Sunday, November 11, 2012

If the Lord does not build the house in vain do its builders labor. (Ps, 127:1)

               How many times we are taught to create our own path in life as if we knew what could bring us happiness, by fulfilling whatever shallow desires come across our path.  We search these desires out and once they are attained we look to have more, never becoming satisfied, never becoming full.  Instead we are like a fire, ready to consume, and the more wood that is thrown onto the fire the greater the fire of consumption and appetite grows.  Once the wood is burnt, instead of going out like a normal fire, we stay the same size but without food.  This is why if we search out our own path without seeing what will truly satisfy us we grow into a state of wondering the meaning of all this toil which gives us no rest and serves no goal except the goal of pain relief from lack of satisfaction.

                Even if we find something that seems meaningful it is only because of those we see ourselves benefiting in the future.  We act as though the viewpoint of this world is the same viewpoint as the eternal, for once we are in front of the face of God we will be concerned with how we fulfilled God’s will for us not we fulfilled our own will.  Therefore, even if we see our life as meaningful at that time, it will lack all meaning at the point of death except for Christ and His eternal kingdom.

                Even to look back on history we can see a difference between the Saints, and those who were great emperors or inventors.  The emperors and inventors are remembered for what they have given us materially, what will disappear with our death, but the Saints are not just remembered but become a person within our lives who lead us into a life of fullness, love, happiness, and meaning, with persecutions and sacrifices.  How could we truly express our love towards God without making sacrifices for Him, for otherwise our actions are not so much an act of love but an act of desiring.  That is one of the reasons why God does not grant us everything we ask for in the way that we want it, for it would make God into nothing but a ‘wish fulfiller’ instead of an Infinite Being who desires to have a relationship of love with us.  A relationship of love means there will be sacrifices, and God leads by example by allowing His innocent Son to take on the sins of the world and become crucified.  We became redeemed by the blood of the Lamb.  This is not something that God needed to do for he is complete within himself.  This was an act of total love, needing nothing from us yet humbling himself, obediently accepting even death, death on the cross! (Phil. 2:8).   Therefore the only appropriate response becomes an act of selfless love in return. 

                This act of love is our purpose, this act of love is what we have been made for, this act of love is the only action that will lead us to meaning, fulfillment, and blessedness.  Within this act of love there is a desire to do what God wills in our lives and if we do so we still may become great inventors, or political figures; we may also become a loving janitor or construction worker.  However no matter how great our accomplishments are in the viewpoint of the world, they will become next to nothing compared to our response to God’s love.  We will not only be remembered for this response but we will build relationships from above with generations to come, pointing towards God and praying for them to become closer to Christ.  Then we will become a house not built in vain.

Monday, November 5, 2012

We do not achieve holy recollection by Receiving but by denying-St. John of the Cross, "Sayings of Light and Love."

                This may seem like an odd thing to say when we consider that we rely on God’s grace to do good works because of our fallen nature.  However, at the heart of this saying is the implication that God will give us the grace to overcome all sinful difficulty, for God never gives us something that we cannot handle.  The greater the difficulty, the greater the grace, and the greater the blessing, because these are the times that we realize our own weakness and are given the opportunity to pour our faith and hope into God and rely on his strength.  This is what St. Paul means when he writes, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.  I will rather boast most gladly of my weaknesses, in order that the power of Christ may dwell with me.” (2 Cor. 12:9).  The great question is why do we not overcome every sin with such graces from God?  The reason is because we are not open to receive them for our hearts are focused and poured out into what is not God.  This makes our souls like a dirty window on a sunny day, the Sun shines equally on the window whether it is clean or dirty, but a clean window allows the room to be fully open to the Sun’s light whereas the room that has the dirty window is only partially open to the light of the Sun.  This dirt is caused by sins and any sinful habit that we have formed.  Until we deny those sins and sinful habits we will not be able to open up our hearts fully to allow for God to have his light shine completely through us, so those in the room no longer see the window, but only the Sun shining through the window.  This happens  because the window has no dirt to interfere with the light of the Sun.  So how do we clean our windows? We clean them by going to the sacrament of Reconciliation and confessing our sins fully and honestly, for if we are not completely honest and open then we are not giving Christ permission to heal us.  Christ will not impinge upon our free will and only comes where he has been invited by a sincere heart, but once invited he will waste no time on arrival just sometimes his arrival is not in the form that we expect.  That is why when we are not honest in confession and sorry for our sins, we are not fully inviting Christ to clean the windows of our soul.  It is after we have been cleansed through the sacrament of reconciliation that we can experience the weight of sin lifted off our shoulders and have a fresh start once again of denying sin and allowing the divine light to enlighten our soul.  It is important to realize that after we go to confession we will have to go again for we are sinful by nature, but in-between each visit we need to strive for improvement in the denial of sin.  Often Christ will tug at our hearts to work on one imperfection at a time, for if he was to ask us to work at all of our imperfections at the same time, we would easily become overwhelmed and fall into the great sin of despair.  Also it is important to realize, Christ will often use other people to help us overcome our struggles so that we can deepen our humility and our sense of being a part of the Body of Christ.  Let us give thanks to God today for giving us the gift to be able to aspire to such a relationship with the One True God, which is the one gift that is worth dying to ourselves so that it may no longer be I who lives but Christ who lives in me (Gal. 2:20).

