But we live in a kingdom of many words, especially with the ubiquitous smartphone and pads and computers. We are constantly barraged by words spoken, written and inferred. Words such as these have little power and ultimately no meaning. We become overwhelmed and quickly forget whatever is said. But when we live in silence, then a word spoken has immense significance.

A couple of illustrations might be helpful.

Most of the parish knows about the sabbatical I took a number of years ago. Part of it was to do the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola. I went to a retreat house built over the ‘Cova’ or cave where he wrote a great deal of it when he stayed in the Catalonian city of Manresa. An intrinsic part of that 30-day experience of prayer is to live in near complete solitude and to be silent (except for my brief daily meetings with my spiritual director) for those 30 days. After a couple of days, I settled into a deep silence that felt very comfortable and frightening at the same time. Therefore, when my spiritual director spoke to me, the words had an enormous power since they came out of the silence and went back into it. No conversation, no radio or TV, no smart phone, no computer. I ate 90 meals by myself in a separate little dining room. But the silence and the solitude prepared me and formed me so that the word of God could manifest Himself to me in all His splendor and power.

Another example comes not from the kingdom of words but of music. I love Classical Music and Opera! Whenever I listen to a lot of music, such as when I play it in the background as a kind of ‘wallpaper’, the most beautiful music becomes ‘ho hum’. But the times that I have limited the music I listened to and set aside a distinct time when I could devote myself completely to the experience of deeply listening to the music, it has been a transformative experience; its beauty and longing and power brought joy and peace to my heart and soul! But it was the time that I was in silence that prepared me for the perception of the depth of that music.

We cannot appreciate Easter without Lent, Christmas without Advent; and to allow the Word of God to enter our lives in all its power, we must let the silence prepare us for the power of the Word. Attention that comes from expectation and need is the prerequisite to perceive the Word’s power.

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Moving On by Monsignor Ferrarese


June is a strange month. It is a time of summation and also a time of moving on. When one thinks of June, one often remembers graduation from school. Scholastic programs are ending and many young men and women are saying goodbye to friends that they have been with for years. There are classmates from my grammar school who I never saw again after the graduation ceremony! This is a strange feeling since so much has been shared. There are so many collected memories that cannot even be adequately remembered years later at reunions.

Sometimes, the feeling of permanency is really an illusion. We think things will stay the way they are forever; but that is never true. Everything moves, or must be considered dead. We have to get used to this idea and the needed action on our part to keep pace with this: the art of letting go.

Letting go is a very difficult and trying concept to accept. We want to be at rest, for moving on is contrary to our deepest wishes. But we must learn how to do this because of the benefits it brings; since this is part of life, the sooner we see this, the better our lives will become.

I remember reading a key book a number of years ago by a woman named Judith Viorst. It was called “Necessary Losses”. In that book, the author talks about how learning to let go is a necessary and important part of growth from womb to tomb. At birth, we have to let go of the warmth and the security of the womb to be ushered into a cold world where, upside down, you are given a good slap on the rear end to teach you to breathe air! This process of letting go continues throughout life, right up to the moment of our death, when we have to let go of everything and everybody in this life and go onto our promised inheritance.

This letting go is an essential part of the spiritual life. The great saints speak about “detachment” in this same process. It is important, they say, not to be attached or hold onto anything since God calls us beyond our comfort zones of reality and custom. St. John of the Cross counsels us to hold onto ‘nada’: nothing.

This process of letting go is true to the reality of our lives. Every day, we have to let go of things both small and great, both pleasant and unpleasant. Those who get stuck in the past, as for instance those who are stuck in past resentments, not only make little progress in this life, but actually rot in place; so destructive are resentments.

One of my favorite examples of this is from the writings of a Medieval spiritual writer named Guigo who was a Carthusian solitary. He said that creation was a song that God is singing right now, and sin is the attempt to hold onto one of the notes and refusing to move on with the song. If you have ever heard the beauty of an organ playing, you know how annoying it is when a pipe gets stuck and cannot be stopped making its one sound. You can just scream as that one note continues to blare and the music stops!

So it is with the natural beauty of God’s song and our willingness to trust its melody and let it happen within us and around us. This is what happens when we approach reality with the reverence and the detachment necessary so as not to cling to memories or personal agendas or expectations, but to move on and be content with what God is saying right now and right here.

