What Shall I do?

What Shall I do?

While on retreat last week I read a profound book entitled “Night’s Bright Darkness” by Sally Read. In it she recounts her rapid conversion to the Catholic faith from atheism. In the space of nine months Read journeyed through difficulties, doubts, and objections to arrive at her spiritual home – the Catholic Church. Above all her story is an encounter with Jesus Christ and his love. This love, she knew, called for a response. Often though, Read did not know what she was to do. So she asked, “What do you want me to do?” Like a refrain, she repeated this question many times and listened in the quiet of her heart for an answer. Gradually the plan of God became evident in her life.

St. Paul also asked this question during his own conversion recounted in chapter nine of the Acts of the Apostles. His encounter with Jesus while traveling to Damascus was much more sudden and intense. A bright light and a voice from heaven knocked him to the ground. Dazed and trembling St. Paul asked the Lord “what do you want me to do?” At that moment he didn’t learn the complete plan, only the next step “rise and enter the city, and you will be told what you are to do.” St. Paul did as he was told and ever after his life would take on a completely new dimension and a decisive direction.

Every Christian should work up the courage to ask frequently, “what do you want me to do?” Doing so is a generous act of love. Then we must listen quietly for God to respond. Sometimes this response will come in the form of interior thoughts or desires or it may come through the written Word of God or through another person. This is how we accomplish the will of God in our lives, not only in great things, but in little ones too. And the will of God is always an exciting adventure. Just ask Sally Read or, better yet, read her book.

Teachers Shape Souls

Teachers Shape Souls

My mother teaches at a Catholic school and some time ago she attended a social gathering with my aunt and uncle. It was a group of strangers to her since it was out of state. Moreover, she felt out of place being “only a teacher” while many others had accomplished careers in a wide array of fields. I reminded her that everyone, no matter what their future career may be, must pass through fifth grade. But teachers do not only affect students for the brief time they are in their classrooms. They shape souls for eternity. That is why teaching is a lofty and indispensable vocation.

Everyone can think back and recall a certain teacher or more who had a definite impact on their life. I go back to the priest who taught me the Hebrew language. After registration for classes ended I found out that I was the only one in the class. “He will go easy on me,” I thought. With gratitude I can say that he did not let me off easy. Once in class he handed back a graded assignment saying, “I know you can do better.” It was difficult to hear at the time, but I now understand why he challenged me. That priest saw potential within me that I was not aware of. All good teachers do this.

Our patron St. Thomas Aquinas was likewise influenced by St. Albert the Great his teacher and mentor. From the age of twenty-three until he was twenty-seven, Thomas studied under Albert. The teacher had a considerable influence on his brilliant student during this important phase of his life. St. Thomas would never forget this example as he, in turn, influenced a new generation of students.

The image above depicts St. Albert teaching with St. Thomas among the gathered students.

Fears, Confession, and St. Therese

Fears, Confession, and St. Therese

Today our second grade students will be receiving the Sacrament of Reconciliation for the first time. As with anyone doing something for the first time, many of them have a little reticence. To allay their little fears I emphasized the beauty of the sacrament and told them not to fear. Focusing on forgiveness and grace instead of sin and guilt was something I learned from reading the life of St. Therese of Lisieux this past summer. When young Therese was preparing to receive the sacrament for the first time, her older sister Pauline told her that when she went to confession “the tears of the Child Jesus would fall on her soul and purify it at the moment of the priest’s blessing.” Pauline also told her that she was not going to confess her sins “to a man, my darling, but to God Himself.” These instructions removed all her fears and gave Therese great confidence.

On the day of her first confession Therese approached the confessional and knelt down, but she was so small that the priest could not see her. He asked her to stand and she made her confession in that manner, remembering what her sister had said. Afterwards Therese said that she left the confessional “with such a light heart that I think I had never been so happy before.” For the rest of her life she said that every confession gave her a foretaste of eternal happiness.

I hope the students approach this first confession and every subsequent one in the same manner. For anyone who has fears about approaching the sacrament of reconciliation and forgiving love, do not be afraid! Jesus himself is waiting for you. He will forgive you and you will be at peace with God!

Offering our day to God

Offering our day to God

The Daily Offering is a prayer in which we consecrate the day to God and ask for his help to live it as a day of the Lord. In it, we offer to God everything that will happen during the course of the day, our prayers, works, joys and suffering. Therefore, it is best prayed first thing in the morning, before the day has begun, before we have been distracted by task, emails, social media or news. This way, our day is focused and purpose driven.

St. John Paul II once said that praying the Morning Offering is “of fundamental importance in the life of each and every one of the faithful. It is a daily reminder to make our entire day, our whole life ‘a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God.’”

There are many versions of the prayer and we can feel free to make our own, even if it is short. St. Philip Neri, at the very moment when he awoke in the morning, said to God: “Lord, keep Thy hands over Philip this day; for if not, Philip will betray Thee.” What a realist! The longer prayer below was popularized by the 19th French Apostleship of Prayer. This version has found it’s way into many prayer books and morning routines for many Catholics.

No matter what version we use, or whether we make up our own, the important thing is that we do it. The Daily Offering is a means by which to build every new day on the rock of living faith in Christ. I encourage you to make this prayer a part of your daily spiritual game plan.

O Jesus, through the Immaculate Heart of Mary, I offer you my prayers, works, joys, and suffering of this day in union with the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass throughout the world. I offer them for all the intentions of Your Sacred Heart: the salvation of souls, reparation for sins, the reunion of all Christians; I offer them for the intentions of our Bishops and of all Apostles of Prayer and in particular for those recommended by our Holy Father this month. Amen.

 

“Teach what you believe.”

thomasaquinasmurillo

St. Thomas Aquinas, Bartolome Murillo.

At the ordination of a deacon, the bishop hands the book of the Gospels to the deacon and says, “Receive the book of the gospel whose herald you have become. Believe what you read. Teach what you believe. Practice what you teach.” These words have resounded strongly within me in the last four years. It is the primary duty of the priest to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Over the centuries this proclamation has taken many forms. Some forms have not changed such as preaching at Holy Mass and teaching in a classroom, but as technology has advanced, new forms of media have developed to further the Gospel message.

I offer these reflections and teachings as another way of opening up broad new vistas for dialogue, evangelization, and catechesis. We will also utilize the blog for recording events and happenings at our parish.

In Christ,

Fr. Andy Walsh