Friday, October 5, 2012

“We should not wish to become a Saint in four days but step by step.”-St. Philip Neri

                Often when we decide to start living our lives more fully for God and less for ourselves we begin to think of the great deeds of the saints, the sufferings and love they show for Christ.  When we think of them we aspire to become like them, not over the course of our lives but overnight.  When this approach is taken we always fail for we see our Love for God as something we create and not something we respond too. 

                As the angelic doctor, St. Tomas Aquinas says, “The Christian moral life is simply a response to God’s incredible love for us.”  It takes patience and humility for us to more fully accept His love in our hearts that are in need of softening and respond with charity.  This is why it is always sooner rather than later that we should begin to accept God’s love and respond to it appropriately, for the sooner in life we do, the more time we have to grow in love towards God and fulfill our purpose. 

                Often our mistake is trying to become great in holiness overnight.  We do not understand that it is not us producing the love that leads to holiness but instead we return the love that has already been given which leads to holiness.  Then when we fail by falling into old habits of sin, we beat ourselves up out of pride.  We want to do it alone, independent of God and when this cannot be done we get discouraged.   We fail to remember that even Christ depended upon his Father for otherwise we would not hear him saying, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup away from me; still, not my will but yours be done.” (Lk. 22:42).   This discouragement is never from God who is our hope, but always from ourselves, and/or an evil spirit.  If the discouragement is not leaving or is reoccurring, we may be lead back into old habits because “I can’t do it.”

                Well of course we cannot do it if we try by ourselves just as a three year old child cannot survive without dependence on adults.  This is why Christ ask us to be like a child.  This does not mean that we should be immature and ignorant but dependent to whom we receive all things from.  It is only in this dependence that we can reach the heights of perfection and holiness because only in complete dependence we fully be accepting of God’s grace. 

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

He opened the book of nature before me, and I saw that every flower He has created has a beauty of its own, that the splendor of the rose and the lily’s whiteness do not the deprive the violet of it’s scent nor make less ravishing the daisy’s charm.  I saw that if every little flower wished to be a rose, nature would lose her spring adornments, and the fields would be no longer enameled with their varied flowers.-St. Therese of Lisieux, The Story of a Soul.

            In this beautiful analogy the type of flower seems to symbolize the type of vocation given to a person by God and the detailed differences between two flowers of the same species shows the difference between people with the same vocation lies with the details.  Each one of these flowers are supposed to bloom in holiness and show God’s greatness though them. Just as a flower cannot grow and bloom without the sun and the rain neither can a person grow and bloom in holiness without the Son and showers of His grace.  It is up to the flower to accept the Rain and Sunlight and if it is unwilling to accept these things because of the desire to become a different kind of flower or not become a flower of holiness at all, then it will wither up and die and shall be cast into the fire.  The weeds of worldly desires may choke up the flower and prevent its growth or the rocky ground that does not allow the flower to deepen its roots of faith and humility will be become burnt up by the sun.

            The lily should not try to become a rose nor a rose a lily.  Each one is beautiful in their own way and cannot be compared, for sometimes the Gardener desires to look upon the daisy and sometimes the lilies and sometimes the rose.  “I tell you again and again, my brethren that in the Lord’s garden are to be found not only the roses of the Martyr.  In it there are also the lilies of the virgins, the ivy of wedded couples, and the violets of widows.” (St. Augustine, Sermon on Feast of St. Lawrence).  If the ivy tries to become the lily how will it survive for each needs to grow in its own environment that suits the purpose of the plant in order to grow and glorify the Gardener. 

            It does not make one less perfect because they are something different than their brothers and sisters for the happier one is to be as Christ wills him or her to be, the more perfect they become (St. Therese of Lisieux, The Story of a Soul).  How could perfection lie outside of what makes us grow, the Son and showers of grace?  Just as the sun shines equally on the cedar and the little flower, so the Divine Sun shines equally on everyone, great and small (St. Therese of Lisieux, The Story of a Soul). 

