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.