And so we say good bye to classmates and put away our pictures of past vacations and accept, gracefully, future plans that health or sickness proposes, always remaining flexible and open to the Divine Action that often cannot be understood except in hindsight.

It is an act of Faith to let go and let God be God. Abandonment to Divine Providence is the key to growth and to lasting joy.

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The School of Poverty by Monsignor Ferrarese


When we say that religious Brothers and Sisters take the vows of Poverty, Chastity and Obedience, we do not try to sanctify living in disgraceful conditions that many are forced to live in when they are poor. The vow of Poverty for a religious is more like living in a simple way, not relying on material things, but placing our hopes solely in God and His Providence.

Poverty as a vow needs to be clearly distinguished from the condition of abject misery of many that material poverty imprisons.

But it is still very real. A priest-theologian I knew said that poverty of its very nature is not something we embrace, it embraces you! And so a religious must try to learn to continually let go and rely totally on God.

Now, when someone takes the vows of Poverty, Chastity and Obedience, does that have any value for those of us who do not? Is it just for their own personal spiritual growth?

Any virtue has natural effects for the community of the Church. So, if a person is a better person because of the vows that they have taken, is that not benefit enough for the rest of us?

Clearly it is a good, but it does not mean that there is not another, perhaps more important, result. That additional good can be called “instructional”, for the person in consecrated life (a Nun, Monk or religious Sister or Brother) is a public witness to qualities of life that we should all strive for in quieter and more appropriate ways (for us).

The Obedience of a Monk or Nun to their superior teaches us about the value of Obedience in our own lives in the world. The root meaning of the word “obedience” is “to listen”. Do not spouses need to be obedient to one another? Arguably many of the difficulties of marriage is that the spouses are not listening to each other!

Also, the public witness to Chastity may help the couple to be faithful and chaste with one another in the more private sphere of marriage.

The spiritual value of Poverty is that it helps us to see how dependent we are on God and how much we need Him. This “Poverty of Spirit” can have tremendous advantages for us. It helps us to “Let Go and Let God” in modern parlance.

This is a struggle at any stage of life, but especially in a person’s advanced age. This period of life can rightly be called the “School of Poverty” since there are many instances when one has to let go of the most basic functions of life.

We are aging from the moment of our conception. All of human life is a journey to death or the transformation of the self into one’s eternal destiny, wrought by one’s own choices and God’s grace. But what we generally call “old age” is a particularly sped-up version of what happens in life generally.

We have to let go of much of our work, the activities that have consumed so much of our lives. This can be a great loss when one loves what they do. But that is only the beginning of the losses of aging. Our bodies start to break down. We cannot think as quickly as we did. Our eyesight and our hearing start to diminish. We need some help getting around. Our sons and daughters take away our car keys! We are assailed by a host of diminishments, the worst of which for some is the loss of the faculty of the mind. We either learn to let go, or we get into rages and resentments that hinder our spiritual growth.

In a secular “this-worldly” way of looking at life, where death is merely extinguishment, old age is seen as merely a time when things are over for us and the best we can do is to get used to it. But for the person of Faith,
old age is a time of tremendous spiritual opportunity, when one battles the demons of meaning and, in the midst of physical and psychological pain, we give over our lives to God hanging on our cross on the mount of our personal Calvary. It is not the ending of life, but its summation!

Seen in this way, an elderly person is truly a hero who combats the worst demons of life to be faithful to God, their loved ones, and their true selves.

Old age is truly a time of instruction, a school, that teaches us to let go and let God!

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The Solemnity of Pentecost

“When the time for Pentecost was fulfilled, they were all in one place together. And suddenly there came from the sky a noise like a strong driving wind, and it filled the entire house in which they were. Then there appeared to them tongues as of fire, which parted and came to rest on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in different tongues, as the Spirit enabled them to proclaim.

Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven staying in Jerusalem. At this sound, they gathered in a large crowd, but they were confused because each one heard them speaking in his own language. They were astounded, and in amazement they asked, ‘Are not all these people who are speaking Galileans? Then how does each of us hear them in his own native language? We are Parthians, Medes, and Elamites, inhabitants of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the districts of Libya near Cyrene, as well as travelers from Rome, both Jews and converts to Judaism, Cretans and Arabs, yet we hear them speaking in our own tongues of the mighty acts of God.’   They were all astounded and bewildered, and said to one another, ‘What does this mean?’”  (New American Bible, Acts of the Apostles 2:1-12)

Pentecost was originally a feast of the Jewish faith that celebrated the giving of the Law at Mt. Sinai.  It occurred fifty days after Passover, hence the name Pentecost meaning fiftieth.

Pentecost is celebrated as a Christian feast because of the events that occurred fifty days after Jesus’ Resurrection: the descent of the Holy Spirit on those individuals that had gathered in the Cenacle, the Upper Room, and inaugurated the beginning of the Church. Pentecost is one of the three most important liturgical celebrations of the Church year.  It celebrates and commemorates the establishment of the Church which is why it is referred to it as the “Birthday of the Church”.

The Pentecost Event, as I call it in my text, My Intended to be but Never, Ever, Ever to be Published Tome, is an occasion that radically impacted and drastically changed the Apostolic Church.  Hiding behind locked doors and windows in fear of their lives, the descent of the Holy Spirit, the Paraclete, the Advocate, as promised by Jesus, transforms these individuals into people that boldly proclaimed the Gospel, the Good News of Jesus.

What does the Pentecost Event have to do with the Church today?

Many individuals might question why an event that occurred about 2,000 years ago can have any impact or meaning for us today.  Well, to me Pentecost can …

1. The Pentecost Event shows us what it truly means to be a Christian.

The word Christian does mean “Christ-like”.  Being a Christian means following Jesus and accepting his teaching, but it also means evangelization.  Evangelization may not mean vocal preaching, necessarily, but it does involve embodying and living out those principles that Jesus showed us and taught us.  As Lumen Gentium states: “Therefore in the Church, everyone whether belonging to the hierarchy, or being cared for by it, is called to holiness…” (#39).  We are ALL called to participate in the life and mission of the Church, whatever our talents and abilities are or wherever they lie. (Prager)

2. The Pentecost Event shows us how we, as Church, can deepen our faith.

The early Christian community “…devoted themselves to the teaching of the apostles and to the communal life, to the breaking of the bread and to the prayers.” (New American Bible,Acts of the Apostles 2:42)  The Pentecost Event reveals how we can start to make our faith deeper and fuller: by educating ourselves in what the Church teaches and practices; by participating in the sacramental (communal) life of the Church, especially the Eucharist; and by developing a deeper and more vibrant prayer life. (Prager)

3. The Pentecost Event can enable us to “see” the activity of the Holy Spirit in the entire Church and the Spirit’s involvement in the Church’s mission.

The Holy Spirit is at work through all the baptized since we are all called to holiness (see #1 above).  The Holy Spirit enables the entire Church, using the myriad talents of the ordained and laity in tandem, to advance the mission of the Church:

From my perspective the Church’s mission is a vocation, a calling; all the baptized are called to “do something” and this “doing something” is composed of four parts:

  • Spreading the Good News of our salvation through Jesus; that through the Paschal Mystery we have been saved, we can achieve eternal life.
  • Being a prophetic voice to others, calling others to change their lives and lifestyles; the Church is called to have a counter-cultural impact.  We are supposed to run counter to much of what the prevailing culture often says is good, right or just.
  • Being a sign of Christ to others, being of service, ministering to others, as Jesus did; we’re supposed to be living out and embodying those values and principles that Jesus taught us and showed, by which Jesus lived.
  • Regular and active participation in the sacramental life of the Church, especially the Eucharist.   However, I would also say, for our time, the sacrament of Reconciliation is an important one, as well, depending on how one lives their life.

We have been called as Church to put this mission into action wherever our talents and abilities lie.  Some of the baptized can preach some cannot; some can teach others cannot, but we all have talents that can be utilized to advance the Church’s mission.  For most of the faithful, it most likely lies in how we live our lives on a daily basis at home with our family, in interaction with our neighbors or at work with our colleagues. (Prager) A lot will say what good can that do?  Well, those of us in “the real world” are often the only place that others can see positive examples of what it means to really be a Christian, that’s what it can do.