Then when we do bloom we should not try to be humble and say that we are unattractive and without scent (St. Therese, The Story of a Soul).  Only someone who exalts themselves could say something like this because only they would think of humility as speaking poorly of the gifts God has given them.  The truly humble soul has no reason to say that they are unattractive and without scent for they know that they are not the source, so instead of insulting Gods gifts to them there soul magnifies the Lord (Lk. 1:46).  

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

“Let us not imagine that we obscure the glory of the Son by the praise we lavish on the Mother; for the more [Mary] is honored, the greater is the glory of her Son.”-St. Bernard of Clairvaux

                It seems as though many times people, especially non-Catholics, question the honoring and praise of Mary, the Mother of God.  This is a terrible mistake that is led by the fear that we are giving worship to Mary and not to Christ because we honor her even though the fourth commandment says honor your father and your mother, yet no one worships their parents, at least I hope not.  When we give honor to Mary not only are we worshiping Christ in a more perfect way but we are also imitating Him because Christ never sinned and therefore never broke the fourth commandment.

                On the cross Christ seeing his mother and the disciple he loved standing near her, He said to His mother, “Woman, this is your son.” Then to the disciple he said, “This is your mother.”  And from this moment the disciple made a place for her in his home (The Jerusalem Bible, Jn. 19:26-27).  Some people today interpret this as being said only for John and not for the rest of the faithful, however from the beginning of the Christianity it has been understood that she is the mother of the whole body of Christ.  We are all members of the Body of Christ because Christ did not say to St. Paul on his road to Damascus why are you persecuting my followers but said, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” (Acts, 9:4).  St. Paul latter confirms this in by writing, “Now you together are Christ body.” (1 Cr. 12:27).  How can the body of Christ have a separate mother from the head?  In addition to this Mary is the new Eve and just as Eve was the mother of all men and women, now Mary becomes the mother of all that are born anew  by water and the spirit (Jn 3:5).

How do we pray to Mary?

                Lets look at the most common Marian prayer, the Hail Mary.  The opening line is “Hail Mary, full of Grace. The Lord is with thee” (Lk. 1:28).  Gabriel greeted Mary with these words. This in effect made her become our mother since she chooses to be the mother of Christ and we are his body.  Could there be a better way to greet and ask our mother to ask the favors of her son, than the greeting in which she was asked to become our mother by becoming the mother of Christ?  Also there is no one that was, is, or ever will be as humble as Mary, with the exception of her Son, for there has been no one more highly exulted then Mary besides her Son.  Anyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and anyone who humbles himself will be exalted (Mt. 23:12).  Therefore when Mary hears the words of Hail Mary she turns to the Holy Trinity and gives more and better thanksgiving then we could ever merit for the graces which God has bestowed on her.

                The next line is “blessed art thou among women and blessed is the fruit of your womb, Jesus” (Lk. 1:42).  This is what St. Elizabeth says to Mary when she greets her at the visitation and notice that Mary responds with the Magnificat saying:

My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord,
My spirit rejoices in God my Savior
For he has looked with favor on his lowly servant.

From this day all generations will call me blessed:
The Almighty has done great things for me,
And holy is his Name.

He has mercy on those who fear him
In every generation.
He has shown the strength of his arm,

He has scattered the proud in their conceit.
He has cast down the mighty from their thrones,
And has lifted up the lowly.

He has fill the hungry with good things.
And the rich he has sent away empty.
 He has come to the help of His servant Israel

For he has remembered his promise of mercy,
The promise He made to our fathers,

To Abraham and his children for ever (Lk. 1:46-55) 

                This whole saying is about Mary praising the Lord for the gifts that he has bestowed upon her and this is the same type of praise is given every time we imitate St. Elizabeth at the visitation.  How much sweeter are these words than any words that we could say to Christ, for they come from His sinless mother who is the greatest of all His creation.   When we humble ourselves to have Mary speak to Christ for us, our prayer becomes greater than any prayer we could marit on our own, for it is not just about the words that we speak but also what love that abides in our heart for Christ.  What person loves Christ more than His mother who has never sinned against Him and had a mothers love for Him?  What person does Christ love more than Mary?

