Sunday, May 26, 2013

Trinity Sunday Homily: Pray Like a Pirate

warning pirate jokes ahead

Today I am going to teach you to pray like a pirate! 

Here's some of my favorite extremely-lame "Catholic" pirate jokes.  

Why do pirates like going to confession?  Because they get to say the Act of Contrition: "Oh my God... I am hARRRRRRtily sorry for my sins... 

Who is their favorite woman?  Mary of course... blessed ARRRRRRRRRt though among women... 

What is a pirate's favorite prayer?  The ARRRRRRR Father.  

I know they are horrible... but tell them to a four year old (or as a matter of fact a high school student) and they'll love it.  

ARRRR, what does it mean?  And why is praying like a pirate helpful?

Let me introduce you to the Acronym: A.R.R.R. 

Acknowledge, Relate, Respond, and Receive.  

St. Teresa of Avila once said, “For mental prayer in my opinion is nothing else than an intimate sharing between friends; it means taking time frequently to be alone with Him who we know loves us.” 

This type of prayer is an intimate sharing with God: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, and with Mary.  

St. Ignatius always encouraged us to go to Jesus through Mary.  The wisdom of this is that not only is Mary truly our spiritual mother but she is also the model for perfect prayer.  

The Annunciation was a prayer experience that completely changed the course of her life.  Let's look at this model of praying A.R.R.R. in her experience.  

Mary was engaged to Joseph, she was a virgin, and lived in Nazareth.   She probably had a lot of different emotions going on.  Maybe she was excited, nervous, unsure, filled with joy and the Angel Gabriel was sent from God to her.  


The First step is simply to acknowledge whatever you are thinking or feeling.  It is simply being aware of the movements of your heart, the thoughts that are going on and the emotions that you are feeling.  The important part is that we are authentic.  We have to be honest with ourselves and acknowledge how we are truly feeling.  Notice how Mary acknowledges her true feelings: "she was greatly troubled at what was said and pondered what sort of greeting this might be."  Two things were going on in Mary's heart:  She was greatly troubled and she pondered.  How many times do we do this?  We get troubled about something and we ponder and think about it.  It's a very real experience and very relatable to us.  

It is a wonderful first step just to realize and "acknowledge" what is going on in our hearts.  So often we are running from thing to thing without taking time to be aware of the state of our heart and our soul.  This is a grace and a gift, but for it to become prayer we can't stop here.  Often times we may even "acknowledge" our feelings, but we try to sort through them ourselves, we try to make sense of a situation, or stop ourselves from worrying.  If we don't do the next step we end up trying to do things ourselves, work our problems out on our own, or make decisions without God's help.  


The second step which flows from "acknowledging" is to "relating" whatever is going on in our hearts and our minds to God.  Mary having this notion that she will "conceive and bear a Son" first begins to feel some things and aware of what she is feeling takes the next step and "relates" her feelings to God.  Acknowledging that she is "greatly troubled" and after thinking about it for a while she "relates" her question to God.  

"How can this be,
since I have no relations with a man?"

To relate, means in some way to share whatever is going on with God.  It's one thing to Acknowledge it to ourselves but it becomes Prayer when we "relate" and share what is going on with God.  This is the "Intimate Sharing" that St. Teresa of Avila speaks of.  It may be just telling God how you are feeling, it may be expressing some emotion of anger, joy, sadness, or peace.  It may be a question, doubt, concern or petition.  Whatever it is "Relate" it to God in prayer.  


The Third Step is often the most difficult and likely the one we are to skip past.  We must then "Receive" whatever God wants to give or do to us at that moment.  This is the part of the prayer that requires some listening, waiting, and silence.  It's always good to do this part with Scripture, because Scripture is the Inspired Word of God and the way that God most speaks to us.  You could do this with the Sunday Mass readings, the daily readings, your favorite bible story or just open your bible up to any page.  Then wait, listen, and be open to God.  

Mary does get a response from God.  The Angel Gabriel spoke to her in reply:  

"The Holy Spirit will come upon you,and the power of the Most High will overshadow you."

Instead of Mary just trying to figure it all out on her own she asked God and God gave her an answer.  She listened, heard, and received what the Angel spoke to her.  

Having Acknowledged our feelings and Related them to God we must now be willing to "Receive" whatever God wants to give us or do in us.  Mary "received" the message from the Angel Gabriel.  She actually got an answer to her question.  


Finally, hopefully you will feel required to respond in some way.  This needs to be authentic too.  For Mary it was "May it be done to me according to your word."  For us, hopefully we respond like that, but it may be a different response.  It may be another question.  We might express hesitation or doubt, but hopefully at some point when God makes His will known to us we will respond with "Yes."  