The one question we might want to ask ourselves is: Do others see Christ in my actions and in me?

As the Catechism of the Catholic Church, (CCC), states: “…to be in touch with Christ, we must first have been touched by the Holy Spirit. He comes to meet us and kindle faith in us.” (CCC, #683)

So not only are we an Easter people we’re also a Pentecost people, the two events are inexorably tied together – the Holy Spirit given to us by the risen Jesus continues to guide and sanctify us as Church. (Prager)

Bibliography

The Catechism of the Catholic Church.  The Vatican, 06 Nov. 2002.  Web. 18 March.2016   < http://www.vatican.va/archive/ENG0015/_INDEX.HTM>

Lumen Gentium.  The Vatican, 06 Nov. 2002 Web. 25 March 2014 <http://www.vatican.va/archive/hist_councils/ii_vatican_council/documents/vat-ii_const_19641121_lumen-gentium_en.html>

The New American Bible. The Vatican, 06 Nov. 2002.  Web. 12 Feb. 2014 <http://www.vatican.va/archive/ENG0839/_INDEX.HTM>

Prager, Edward.My Intended to be but Never, Ever, Ever to be Published Tome.  n.p.

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Dreams and Nightmares by Monsignor Ferrarese


Every age has its own falsehoods that seem perfectly reasonable, and even practical, if taken in a particular and limited sense. In the past, among certain societies, concepts of honor seemed to be important and unassailable, but taken to logical conclusions could lead to horrors like the killing of rape victims because they have “dishonored the family”.

In our contemporary American culture, we have had, and still have, questionable beliefs that can have disastrous consequences. I remember in the 1960’s we said crazy things like: “If it feels good, do it!” It never dawned on the denizens of the “Age of Aquarius” that they were giving license to pedophiles! One has to be very careful about ideas.

Good ideas can have a wonderful harvest of good fruits, but a single bad idea can be devastating in the evil it produces. Parenthetically, this is why the Church has been so concerned about heresy. A bad idea about God can have disastrous effects. The heresy that Jesus was not truly human spawned the rejection of the human in the cult of the Cathars in Southern France whose advocacy of suicide (since it frees the soul from the human!) had to be put down by armed force!

But there are some pernicious bad ideas that can cause havoc even today. One of these is the ideal that is often spoken about in third-rate shows on TV about “Believing in your Dream!” There is always something true in even a false belief. We should have dreams and ideals and aspirations. But we cannot absolve ourselves of testing the ideals to be sure they are truly life giving. Reason and reliance on the wisdom of the ages must be applied even to dreams.

It is simply claptrap to say that no matter what I dream, if I keep working at it, it will happen.

You hear this often when someone wins a prize: just believe and work hard and it will happen! Now, I may have a dream that I am the quarterback for the New York Giants, but at 68 years of age and in my present physical condition added to my lack of talent in this area, I can rightly and accurately say that no matter what my dream tells me, I can never be that quarterback! To spend my life trying to do it would be a waste of time and effort.

Similarly, take a high school student who wants to be an actor or a performer of some sort, who dreams of becoming a star: If they make decisions regarding schooling, practicing, etc., that are unrealistic, they may be imprisoning themselves in a future nightmare. I have met men and women in their forties and even fifties who are still waiting for that big break and even delayed marriage and family for that.

I have discussed the pain some parents feel over these unrealistic expectations that they supported with great financial sacrifices. One Dad urged his son to go back to school and get a teaching degree so that he can fall back on something reliable if his “dream” does not materialize.

My point in this long digression on unreality, and the damage caused by false ideas accepted as true, is that God calls us into what is best for us and that we need to be able to sacrifice our dreams, ideas and agendas to His Holy Will. Our own prideful stubbornness of will can work against us, and our spiritual development, especially when it is fed by the false philosophy that permeates our culture.

These illusions of the will are the playground and tool box of the Tempter, for he tries to get us to veer off the path of God’s Will, which is where our true happiness lies. He then establishes a false premise that leads to disaster for us.

The psychological field of cognitive therapy has built its whole science of the mind on this idea of the danger of the false beliefs that engender distorted perceptions of the self. When you build on faulty foundations, all the effort is wasted since the house will come tumbling down.