The next line is “Holy Mary, Mother of God.”   Mary became the mother of Christ humanity which cannot be separated from his divinity, because Christ is one person with two natures, one divine and one human which was given to him by Mary.  He is not two persons with each having its own nature.  Therefore Mary is the mother of God even though his divinity created Mary and precedes time.  If anyone does not agree that holy Mary is Mother of God, he is at odds with the Godhead [St. Gregory of Nazianz, Letterto Cledonius the Priest 101 (A.D. 382)].  It is because of Christ being one person that His words may be fulfilled, “Father, may they be one in us, as you are in me and I am in you.” (Jn. 17:21).  How could we become one in the Father and the Son if the Son is not one in himself but two?  Since Christ humanity and divinity cannot be separated, Mary must be the Mother of God if she is the Mother of Christ in the flesh.

                The final line of the prayer is “Pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death Amen.”  This shows how we always direct our prayer towards Christ and realize that Mary in not the source but the instrument in which Christ has chosen to use.  If we can become instruments to pray for one another, how much better is it when the Mother of God and our spiritual mother prays for us especially at the hour of our death when there may be no one else to pray for us?

                As we can see praying to Mary is not something that takes away from Christ but makes our prayers more fitting for Christ to receive them and glorifies Him more.  Mary, Queen of Heaven and of Earth, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death Amen.


Monday, August 27, 2012

I have been extremely miserable in adolescence, miserable from its very onset, and as I prayed to you for the gift of chastity I had even pleaded, “Grant me chastity and self-control, but please not yet.”  I was afraid that you might hear me immediately and heal me forth with of the morbid lust which I was more anxious to satisfy then to snuff out.-St. Augustine, Confessions, Book 8, Chapter 7
(St. Augustine and his mother St. Monica.  Augustines feast day is August 28 and Monica's is the 27th)

Oh Lord how insightful this passage is to the human person.  So often we are attached to something that is sinful in our lives and we hate the enslavement or need to satisfy ourselves, having our happiness subject to it.  However, we love to satisfy the desire but once the desire is satisfied we become empty once again and wish to be released into something lasting.   It is this anxiousness to satisfy rather than to snuff out that makes us call out like St. Augustine, “Lord, grant me to be released from my sinfulness, but not yet.”  We wonder-if we are released, where will we find our happiness?  We will find it in the love of God shown to us on the cross.  There is no greater love than this: that a person would lay down his life for the sake of his friends (John 15:13).  It is only when we find this love that we can look back at our sinfulness and see how miserable we really were by knowing how happy we are now, just as Augustine did when he wrote about his adolescence.  If he knew how miserable he was during his adolescence he would not have waited till his thirties before he seeked his happiness in God and said, "Late have I loved you, O Beauty ever ancient, ever new, late have I loved you!" (St. Augustine, Confessions).  If we completely understood our state of misery, then we would waste no time trying to escape our state of misery.   Augustine shows us that it is never too late or too early to turn to the Lord and ask him to help us love Him as He loves us and receive the  joy and peace of the Lord. 

            The reason why we become so happy when we turn to God for our happiness is because we do what we were made for, a loving and faithful self-giving relationship with God.  It is only when we do what we are supposed to by nature that we receive the peace and joy our nature longs and searches for.  You have made us for yourself, Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you (St. Augustine, Confessions, Book 1, Chapter 1).  St. Augustine and his mother St. Monica, who wept over his soul until he was converted, pray for us.

New movie going out about St. Augustine. To find out how to get it in your hometown click on the following link The Restless Heart.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

 Poverty is the removal of cares and the Mother of Holiness.-St. Meriadoc
(Not this Meriadoc but was the only picture of a Meriadoc I could find on google images.)

            Often we cringe at the thought of poverty.  Why is that? It is because we are attached to the things of this world because we depend upon them for happiness. These items, places, or people are not bad things, but quite the contrary; when we use them correctly, which is for the greater glory of God, we are using them in order to give of ourselves instead of take from others.  It is only this way in which we truly love and are not seeking others as a means to bring in something for ourselves.  This is most easily achieved in poverty.

            The first thing that must be explained is the word poverty.  In this context it does not necessarily mean to give up all the goods we have and live like a beggar, although in particular cases it can, but instead it means to not possess any goods.  This is called poverty of the spirit and through it we become detached from the things of this world and are able to more fully experience freedom. 

            This detachment makes us more able to experience freedom because it allows us to give our heart more fully to Christ who poured his heart out for us when it was pierced with a lance on Calvary.  Anything we are attached to has a piece of our heart and when we fill it up with an unsatisfying good instead of Christ our hearts are deprived of true satisfaction and peace. 

