Saturday, January 28, 2012

A serious matter that will negatively impact the Catholic Church in America


Because of the serious nature of this matter, your cooperation is greatly appreciated. 

Every parish just received a fax from the bishop... Please read and click on the links at the end to act!

This fax was sent out to every parish in every diocese by every bishop in the country to be read at every mass and inserted in every bulletin!

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

I write to you concerning an alarming and serious matter that negatively impacts the Church in the United States directly, and that strikes at the fundamental right to religious liberty for all citizens of any faith.

The federal government, which claims to be “of, by, and for the people,” has just dealt a heavy blow to almost a quarter of those people – the Catholic population and to the millions more who are served by the Catholic faithful.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced last week that almost all employers, including Catholic employers, will be forced to offer their employees’ health coverage that includes sterilization, abortion-inducing drugs, and contraception. Almost all health insurers will be forced to include those “services” in the health policies they write. And almost all individuals will be forced to buy that coverage as a part of their policies.

In so ruling, the Administration has cast aside the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States, denying to Catholics our Nation’s first and most fundamental freedom, that of religious liberty. And as a result, unless the rule is overturned, we Catholics will be compelled to violate our consciences, or to drop health coverage for our employees (and suffer the penalties for doing so). The Administration’s sole concession was to give our institutions one year to comply.

We cannot – we will not – comply with this unjust law. People of faith cannot be made second-class citizens. We are already joined by our brothers and sisters of all faiths and many others of good will in this important effort to regain our religious freedom. Our parents and grandparents did not come to these shores to help build America’s cities and towns, its infrastructure and institutions, its enterprise and culture, only to have their posterity stripped of their God given rights. In generations past, the Church has always been able to count on the faithful to stand up and protect her sacred rights and duties. I hope and trust she can count on this generation of Catholics to do the same. Our children and grandchildren deserve nothing less.

And therefore, I would ask of you two things. First, as a community of faith we must commit ourselves to prayer and fasting that wisdom and justice may prevail, and religious liberty may be restored. Without God, we can do nothing; with God, nothing is impossible. Second, I would also recommend visiting www.usccb.org/conscience, to learn more about this severe assault on religious liberty, and how to Contact Congress in support of legislation that would reverse the Administration’s decision.
Thanking you for your understanding and cooperation on this very important request, I am

Sincerely yours in Christ,
+Richard Lennon
Bishop of Cleveland

In today’s first reading from Deuteronomy Moses repeats the words that the Lord had spoken to him.

I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their kin,
and will put my words into his mouth;
he shall tell them all that I command him.
Whoever will not listen to my words which he speaks in my name,
I myself will make him answer for it.

Cardinal-designate Timothy Dolan, president of the USCCB, sharply criticized the decision by the Obama administration in which it "ordered almost every employer and insurer in the country to provide sterilization and contraceptives, including some abortion-inducing drugs, in their health plans....Never before has the federal government forced individuals and organizations to go out into the marketplace and buy a product that violates their conscience. This shouldn't happen in a land where free exercise of religion ranks first in the Bill of Rights."

The bishops of our country are speaking strongly and prophetically about the grave nature of the Ruling of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. 

They are also, prophetically asking us, as the voice of God to do two things:
                First: Commit ourselves to prayer and fasting for our religious liberty
                Second: Act.  Act by going to www.usccb.org/conscience , learning more, and contacting our
representatives. 

To quote, Cardinal-designate Timothy Dolan:
“How about letting our elected leaders know that we want religious liberty and right of conscience restored and the administration’s mandate rescinded?  We can’t afford to strike out on this one!”

The gravity of this nature is echoed in the words that God spoke to Moses:

“Whoever will not listen to my words which he speaks in my name, I myself will make him answer for it.” 

Go to www.usccb.org/conscience and Act Now.   

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Fr. Sam Dropped His Net as a Concert Pianist


Sam was picked to be a concert pianist.  His whole life’s ambition was to play the piano.  He had all the potential to become one of the greats.  He also felt another call… He felt deep down the call to the priesthood.  In his last year of high school he had to choose.  He was accepted to a prestigious school of music and would receive a full ride.  He also applied to the seminary.  He couldn’t do both. 