St. Ignatius calls this form of prayer a "Colloquy" which literally means "speaking together."  

He always suggested beginning with Mary because she is our Mother.  There is nothing like a mother's love.  There is no problem too big or too small to take to your mother.  She delights in sharing whatever is going on in your life.  Mary will always take you to her Son.  She is a great way into the life of the Trinity.  

Praying with the Trinity

This brings us then to Trinity Sunday.  Ultimately God desires to be with us as Father, Son and Holy Spirit and we by our Baptism can pray to, speak to, and relate to God very personally.  

Which Person of the Trinity do you find yourself praying to most often?  Do you find yourself being comforted by the Father?  Do you find it easiest to talk to and relate to the Son?  Are you most comfortable praying with the Holy Spirit?  I find that often we have one that we relate to and feel comfortable with, but  we are called to experience God as Father, Son, AND Holy Spirit.  And so it would be very beneficial for us to Pray to the Three-Persons of God.    

Let me give you an example of how this might look.  

Our High School Graduates were at mass this morning and I asked them to begin by acknowledging their feelings.  Some were excited, others were anxious, one was overwhelmed, one was nervous... probably they all had a lot of mixed emotions.  Instead of handling all of this on their own, it is all great material for prayer. 

So Pray like a Pirate.  

Go first to Mary.  
-Acknowledge: Realize and admit to yourself that you are having mixed feelings.  Maybe you are excited, worried, stressed, whatever it is just be honest.  
-Relate: Try and Imagine Being with Mary, picture her, speak to her: "Mary, I'm feeling overwhelmed right now, I'm excited, but I'm also anxious and nervous."  
-Receive: Take a moment, after getting it all out to Mary to receive.  Maybe she listens to it all and simply says.  "Go to my Son, listen to Him."  
-Reply:  You may tell Mary you want her to say something or maybe you simply smile and say "OK thank you Mary."  

Go then to Jesus: 
-Acknowledge: How are you feeling now?  Maybe a little less overwhelmed because you realize you don't have to do it on your own.  Maybe you are still feeling anxious and worried.  Maybe you are feeling brushed aside by Mary.  Maybe you feel very reverenced by Mary and are excited to talk to Jesus.  
-Relate: Imagine Jesus, picture the Good Shepherd with you, open up the Scriptures, pray with Psalm 23 or John 10.  Tell him what you are thinking and feeling.  Maybe it is "Jesus, Mary told me to come to you but I'm not sure what else to say."  Maybe you need to say it all again to him.  Maybe you've honed in more on what you are feeling anxious about.  "Jesus I'm worried about leaving my friends and family."  Or, "Jesus, I'm not sure if I'm going into the right field."  Or, "Jesus, I'm not sure even how to pray like this, can you help me out?"  
-Receive:  Once you've said what you needed to say or asked what you needed to ask let Jesus take the next action.  Listen, be silent, let your mind wander.  He may say something to you... "I am the Good Shepherd" and it brings you peace.  Or he may hold you like a sheep or invite you to hold his staff and feel the power and protection of it.  
-Respond:  Freely respond.  "Wow, Jesus you are really with me."  "Thank you Jesus for comforting me."  "Jesus I'm not sure what you are telling me."  

Go then to the Father:
-Acknowledge what you are feeling.  Now you may be feeling more peaceful.  But there is still some worry anxiety or tension.  
-Relate: "Father, Jesus really comforted me and assured me, but I still feel like there is some of it that I cannot manage.  I feel like I am at peace for a moment but then I lose it.  I'm wondering if I can really trust that you are going to take care of everything."  "Father, can you comfort me?  Can you hold me?  Can you Protect me?  Can you assure me if this is really you?"
-Receive: Allow God to move and speak.  Maybe it is subtle and you feel like you are being held, maybe you remember a moment from your childhood when your father or grandfather helped you fix a part on your car.  Maybe the Father will simply move in you and calm you.  Maybe the Father will invite you to come closer and hold you to His chest and whispers in your ears "You are my beloved son in whom I am well pleased."  
-Respond:  Respond honestly.  "Thank you Father for loving me."  "Father I'm having trouble being close to you because I've was abandoned by my father or hurt by my father on earth."  "Father, just assure me."  "Father do you really love me this much?"  "Father I am so grateful for your love and support."

