Wednesday, August 23, 2017

The Solar Eclipse and the Beauty of God's Creation

In the United States, millions of people went and experienced the Great American Solar Eclipse of 2017.  My wife and I were able to go see it, and it was quite an experience.  The moon slowly moving in front of the sun and casting its shadow upon the earth was once of those once in a lifetime experience.  As we were experiencing it, I was in awe of the wonderful and beautiful creation that God has created and I was blessed to witness.

God’s creation is truly beautiful and awe-inspiring.  As beautiful as all of the earth is, we are infinitely more beautiful because we are created in his likeness and have the beautiful gift of free will.  We use this gift to benefit ourselves and those that we know.  We also use free will to do destructive things to our neighbors and ourselves.  God is calling us to look to Jesus and love one another as he has loved us.  Sometimes in the business of the world, we tend to forget to love our spouse, our neighbor, and our enemies.  God’s call is love and it is in loving one another that we can transform the world.  So as we remember the awesome beauty of the Solar Eclipse, never forget that we are more beautiful because we are all brothers and sisters in Christ.   

Thursday, March 3, 2016

The power of music

            It is easy to listen to music.  Between turning on the radio and listening to your favorite tunes on your phone, music is all around us.  Why are we drawn to music?  I think the answer lies in our hearts.  Music puts into a language what the heart is expressing.  From Mozart to Enya to Chris LeDoux, musicians touch on something that lies in the heart of each one of us.  Music puts the heart’s movements into words.  That is why we are drawn to music and find both healing power in music and ways to express what we are feeling.
            Saint Augustine is quoted as saying “When you sing, you pray twice.”  St. Augustine recognizes the importance of song and music.  Now I have never been the best singer, but I absolutely love music.  I find that both the rhythms and the lyrics of music very important.  Songs have a way of coming into your mind at the weirdest times of the day.  I find that when I am in adoration, I generally have a song in my heart.  In years past, I would try to push out those out because I was with Jesus in Adoration and needed to focus on him.  As I have continued to grow, I have learned to listen to those songs that are placed into my heart because I find that God is sending me a message of love through songs.  
            I heard it said that God speaks to us in a language that we can understand.  Music is a language that my heart understands and God uses it frequently to make sure I know I am loved.  There is a song by John Legend titled “All of Me” and a line in the song says “I love your perfect imperfections.”  I heard that song in my heart about a year and a half ago in Adoration and it hit me like a ton of bricks.  At that time, I was frustrated with some of my imperfections and when I heard that in my heart, it spoke volumes to me that God loves me unconditionally, especially in my imperfections.  That lesson that I learned a year and a half ago is not only with me, but has expanded to where I try to love others in their imperfections.  Jesus loves each one of us totally, and in the midst of our imperfections.  Jesus taught us each how to love, and we have to have the courage to do it, even when it is difficult.  "Do not be afraid, then, when love makes demands. Do not be afraid when love requires sacrifice." ~ St. John Paul II
            One artist that I particularly love to listen to is Enya.  Her melodies are simple, yet her harmonies are complex.  Enya sometimes sings in a foreign language and even a language that she made herself.  Her songs are soothing and relaxing.  Her voice is so pure that I imagine that is what the heavenly song sounds like.   Enya doesn’t even put herself in a genre of music, simply saying its “Enya.” 
One of her songs, Only Time, is my personal favorite as it has been a faithful companion to me as I have continued to grow in my faith and in my love.  The theme of that song is that time and love are companions with us.  “Who can say when the roads meet, that love might be in your heart?”  It’s an open question yet it challenges us to love.  When God presents us with the meeting of two roads, how should we respond?  With Love.  When the road becomes difficult, how are we called to respond?  With Love. 
Jesus is calling each one of us to embrace the road that is laid out before us, and we may never know where it is going yet be not afraid.  Jesus is our companion and our compass for the path of life.  Music helps us to see God’s love for us, and that nourishes our souls for the journey.  If you let God's love fill you, you will love others in a new and deeper way.  So the next time you find yourself signing a song for no particular reason, listen to it.  That song in your heart just may be your guardian angel sending you a message of God’s love for you. 

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Wyoming Birds!

When I got up this morning and after my cup of coffee, I found these two bald eagles in one of our trees!  Just beautiful!

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Beyond the Love Languages: The sacrificial meaning of love

As I'm sure a lot of you have read the 5 Love Languages by Gary Chapman, and that is a great book for understand how you and your spouse receive love and understand what you can to do love your spouse more authentically.  However, there is more to love than just understanding your spouses's primary and secondary love language.  It is one thing to understand the language, it is another thing to be fluent in it and go beyond.  Jesus Christ teaches us that love ultimately requires sacrifice.  To truly understand the power of love, we first have to look at the crucifix.  That is the ultimate sign of what it means to love.

Jesus gave his disciples the greatest commandment at the last supper.  "A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; even as I have loved you, that you also love one another." ~ John 13: 34.  How did Jesus Christ show us his love?  He laid down his life for ours.  He gave us everything he had to give to save us.  The cross is the way of true love.  Jesus knows every one of us intimately, our greatest joys and our worse sorrows.  He embraced each one of us on the cross, and it was his blood that purified us.  Jesus showed us the way, the truth, and the life and he embodied what it means to love.  Thus love is more than just an emotion.  Love is a choice and that choice is for the greatest good of another at the expense of yourself.  It is in giving that we receive.