Another benefit of poverty is it helps us to more fully enjoy the things of this world.  This is not just because we are more thankful for what we receive but also because of the capacity in which we can enjoy them will increase.  This is because when we take off our selfishness and put on Christ we begin to see as Christ sees, hear as Christ hears, feel as Christ feels, taste as Christ taste, and smell as Christ smells.  How much greater the world is when we view it in the light of Truth! The focal point in which we see things is the most important part of us for it is the self.  What good does it do to gain the world and lose the self because if we lose the self we cannot truly enjoy the world that we have gain.  However to have nothing but the self, which is more fulfilled the more we deepen our relationship with Christ, is to enjoy the world.  This is why St. Francis of Assisi enjoyed nature so much, because he saw the greatness of God in all things and how we all have the same source of Love keeping us in existence.

            Poverty of the spirit is becoming human beings fully alive because it is what allows us to be most fully attached to Life itself.  A Father of the Church, St. Irenaeus, says in the second century, “The glory of God is a human being fully alive.”  A human being fully alive shows how God has brought a creature in death, sin, back to Life so that by Christ becoming poor we might become rich (cf. 2 Cor. 8:9).  Through this poverty we are able to integrate the highest part of our being, a relationship with God, into every facet of our life instead of trying to put the lower parts of our being, our relationship with the world, into our relationship with God.  Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven (cf. Mt. 5:3).

Friday, August 17, 2012

Matthew 6:21: For where your treasure is, there also will your heart be.

The treasure of the human heart is whatever pleasure, position, or object toward which we order our entire life toward.  This could be sports, an occupation, a drug, a friendship, wealth, God, etc.  How sad it is when that purpose is anything other than to serve God, for it is he who brought us out of nothing to serve himself out of His pure goodness!  When our treasure is something other than the Lord, we no longer recognize God as the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End, of our lives but as means for a lesser end when we try to fulfill ourselves outside of Him.   This does not mean that we should not pray for any goods in this world, but what it means that we should always say at the end of the pray not my will but Thy will be done(Lk 22:42).  In this way our main concern is unity with God and not with his creation; we recognize the goodness and need for his creation while putting our trust in God’s plan for how we receive what we need and how much we receive. 

What happens when we look to something other than God for our fulfillment?

                The human heart will toil after fulfillment its whole life and look for something to become its foundation whether it is a career, friends, family, sex, etc.  Anytime our foundation is something other than God, we find ourselves restless without any true peace because the spring which flows from that desire is unable to quench our thirst.  The reason for this is because there is a disorder in our priorities. 

If man is meant to live for God, who is love, wisdom, joy, peace, etc., and follow his perfect will then how unsatisfying will it be to focus our lives on something less than Him.  The lesser good will come and go without our desire for it decreasing and the more we become enslaved to it the less we love it, for we see its imperfections, but we are blind to a just alternate means to satisfy ourselves.  How foolish it is to focus our lives on the perishable only to perish with it in the end!  This does not mean that we should not enjoy or partake in what is perishable-we are meant to enjoy this world-but it does mean that we should direct it towards God so that the work done may be done for the eternal.  That which cannot be offered up to God should not be done.  The more we focus our lives on God the more we love God who is without any imperfection.  It does not make sense that with clear knowledge of what we are, beings made to give praise to God, and what God is, an incomprehensible goodness which we could never reach the complete depths of, since His being is infinite, that we would focus our lives on anything less than God.
On the feast of St. Hyacinth let us ask for his prayers.  St. Hyacinth pray for us.


Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Faith Journey

It seems appropriate for me to tell my faith journey for this blog considering that I am posting insights to my relationship with Christ.  Therefore if one is to fully understand my relationship with Christ they should understand how God has brought me closer to himself and continues to bring me closer to Himself. 
I grew up as a cradle Catholic with a good Catholic mother and father.  My mother’s love for Our Lady inspired her to make us say a family rosary each day.  I remember many times I would be participating externally, but internally I was wandering off into something that I saw as more important or at least more interesting.  This was partially due to me boiling up with anger inside because I was being forced to pray the rosary; this only reflects the pride that I had.  I also remember times where we, my siblings and I, were watching a movie on television and it would always seem like when there was 15 minutes left my mom would sit down and say, “Okay its time to pray the rosary.”
We would respond, “But we been watching this whole movie and there is 15 minutes left.”
Mom said, “I don’t care, I’m tired!”
                Of course, most of the time the conversation took longer than that because of our resistance, but my mother always won.  Another important practice my mother started me on when I was younger, besides the expected Sunday Mass, was confession every two weeks.  I was not nearly as resistant to this because many times it meant that I got to play on a sweet jungle gym or go over to my cousin’s house and play. My mom always took a lot longer than me.  These are practices that I will forever be grateful for, despite my resistance and hardness of heart. 
                The town and community that I grew up in was a small German-Catholic town that loves its beer.  In the summer between my seventh and eighth grade year, one of my cousins, to whom I looked up to and admired, would come over to my house and shoot raccoons and possums that would get into my mother’s strawberry patch while we downloaded music from the internet.
 In the middle of that summer when my parents were out of town my cousin asked me if I wanted to drink some beer while we shot at some raccoons and possums.  I thought to myself, “Well, you already do and my dad does too so it must not be too bad because you guys are pretty cool.”  That night I had my first full beer and despite how bad I hated the taste, I had a distorted feeling of pride flow through me as if I had accomplished something; since I felt as though I had gained affection from my cousin.  After that I began to go out to parties and road tripping (Drinking in a vehicle as you and a packed car drive around in the country).  Of course, it was not as if I was getting drunk every weekend in the eighth grade but it started out as once every four to five months, only because of lack of opportunities.  As I got older, more and more opportunities arose so naturally I took advantage of them.  When my partying began to increase, so did my indifference toward other moral issues which was mainly girls and tobacco.
                I truly believe what kept me going to Mass on Sundays and realizing that the Catholic faith was the one true faith was guidance from Our Lady because of the rosary that my mother made our family say every night.  If I could make any recommendations for parents it would be to start saying a daily rosary every night or even a decade.  It does so much good for the family. 
                During high school I met a very influential person in my life named Fr. Daren Zehnle.  Our friendship grew with time and occasionally moral issues would come into conversation.  The main one that we would argue about was getting drunk and naturally I would lose because I was arguing from a false position.  Despite this, I would stick to my guns saying that I did not agree completely with him because I was in love with my own sin.  The appetite (for partying) blinded and darkened my soul (the intellect) because the appetite (for partying) as such is blind.  It is blind because, of itself, it has no intellect (St. John of the Cross, The Ascent of Mount Carmel I.17).  Since this was my driving force because it was where I thought I found my happiness, I continued to get further and further into sin and indifference.  If one blind person leads another, both will fall into the ditch (Mt. 15:14).  I finally allowed myself to see that it was wrong intellectually but I still hardened my heart and did not allow myself to feel sorry for my sin.  From this perspective I asked Fr. Daren, “What should I say when I am going to confession and I need to confesses a sin but I’m not sorry for the sin?  If I don’t say the sin then I’m making a bad confession, but if I say I’m sorry for something that I’m not, then I’m lying.”
                Fr. Daren responded, “Say I’m sorry for not being sorry for…....  This way you are not lying but you’re still expressing sorrow, which is needed.”
                For Christmas my senior year of high school Fr. Daren gave me a book called Be a Man by Father Larry Richards.  This is an excellent book, despite its cheesy title, and I would recommend it to any man.  I eagerly read the first half of the book immediately and for whatever reason I set the book down until the week before I started my freshman year of college.  
During this week before my freshman year of college started, I was on the plan ride back from Montana and my i-Pod went dead.  Since I had nothing else to do I read the remainder of the book and at the end it asked me to pray for my vocation so I did.  The only thought that went through my head was, “Be a priest. Be a priest.”  Not exactly what I wanted to hear so I responded with, “That stinks.” 
I already had my whole life planed out, I was going to go to the University of Southern Illinois, extend my adolescence while getting my electrical engineering degree, move back to my home town, take part in my family’s electrical contracting business, build a house overlooking my pond where I would be close enough to take care of my parents when they got older, marry a beautiful wife, have a lot of kids, and bring them to little league with my friends.  On top of that, if I was to pursue the priesthood at this point in my life there would have to be some changes made in my lifestyle.  I brought up what happened on the plan ride to Father Daren one night when he was home so we talked about it for a little while and then dropped the subject.