Go then to the Holy Spirit.  
-Acknowledge:  Maybe by now you are feeling very much at peace, held by God consoled and comforted by the Words of Jesus and Mary.  Your desire may be to stay there always or take that wherever you go.
-Relate:  This may be breathing in the Spirit or Imagining as we hear in proverbs the Spirit "playing before him all the while,playing on the surface of his earth; and I found delight in the human race."  You may desire this sense of lightness or playfulness.  You may feel at peace and are trusting now as you prepare to go to college.  "Holy Spirit can you be with me always?"
Receive:  There may be silence, you may here a train in the distance or feel a breeze blow across your arms, there may be a bird chirping or just a feeling of joy.  The Holy Spirit may speak into the depths of your heart "I am with You Always."
Respond:  It may be gratitude  "Thank you Holy Spirit for this wonderful time of prayer."  Or it may be a request.  "Holy Spirit be with me always."  Whatever your response is just allow it to be authentic, let it be real, let it be you.  

Notice how by simply this process of Acknowledge, Relate, Respond and Receive you are being consoled.  You will have a clearer sense of direction and a felt experience of God.  

Do this daily, maybe even throughout the day... may you always be in conversation with Mary and with the Trinity: Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  As St. Teresa once said, “For mental prayer in my opinion is nothing else than an intimate sharing between friends; it means taking time frequently to be alone with Him who we know loves us.”

Sunday, May 12, 2013

"Clouds" Homily for the Ascension inspired by Zach Sobiech

"As he blessed them he parted from them
and was taken up to heaven."

Listen Now or Read Below: 

Zach Sobiech with Parents

When faced with months to live, how do you say goodbye?

Zach turned to music.

Zach can't stop writing lyrics, there are so many songs he wants to leave behind. With only months to live his song called "Clouds" was born.

"My name is Zach Sobiech, I'm 17 years old and I have osteosarcoma... I've been told I have only a few months to live, but I still have a lot of work to do. I want everyone to know, you don't have to find out your dying to start living. Most people live kind of in the middle like... "Oh, dream come true and you're dying."

For Zach both of them are true but he's living in hope. "It makes you happy in seeing someone else smile because you put it there."

Zach's mother describes the day they found out he had cancer. "When we found the cancer in his pelvis, I said, You know, maybe you should start writing some letters." She was encouraging him to say goodbye to people and to say the things he needs to say for closure. Zach found it difficult to do that but he began to di it in a way that was one of his greatest gifts. "Music is a way I can express myself without having to burden everyone else."

His mom recalls the discovery: "I was cleaning up downstairs and there was a lot of paper laying around with different scribbling on it and I picked one up and it was CLOUDS."

Sammy and Zach have been dear friends for many many years, their are songwriters.

Zach, who is so genuine and sincere, wants to be there for the ones he loves. "My closure is being able to get my feelings into theses songs so they can have something to remember me by or lean on when I was gone." His mother knows she will be leaning on these songs. "For me its Zachs way of saying I'm OK and saying Goodbye and I'm just so grateful that its there because I'm gonna to need it later."

Zach has written songs for his family, friends and loved ones. Zach's older brother tearing up says: "His music is kind of like a record of how much he cares for us." And his baby sister Grace shares "There's a song that he wrote me "For My Grace" so I'll keep that always with me, constantly. "I love you."

Zach was supposed to go on a date with his girlfriend Amy on the day he went for testing. When he found out it how serious it was the doctors wouldn't let him go. He was so disappointed not to be able to go on this picnic with Amy.

When Amy found out she asked her mother for advice and her mother said: "Would you date him if he didn't have cancer" and she said "Yeah."

Amy decided to suprise him with a picnic of her own later on. She had a picnic for him on the Minnesota Vikings field and as he walked in they saw a red checkered cloth in the middle of the field, a picnic basket, and on the billboard: "I love you Zach, I'll never let go. Amy" Zach remembers "I almost burst into tears just because it was so perfect."

Amy "We know what we both would want in our future, we know we would love each other just the same amount." We talked about getting married and having kids and our jobs and we do that a lot when we have bad days... so like when I start to cry... we'll sit down and plan it all out...

Zach, I kind of want four because you can have two boys and two girls because that's what we had in our family and it worked out pretty well.

It's kind of like one of those things that is your ultimate dream and most people ignore it... and mine obviously probably wont.

Amy "I think the moment I'm most scared about is leaving the hospital after he's gone and knowing that he's not coming with and having to walk out of there.

"I will actually love her to death, to my death, that's the thing it's like why not get married 'cause you know it's like till death to us part and I'm dying so you better get on this. I do love her to death and I will forever."

Zach begins to say his goodbyes...