It was the most difficult decision he has ever had to make.  After some time in prayer and even against his parent’s advice, he chose to enter the seminary. 

I got to know Fr. Sam about seven years ago.  At the time he was running a home for those struggling with drug and alcohol dependence.  For over his 40 plus years of priesthood he has helped thousands of men, women, and families heal.  He has literally saved lives and pulled people out of the hell that they were living in. 

He talked with great nostalgia to me about his dream of being a concert pianist, but not once has he regretted his decision follow the Lord in his call to priesthood.  He, like all of us, has his struggles, but he has found such meaning in his life by being a priest for those in need. 

There is no doubt in my mind that God is calling an abundance of young men to the priesthood.  I witnessed the same choices they have had to make… A mother might say: “Go to college first and be successful.  If you can’t make it, then think about the priesthood.”  I know a senior who is looking at Yale, Harvard, and Princeton, the most prestigious schools.  I know another senior right now who loves playing basketball.  He’s being offered scholarships to play basketball at Ohio State University – his lifelong dream! 

What if God has a bigger dream? 

You see when Jesus passed by the Sea of Galilee and saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting their nets into the sea; Jesus said to them, “Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men.”  They abandoned their nets and followed him. 

They abandoned their nets and followed him. 

When Jesus calls men to the priesthood, often times it is very similar to this.  It is a call to abandon their life’s ambitions.  It may be to abandon the hopes of a career, to abandon the idea of having a family of your own, to abandon the notion of ever having a wife, to abandon old friends, for James and John it even meant abandoning their father.  Notice that their father lets them go.  He probably even had to let go of his dreams of handing on his family business to his sons. 

Any real calling requires letting go and abandoning dreams, even dreams that seem very good. 

What if God could dream bigger? 

The first disciples of Jesus abandoned their nets and followed him.  They would go on to heal the sick, exorcise demons, free those imprisoned and begin the Catholic Church that we know today.  Fr. Sam answered that same call when he abandoned his dreams of being a concert pianist.  However, that dream seems so simple to him now, so small compared to what God has done in and through him as a priest.  Though his fingers rarely ever “tickle the ivory,” they have over and over again touched the Body of Christ.  His hands have been used to bless and anoint, to absolve people of their sins, to touch people in their final moments and commend them into the hands of God.  His hands have been used to hold and bless and reconcile people who have lost their dreams long ago.  His fingers have helped to draw them new dreams of a life of freedom from addiction. 

For the first disciples, for Fr. Sam, and for these young men at the cusp of answering God’s call, each one in giving up their own dreams discovers that God can and does dream bigger.  If God calls and we “drop our nets” we will discover a life beyond anything we could have ever imagined.  In a special way he does this in the call to priesthood. 

Is he calling you?  Remember that God can dream bigger.  Is he calling someone you know?  Remember that God’s hopes and dreams for them are even greater than yours. 

If you are blessed enough in your life to experience the great call to “abandon your nets,” follow him and it will be the greatest decision that you will ever make.  





Saturday, January 14, 2012

Your Life is not Your Own: Mother Teresa Gave All

Do you not know that your body
is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you,
whom you have from God, and that you are not your own?
For you have been purchased at a price.
Therefore glorify God in your body.


“You are not your own.”  This is one of life’s greatest and most difficult lessons.  It’s also at the core of our struggle with Pride – our original sin. 



Mother Teresa, possibly the greatest Saint of our time, can help us realize the significance of this.

A couple of years ago, Mother Theresa’s journals were released.  Within these writings are revealed a soul so in love with God that no matter what difficulty, no matter what darkness, she never held anything back from Him. 

In order to appreciate her generosity to God it’s important that we have some understanding of the darkness and difficulty that she endured.  Few of us will ever know this level, intensity, and length of darkness that she experienced. 