 Later on that year, Father invited me to the Christmas gathering for priest and seminarians and possible future seminarians for the seminary and I accepted his invitation.  While at the gathering I felt rather uncomfortable; I mean, the people where nice and all, but I did not know very many people besides a few and did not have much in common with anyone else.  On the ride back to father’s rectory that night I told him that I did not think that the seminary was right for me and that I was supposed to get married.  A little bit later we arrived at the rectory and I decided to go to bed, but I couldn’t sleep.  I kept hearing a voice from within telling me to go check out the seminary and finally I said fine.  The next day I told father that I wanted to go check out the seminary sometime this spring.
                During this time in my life I was drinking and partying more than I ever had before because my heart was restless, searching for happiness but unable to find it since I was not searching for it in God who has made us for himself (St. Augustine, Confessions I.1).  However, I thought that I did have happiness because I was searching for it within pleasures that were not difficult for me to attain and gave me a happy sensation for a temporary moment.  I had everything that the world seemed like it could give to me, a well off family, the ability to get good grades, a lot of friends but I was who I was before God and that I was, nothing more (St. Francis of Assisi, Admonitions).  Also I was still always needy.  How can the needy man be happy if he is never satisfied?  What man is not needy?  Only a man who posses God would not be needy for he is infinite and eternal, because I was needy, since I was constantly filling myself with temporary pleasures that would only postpone emptiness.  I was restlessly filling myself but still unable to satisfy my appetite for parting which continued to increase.  Instead of being like a fire that dwindles after the wood is consumed, the intensity of the appetite does not diminish when the appetite is satisfied, even though the object is gone.  Instead of weakening like the fire after the wood is burned, the appetite faints with fatigue because its hunger has increased and its food diminished (St. John of the Cross, The Ascent of Mount Carmel I.15).  I turned to the right and was hungry, and eat toward the left and was not filled (Is. 9:20).  Also if I experienced something that was pleasurable I would feel complete emptiness after I did it unless I was able to constantly immerse myself with pleasures or make a story out of it in order to try to fill myself through humor.  I was blind to these things, loving the very things that kept me from happiness, because I lacked Wisdom which is God and God cannot dwell in sin. 
                With my soul in this state I did not want to visit the seminary on a weekend because I would be depriving myself of what I was living for and centering my life around.  One day I took off from school and went with Father Daren to check out the seminary and I felt a joy and peace while I was there that I never remembered possessing before.  After that visit I knew that I was called to go to the seminary that following semester, but I was still struggling with the idea of letting go of what was my happiness even though it was not true happiness. 
                Shortly after my visit I met with my vocation director, Father House, and then scheduled an appointment for my psychological evaluation to make sure that I’m qualified mentally to study for the diocese.   While this was going on I was able to justify drinking because of my clouded vision and because most people I knew also drank.  I was also struggling with the idea of not being able to be married when I got older if I became a priest.  The only reason that I was able to continue to want to go to seminary was because it did not make sense for me not to go.  I would journal at night before I went to bed about marriage vs. priesthood and seminary vs. SIU-C.  Every time I would come to the same conclusion: if God is all powerful and all loving, then how would a life following Christ lead me to less happiness than following my own desires?  There was nothing that I wanted more than ignorance during these discussions with God because if I was ignorant of what I should do then I would be able to follow my will.
                Early that summer I got a letter from the diocese saying that I was not going to be accepted into seminary that coming semester and despite the fact that part of me did not want to go, I felt a terrible rejection when I read the letter and became full of anger.  The reason for my rejection was because of how much I was drinking.  I got a hold of Father Daren later that night and he told me that the rector at the seminary, Fr. Bob, felt like he could work with me and was able to talk my vocation director into accepting me.  Father told me the Diocese would reconsider my application if I met with Father Bob before the school year started and agreed to certain ground rules.  It was at this moment when I realized that I would have to sacrifice that desire for partying if I wanted to truly discern what God is calling me to do in life.
                Over the course of that summer there was a few times where I fell backwards into my old habits for a night and I had to learn not to be scandalized by my own sinfulness and weakness.  Thank God for the sacrament of reconciliation where He was able to express the mercy that he wishes to show to all men for He died for all men. 
                When I started seminary I was still confused at what I was doing there to some extent and was still fighting my enslavement to partying although I gained the freedom through God’s grace not to fall at the seminary in that particular fashion although there were still many other struggles.  With the grace from God I have been able to stay away from going out and drinking since seminary has started. 
                Over the course of the last year I have gained many graces and have more fully experienced the gifts of the Holy Spirit which are: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, trustfulness, gentleness and self-control which have increased the more that I sacrifice my own will for God’s will knowing that it will lead me to some crucifixion, but the resurrection is not possible without that crucifixion of the self (Gal 5:22-23).  The best way to receive the grace that allows for us to die to ourselves is by going to Mass as often as possible for it is in the Mass that we participate in the sacrifice of Christ's death and resurrection
The most noticeable gift that I can see in my life is that of peace.  I am no longer as restless as I used to be, but I am still restless because I have not fully given my will over to God.  It is a work in progress.
I encourage others to seek Christ first in their lives for this is where true joy and peace are found.  Do not be afraid; do not say, “What are we to eat? What are we to drink? How are we to be clothed?  It is the pagans who set their hearts on all these things. Your heavenly Father knows you need them all.  Set your hearts on his kingdom first, and on his righteousness, and all these other things will be given you as well (Mt. 6:31-33).       