In order to love properly, you have to train yourself in selflessness.  To do that means to sacrifice things you want to do for what is in the best interest for your beloved.  It is training the mind, the body and the heart to be in a position to love in that sacrificial way that Jesus taught us.  One cannot run a marathon overnight, and so it is with learning how to love.  The best way to learn how to love is to spend time with love, and that means spending quality time in Adoration.  It is there that Jesus Christ will penetrate your heart with his love and mercy.  Old wounds may come up in adoration, and that is fine because Jesus is wanting to heal those wounds so you can stretch your heart's capacity to love.  As Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI said, "Suppose that God wishes to fill you with honey; but if you are full of vinegar, where will you put the honey?  The vessel, that is your heart, must first be enlarged and then cleansed, freed from the vinegar and its taste.  this requires hard work and is painful, but in this way alone do we become suited to that for which we are destined."  It is in adoration that your heart can be healed and where it will be stretched to be filled more with Jesus' love.

When your heart is full of the love of Christ, you share it with the world.  You cannot give what you don't have, so my brothers and sisters in Christ, let your hearts be filled with the love of Jesus.  A love so powerful that can transform your world and the world around you.

"The proof of love is in the works.  Where love exists, it works great things.  But when it ceases to act, it ceases to exist." ~ St. Gregory the Great.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Our Lady of Czestochowa: A Mother's Enduring Love

Our Lady of Czestochowa:  A mother’s enduring love
 Reflections from "Footsteps of St. John Paul II" Pilgrimage


          Our Lady of Czestochowa, an icon in Poland that tradition states St. Luke painted it, reminds us all that part of life will undoubtedly involve suffering and persecution.  Yet it is how we go through it that matters, and Our Lady shows us how to withstand it with love.  Our Lady of Czestochowa endured attacks from an arrow from a Tartar’s bow in the 14th Century, a sword from the heretic group, the Hussites, in the 15th Century, and even imprisonment from the communist government of Poland in the 1960s.  Despite restoration attempts to remove the scars of the sword and arrow, they have always returned.  Why?  Only Our Lord and Our Lady know, but I believe it is to remind us that Our Mother suffers for her children in order to help redeem us and teach us that love will triumph.  Our Mother is not some distant thought or idea.  She is present in each one of our lives and unconditionally loves us.
            Our Lady of Czestochowa has always been a sign of the resilient church in Poland, despite being persecuted and attacked.  As we look at the Catholic Church today, Satan is attacking it on all fronts.  From the destruction of the family to the murdering of millions of innocent babies in the womb to the attacks on the clergy and religious, the Church is the last bastion for truth in a world that is absorbed in the heresy of relativism.  The body, which is created by God and is very good, has become an idol for worship in the world today.  It is no coincidence that during World War II, a young Karol Wojtyła made secret pilgrimages to Our Lady of Czestochowa.  It was Our Mother who nourished and feed his heart with truth and love.  This allowed Karol’s heart to proclaim the beauty of the body as an icon not an idol. 
This truth is proclaimed in both Love and Responsibility and the Theology of the Body.  St. John Paul II understood that you cannot defeat the lies of Satan by ignoring it, but rather confronting the lies with the Truth in a loving way.  The victory may not be immediate, but we know that victory with Our Lady is assured.  As the visionaries of Fatima heard in Our Blessed Mother’s messages, “The good will be martyred, the Holy Father will have much to suffer, various nations will be annihilated.  In the end, My Immaculate Heart will triumph.”  It is the blood of the martyrs that will renew the Church.  It is our Mother Mary, which will comfort the sorrowful and aid the renewal of the Holy Catholic Church.
            So we have to surrender ourselves to Our Father and Our Mother.  When we were kids and our favorite toy was broken, we went to our mother and father to fix it for us.  We had to surrender our favorite toy to them so it could get fixed properly.  It is the same with our own interior brokenness.  Pride tends to be an obstacle to healing.   We cannot fix it ourselves, but Our Father and Our Mother can heal our brokenness and our broken hearts.  As children of God, we have to give to them all of our brokenness and sufferings so we can let the healing begin deep in our hearts. 
            How do we surrender our brokenness?  It first starts with prayer.  St. John Paul II said that the rosary is “Our daily meeting which neither I nor the Blessed Virgin Mary neglect.”  It is in prayer and frequent visits to the Holy Eucharist in Adoration that we allow Our Mother and Our Father into our hearts.  With Our Mother holding our hand, we can enter into our past brokenness to allow her to heal it. 
Second is frequent use of the sacrament of Reconciliation.  The Church calls it a Sacrament of Healing.  It is there where we lay before Our Father all of our sins, in all of their ugliness so that we can hear the words, “I absolve you from all your sins” and be made new again.  When we grow in the love of Our Lady and Our Lord, we can give it to others.  You cannot give what you don’t have.  When your heart is filled with this love, you get this burning desire to spread the message of love.  We are all called to help each other, and when we know the way out, we have a responsibility to help others out of Satan’s clutches.  To love authentically means to suffer.  “Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” ~ John 15: 13.  My brothers and sisters in Christ, Be Not Afraid!  Let Our Lady of Czestochowa enter into your hearts!  She always points us to Our Lord and Savior. 

Totus Tuus Maria!