“Now Father – since 49 or 50 this terrible sense of loss – this untold darkness – this loneliness this continual longing for God – which gives me that pain deep down in my heart – Darkness is such that I really do not see – neither with my mind nor with my reason… when the pain of longing is so great – I just long and long for God… Sometimes I just hear my own heart cry out – “My God” and nothing else comes – the torture and pain I can’t explain.”

The temptation that we all face is that we can “make” ourselves happy, that we can “be” God and create our own destiny.  What we forget is that we are not our own.  It is God who moves and breathes and lives in us.  We could do nothing without Him and yet we try to take the control, to live our lives, to do what we want. 

Mother Teresa realized the foolishness of this.  She was able to see through the deception and live her life as if it was not her own.  Her life given to God not only made her a Saint, but helped others to believe in God and brought the Light of God to those who were most in darkness.  The Poorest of the Poor. 

Here is a litany of her trust in God.  Over and over again, laced throughout her journal, Mother Teresa admits that her life was not her own:

“I do not want money – my trust in God is blind – I know He will never let me down.”


“The Call” was a delicate gift to me- unworthy – I do not know why He picked me up  - I suppose like the people we pick up – because they are most unwanted.  From the first day to this day – this my new vocation has been one prolonged “Yes” to God – without even a look at the cost.  – My conviction that “the work is His” – is more than the reality.  I have never doubted… I know for certain He asked – “Will you do this for Me?”  Everything was his – I had only to surrender myself to His plan – to His will – Today His work has grown because it is He not I that do it through me.


“Put your hand in His [Jesus’] hand, and walk alone with Him.  Walk ahead, because if you look back you will go back.”


“Do not think that my spiritual life is strewn with roses – that is the flower which I hardly ever find on my way.  Quite the contrary, I have more often as my companion “darkness.”  And when the night becomes very thick – and it seems to me as if I will end up in hell – then I simply offer myself to Jesus.


“In the years following her final profession, Mother Teresa’s passionate love for Jesus continued to prompt her to seek new and hidden ways of expressing her love the most striking of these was an exceptional private vow she made in April 1942: “I made a vow to God, binding under [pain of] mortal sin, to give to God anything that He may ask, ‘Not to refuse Him anything.’”


“To give ourselves fully to God is a means of receiving God Himself.  I for God and God for me.  I live for God and give up my own self, and in this way induce God to live for me.  Therefore to possess God we must allow Him to possess our souls.”




“We can refuse Christ just as we refuse others:  I will not give you my hands to work with, my eyes to see with, my feet to walk with, my mind to study with, my heart to love with.  You knock at the door but I will not open.  I will not give You the key to my heart.”


“Now, I am His, only His – I have given Him everything – I have not been seeking self for sometime now… God has done everything.  He simply took everything. -  Now I am His.”


“The life I want to live with my sisters, I know, will be a difficult one… But nothing is difficult to one who loves.  Who can outdo God in His generosity – if we poor human beings give Him everything and surrender our whole being to His service - ? No – He is sure to stand by us, and with us, as everything in us will be His.”


“In Him and with Him I can do all that He wants me to do.”


Time and time again she gave her life to God.  During one of her retreats she journals:


“My heart and soul and body belong only to God – and to this Father I have made the resolution in this retreat –
To be at His disposal.
Let Him do with me whatever He wants as He wants for as long as He wants.  If my darkness is light to some soul – even if it be nothing to nobody – I am perfectly happy  - to be God’s flower of the field.”


"[But] as for me, the silence and the emptiness is so great, that I look and do not see, — Listen and do not hear — the tongue moves [in prayer] but does not speak ... I want you to pray for me — that I let Him have [a] free hand."

Over and over again Mother Teresa gave herself to God.  She realized in a very deep and profound way that the life she lived was not her own, it had been purchased at a price.  She in turn gave her life back to God. 



How willing are you to give your life to God? 



Do you realize that you have been purchased at a price? 



What are you holding back right now that would allow God to work more fully in your life and in our world? 


When we realize how much God has given to us, that He has given us His life in Jesus, there is nothing we would want more to give ours back. 

Remember that “You are not your own.”  Give your life to God, give it all, no matter what difficulty, what fear, what darkness, and He will give you back more than you could ever imagine.