Hence, the importance of consulting the great saints and the tradition of the Church, since we need independent and proven objective standards so that we know we are on the right track and are not building for ourselves something that will be a colossal waste of time.

This is another reason why humility is the basis of all the virtues. It takes humility to question, for it admits our limitations and helps us not to absolutize our own agendas. As St. Paul says in his letter to the Ephesians, “…live in a manner worthy of the call you have received, with all humility and gentleness [and] with patience…”

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Home Again by Monsignor Ferrarese

While the experience of Pilgrimage is exhilarating, exhausting and at the same time refreshing, it would be deceptive to say that there is where the true reality of the spiritual life abides.

That last word, “abides,” is very important. In the gospel of John, it occurs countless times. In Greek, it is the word “Menein” that is translated as “abides” and oftentimes also as “remains”. In the discourse on the Vine and the Branches, it communicates the key concept of living in or living with. It describes a state and not an event. When one lives with someone, one truly gets to know the person. Often, when going on vacation with a friend, it can seal or steal the friendship. It may show how compatible the two are or how at loggerheads they seem!

When it comes to God, we can approach the experience as an event with a beginning, a middle, and an end. This works with the concept of the Pilgrimage where we search out, and are willing to put up with, sacrifices so that we achieve that moment of connection which gives us strength. The problem with seeing God as an event is that it is too restrictive. It depends wholly on circumstances which will or will not cooperate. We climb the mountain and want to feel God, but He is elusive. He is not in the mountain or the fire or the storm, but as Elijah discovered, He is in the ubiquitous breeze.

One cannot meet with God. One must live with Him. Day in and day out. ‘Menein’. Abiding and remaining in the presence, divorced from emotions and thoughts. He walks with us and is not to be found or met, just as one cannot lose one’s faith, but merely decides to not believe.

The question that the two disciples who were following after Christ in John’s gospel asked of Christ: Where do you live? Menein. And the Lord answered: Come and see. Or better said: Come and live with me and you shall understand.

When you come back from the world of events like a Pilgrimage, the temptation is to go back to where we were as the memories recede. But, truly, God is in the breeze of daily life. We live with Him, but we do not see Him or hear Him or feel Him because of our lack of faith. Faith is a way of seeing the world in all its depth and supernatural mystery, like the face of a child without shadow or the face of an aged person whose history is written on the wrinkles of their face. If we cannot see God there, no Pilgrimage can help us. For the true Pilgrimage is into the mystery of God, and He is all around us.

Perhaps that is what Baptism truly is: finally seeing the reality of God right in front of us. It is when, in Spanish, during the Eucharist we ask Him to “Contemplar las Luz de tu rostro”: to contemplate the light of His Face.

To the human eye, there is only a round host when the Priest intones: “Behold the Lamb of God, Behold Him who takes away the sins of the world”. But in faith, we gaze on the Light of His Countenance.

And so we unpack and get into our own bed and, as sleep comes, we greet the destination of our journey: The Lord whom we live with. And we discover that our Pilgrimage was unnecessary; or rather, we finally understand a little better that He is with us always even when we are not with Him.

A Pilgrimage teaches us to see, and I am so glad to have taken many of them throughout my life, for they force me to see what is right in front of me and realize how truly blessed I am!

When one returns from a Pilgrimage, it is often the devil’s strategy to convince us that the insights the soul had received while visiting the holy places were illusions, that nothing has changed. In fact, the evil one mounts a concerted attempt to have the soul go in the opposite direction from what it resolved on Pilgrimage. It is a measure of the damage we have done to the devil’s kingdom that he has to mount such a counter offensive. For it is in the daily life of the believer that the true battleground is found. The devil tries to belittle the progress made and to get the believer to settle into the ‘old way,’ thereby invalidating the Pilgrimage’s effects.

The devil knows that if the insights of the Pilgrimage takes ground in the daily life of the believer in Christ, he has lost a big battle and maybe, eventually, the war he is waging against God on the battlefield of the individual soul. We are but the spoils of his rage. Thus, let us take the wisdom of St. Peter to heart: “Resist [the devil], solid in your faith!”

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