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

What a person is before God, that he is and nothing more.-St. Francis of Assisi, “Admonitions”
                This is certainly true, for there is only one objective Judge that matters since there is only one Judgment that matters.  Life on Earth is but a short toil where we are born into Death (Sin) and God’s mercy gives us the chance to choose an eternal life in Christ.
 If we truly are nothing more than what we are before God, how does God see us?

                Of course, God loves us and sees us as his beloved adopted children, but parents are not always proud of their children’s actions.  In response to this the parent set rules so that the child will not get hurt. 
In the cases of our own parents, often there are objective consequences to breaking these rules, such as a spanking or getting grounded, but in relationship to God, the consequence is rejecting God-which is rejecting life-by choosing sin, which is Death.  Therefore we disconnect ourselves from the highest Good for something less good and by doing so bite the hand that feeds us. 
Despite this, God gives us the gift of freedom and waits for us to choose him freely.  Freedom is not living a life where no one tells you what to do but living a life where we can choose what is good.  This is why sin enslaves us: it makes us more unable to choose God and this is also why the grace of God is the key to gaining freedom, for it is the key to choosing the highest Good at all times which is God.
What is the appropriate response to God’s grace?
                The answer is with a heart of thanksgiving.  All good things come from above, therefore if we would boast, let us boast in the Lord (2 Co 10:17).  It is the Lord who gives us all things; we merely accept or reject his gifts.  When we accept His gifts, even those of virtue, then let us rejoice in His Name.  We should never let us set ourselves in comparison to others for this is the sign of a proud heart.  The first problem with comparing ourselves is that we make the assumption that we know how much of what we are comparing has  been given to the other and how much of it they have rejected, for it is not the amount that we receive but the manner in which we receive it.  If we receive the greatest gift but are not thankful for the gift then the gift is in vain for it did not lead us closer to Christ.  An example of this would be the Eucharist which means thanksgiving.  If we are not thankful for Christ, body, blood, soul, and divinity, then how are we accepting God great gift to us.  We may accept it bodily but if we do not tell him to enter into our soul the gift was in vain because it was rejected.  We might as well spit in the face of Christ on his walk to the crucifixion when we receive him with indifference.    On this note let us ask the Lord to more fully open our hearts so that we may not reject any of His gifts.
                The humble heart is the one who recognizes their gifts are from God and responds in thanksgiving through both their actions and words.  The humble heart also recognizes their rejections of God’s grace and asks for assistance in more fully accepting his grace, therefore the humble man is in constant thanksgiving and in asking for help, that is his prayer. 
The proud soul will compare himself to his neighbor and boast against the ones he sees as inferior and envy those to whom he feels inferior.  His prayer is never one of gratitude but ingratitude, never being content in his gifts for there is always someone superior to him within his eyes.  But according to the eyes of God the only thing that makes him less then another is his lack of humility.  May we ask the Lord today for a thankful heart, and therefore, a humble heart.  The Lord exalts the humble and the proud He humbles.  On the feast of St. Alphonsus Liguori, Bishop and Doctor of the Church, let us ask him for his prayers. St. Alphonsus Ligouori, pray for us.
Hello, my name is Cody Sandschafer.  I was born in Effingham Illinois in the year 1992 as a cradle Catholic in a small German-Catholic community.  Throughout my whole life I received a Catholic Education but it never felt like there was any depth in my learning when it came to the topic of my faith inside the classroom.  However, God blessed me by placing an influential priest within my life named Fr. Daren Zehnle.  I gave him many grey hairs in high school by not listening to his advice on how to become a better, more loving, Catholic man because my own enslavement to many sins was making my relationship with Christ grow worse every day.  However, through his perseverance and guidance, I found myself discerning into seminary when I was going into my Soph. yr. of college.  This made me trust in God for assistance in letting go of my old lifestyle and putting on a new one in Christ.  Therefore I had to more fully trust in God for my happiness instead of trusting in something other than him which always lead me into deeper sin.   Since then I have defiantly fallen many times but I keep trying to more fully accept God into my life every day.
                The point of this blog is to show some of my personal reflections on the lives and quotes from the Saints as well as the Scriptures.  My hope is that people will look into my relationship and conversation with God and then reflect on their own relationship with God so that we can grow closer to God together.