Sunday, August 25, 2013

When Current Events Anger Me, God Shows Me Reasons to Love

It's hard for a Christian to remain joyful these days, because our focus keeps getting jerked around by horrifying examples of hate. Of course it's a comfort that our society hasn't yet moved to having us torn to pieces by lions, but the seduction from the enemy is difficult for people to resist when they haven't a solid connection with God, and the spiritual equivalent is already here.

I don't watch the news, but one can't help seeing the headlines on Google or Yahoo, and most of it's ugly.  It's a reminder of Romans 12:14:  "Bless those who persecute you. Bless and do not curse." 1 Peter 3:9 is a good one, too. "Do  not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing." No one ever said being a Christian would be easy. 

Here's how He turned my attention back to Him this week. 

There were two disturbing stories about black youth's killing whites from boredom, including a visiting Australian and a WWII vet.  My first instinct was...well, let's just say it was negative. 

So Jesus responded with a story about Christian love:  Antoinette Tuff, a black woman, courageously stopped a man armed with an AK-47 from shooting up a school. She did it with love and kindness. She was a true Christian.

Then there is the unbelievable violence in Egypt against Christians, including Catholic nuns being marched through the street. Barak Obama continues to sit on his thumbs, and his spokesman even made a joke at the press conference. Not much hope for help from those quarters. Angry? You bet!

So Jesus responded with the news that a Muslim woman came to the aid of the nuns, a good reminder that each of us choose individually whether or not to respond to God, and a few bad apples will NOT spoil the whole barrel. 

Now there's a story about that knucklehead in England who is a wealthy narcissist. He says he's a Christian, but he wants to force Christians to violate their beliefs so he can have a pretty gay wedding in their church. Their privately owned church. His favorite poem is "Me, Myself and I."

I'm still waiting for Jesus response to that one, but do you see the theme?  There's violence  and hatred and bullying everywhere, and Jesus keeps reminding me to respond with love.  Because that's His will, and it's all about His will, not mine. 

So instead of rethinking my position on capital punishment, I will pray for the conversion of those criminals, that the right priest or deacon or Christian prison missionary will be able to soften their hard hearts with the aid of the Holy Spirit.  He has converted many hopeless causes in the past.  I will pray that the Muslim Brotherhood who helps the military spread hate and violence will learn from the Muslim woman who lived her faith. (I already pray regularly for Barack Obama's conversion.)  And I will pray for the conversion of that gay narcissist, that he might truly become Christian and know it's not all about him. And I will pray for more trust in God, so that I don't let these things bother me so much. 

It's not easy being a Christian, but faith and trust and prayer fill the journey with hope, so I can get back to being joyful. 

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Leaning on Jesus...Literally

I can't get the image out of my mind.

For those who aren't Catholic, the tabernacle is where the consecrated Host is kept--the physical presence of Jesus; Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity.  Think of it as a sacred vault.

Ours is in the wall behind the altar in our chapel.

The woman made her way behind the altar before Mass. She reached out and placed her palm against the tabernacle, leaned her head against it, and sobbed, her shoulders shaking with each gasp.

I beheld this with a mixture of emotions. You can't witness pain this complete without tearing up, and an ache started in my chest and rose into my throat.  But there was joy as well in watching a heart overcome with anguish as it reached out for Jesus.

So many times we rely on ourselves. Our egos tell us we can handle our problems. There's something we can DO to make the pain go away. But her complete reliance on our Lord, though heart wrenching to watch, was also beautiful.

I could almost see Him reaching His arms out to comfort her, because that's what He does, and I could almost feel His joy at her complete dependence on Him, because that's what He wants.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Catholic Apologists You Need to Know

Those unfamiliar with the term "apologist" might think it has something to do with being sorry. The definition of an apologist is "one who speaks in defense of".  No apologies necessary or given. Today's Catholic apologists are the defenders of our faith, and in doing so, they evangelize lukewarm Catholics and other members of society who seek the Truth.

We are so blessed to have so many men and women who are gifted by the Holy Spirit with the words and zeal to spread God's message.  I'll have to add onto the list later, because there are so many others I want to recommend, some who have single talks that are amazing. Here is a small but mighty list for your listening pleasure, in no particular order.  PLEASE LET ME KNOW IF YOU HAVE SOMEONE TO RECOMMEND!  I've *  the talks that I listen to over and over and over!

Scott Hahn

A former anti-Catholic Evangelical minister, Scott Hahn discovered the Catholic Church when he read the Church Fathers. He found the Mass. He found the Eucharist. He found his new home, which is detailed in his book Rome Sweet Home. Be careful with your volume control when you listen to Mr. Hahn. His passion comes through in his speaking style. :)  If you want to unpack scripture to depths you never dreamed existed, he's the man for you.  Just listen to his talk on the Samaritan woman that Jesus met at the well, and he'll blow your mind.

Under the "Go Deeper!" tab on his site, there are free tools for Bible study that are very helpful. And his St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology site has free audio courses as well as reflections on this week's readings.

Here are the talks I have and love:

The Conversion of Scott Hahn
* Evangelizing Catholics
The Sevenfold Covenant
We Must Be Sworn Again
Why is There Hell?
Married Life as a Ministry (With Kimberly Hahn)
* Beads for the Battle
Counting Your Blessings

Kimberly Hahn

Scott Hahn's wife came to Catholicism after her husband, but once she discovered the additional blessings of a relationship with Mary, Jesus in the Eucharist, and the grace of Confession, she approached the Church with her typical warmth.  She is a delight to listen to, and her message is usually tailored for women and families.

In Rome Sweet Home, I found her experience with conversion especially touching and funny, such as when she asked if they couldn't be Episcopalians instead of Catholics.

While Mrs. Hahn doesn't have her own web page, you can find her books here.

Talks I have and Love:

* How to Apply Faith to Our Families
Signs of the Covenant

Jeff Cavins

Jeff Cavins left the Catholic Church when he was a young man. He spent years as an anti-Catholic Protestant minister until God called him back. Mr. Cavins' approach is a little more basic than Scott Hahn's (though just as exciting), so he's a great one for beginners. He does many Bible Studies for groups, and his Great Adventure Bible Study takes you through the narrative books of the Bible, so you can understand Salvation History like never before!  When I took his Bible study, the connections between the Old and the New Testament floored me.

His wife, Emily, is an archaeologist, and she's just come out with a book on St. Kateri!  Lily of the Mohawks: The Story of St. Kateri  can be ordered from Franciscan Media at 800-488-0488 or at

Talks I have and Love:

* 15 Things to Do in the Midst of Suffering

Dr. Peter Kreeft

Dr. Kreeft was raised a Calvonist. When a professor advised him that, if he went back in time he would be more at home in the early Church than a Catholic, he eagerly dove into studies of the early Church and the Church Fathers.  He found them to be...Catholic. (Are you seeing a pattern here?)  Dr. Kreeft is a great debater, and he frequently uses J.R. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings to make his points. His talks are a joy to anyone who welcomes logic and reason, and his compassion and kindness come through every time.

He's a Professor of Philosophy at Boston College, and he has a large selections of books and audio available, including some free audio.

Talks I have and love:

* Winning the Culture War
* Lord, Liar or Lunatic
* Seven Reasons to be Catholic
* C.S. Lewis and Mere Christianity
Shocking Beauty
Charisms: Visions, Tongues, Healing, etc.

Father Larry Richards

Fr. Larry is not for the feint of heart, which means he's exactly the person you need to listen to. His tapes include Confession, and The Mass Explained, and you will never view either the same way again. (His definition of sin is especially chilling, despite the humor.)   He has many recordings, including Knowing God's Will that are helpful for everyday living. He may resemble a cute chipmunk, and his talks are laced with humor, (which he often aims at himself) but if you want it straight, he'll deliver.

You can also subscribe to his homilies on iTunes!  He regularly appears on Relevant Radio, and he's the founder of The Reason for Our Hope Foundation.

Talks I have and love:

* Confessions
The Mass Explained
* Discerning God's Will
Living in the Holy Spirit

Father Robert Barron

Father Barron was the first priest to launch video blogs, and he soon discovered that people could comment...and he could comment back!  This led to Word on Fire.  He has a brilliant mind, and listening to his talks, his sermons, or his video blogs will open your mind. Just search youtube for Father Barron and you'll have more than enough to listen to and watch.

He regularly appears on Relevant Radio.  The good news (pardon the pun) for those of us in California is there is a Relevant Radio app available on iTunes and for Google Play and androids!

Talks I have and love:

* Conversion
* Following the Call of Christ
Reaching Out to Today's Culture
* Untold Blessing: Three Paths to Holiness
Who Do You Say I Am?
* Seven Deadly Sins, Seven Lively Virtues

Johnnette Bankovic

A woman of joy. A woman of God. A woman of grace. That describes this lady, and it's fitting that her blog and television show should be called "Women of Grace".  As one who has seen such sadness--the death of a child, the death of her husband, childhood sexual abuse--she has overcome all with God's help, and she radiates that incredible love that only comes from Jesus.

It's fitting in these times that her mission involves bringing women to Authentic Femininity.  Her television show is on EWTN, where she covers many important topics with guests. Her podcasts are on Women of Grace and her radio show is on EWTN radio and local affiliates.

Talks I Have and Love:

For Love and Marriage
* South Florida Spiritual Healing Retreat