"Mom and Dad... best parents that anyone could ever ask for, I could only wish that I could have kids and raise them like you raised me, because [big smile] you did one hell of a job, you're the best parents that anyone could ever ask for... [He wipes his eyes with Kleenex struggles to get it out] and I love both of you so much. And thank you for being my parents."

His Mother shares her new found perspective: "I think that's actually one of the blessings of cancer is that you actually come out of denial, and so in doing that things are better, you know that life is richer, everything means more, beauty is more beautiful, he's a beautiful person and I'm so happy to have been Zach Sobiech mom."

I want to be remembered as the kid who went down fighting and didn't really lose.

Today we celebrate the Solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord. The Ascension is kind of like Jesus' last goodbye. After the Resurrection he appeared to his disciples for 40 days and now a cloud would lift him up and he would be taken out of there sight, but before doing so he gives them some final words of encouragement, he held his hands over them, and blessed them.

Moments of saying goodbye are often intensified by all the memories of the times shared. Things are said that maybe have never been said, the deepest sentiments are shared, healing takes place, affirmations of love are made, and often one last look at the person that you love to try to remember them by.

It's been said that there are five things that you should always say to someone who you are saying goodby to.

1) I love you
2) I'm sorry
3) I forgive you
4) Thank you
5) I will always remember you

Maybe you never had the opportunity to say these words to someon you loved. In prayer, because of our union with Christ and the Community of Saints, you can call them to mind. Imagine their face and speak these words to them: I love you, I'm sorry for anything I ever did that hurt you, I forgive you for anything you knowingly or unknowingly did or didn't do that hurt me, Thank you for all that you did do for me, and I will always remember you.

This can bring great healing in your life, because as we hear in the funeral rite "For those of us who believe life is changed, not ended." That means life is only different, we can still say those words, we can still hear the words that we have always needed to hear.

But, as Zach Sobiech pleads with us: "I want everyone to know, you don't have to find out your dying to start living." We don't have to wait until someone is dying to say these words.

You could say these words to your loved ones everytime you see them, every time you say goodbye... or just maybe, if you've never said them before... say them once. "I love you, I'm sorry, I forgive you, Thank you, and I will never forget who you are to me."

On this Solmnety of the Ascension of The Lord we celebrate and are encouraged by the Opening Prayer:

"Gladden us with holy joys, almighty God, and make us rejoice with devout thanksgiving, for the Ascension of Christ your Son is our exaltation, and, where the Head has gone before us in glory, the Body is called to follow in hope. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, One God Forever and Ever."
Zach Sobiech has the opportunity to say goodbye and it is a sacred time, but we don't have to wait until we die to say these words.

As our Lord Ascended into heaven, it was not to leave us behind or to seperate Himself from us, but to go before us and lead the way that we may follow in Hope.

As The Lord was taken up into the clouds, Zach realizes that soon he will be taken into Heaven... and though he is experienceing joy now and going "Up, up, up" into the Clouds, he is going to fly a little higher.

Well I fell down, down, down Into this dark and lonely hole There was no one there to care about me anymore And I needed a way to climb and grab a hold of the edge You were sitting there holding a rope

And we’ll go up, up, up But I’ll fly a little higher We’ll go up in the clouds because the view is a little nicer Up here my dear It won’t be long now, it won’t be long now

The truth is, it won't be long now for any of us, but we don't have to wait until we are dying to live. We can "fly a little higher" right now.

Find a way to say those five things to the people that you love: "I love you, I'm sorry, I forgive you, I thank you, and I will never forget you."

Zach Sobiech Confirmation Sponsor 

 Watch the Music Video "Clouds"


 Watch the Documentary!


.... Update....

(CNN) -- Zach Sobiech, 18, passed away this morning, surrounded by family and friends.


This post is part of the Fly a Little Higher Blog Tour which I am delighted to be a part of along with hundreds of bloggers raising awareness and giving hope to those with cancer. To learn more and join us, CLICK HERE!

Fly a Little Higher is written by Laura Sobiech, the mother of Zach Sobiech. Laura spent the last three years walking the road of cancer with her teenage son, Zach, and blogging about their battle with the disease. Zach wrote the song “Clouds” which hit #1 on iTunes the same week he passed away in May 2013.

Grab your copy HERE.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Angels and Saints at Ephesus (New CD)

Their Advent CD was awesome - now here is one for Ordinary Time... Enjoy... You can download and listen to instantly!


Monday, May 6, 2013

100 Totally Awesome Blogs By Catholic Priests

I made the list, last but not least - They are in no particular order:)  Check out the others!

100 totally awesome blogs

Sunday, May 5, 2013

"Home" Homily with the Ukulele

Listen to the words of the song and let God sing them to you...

When you receive the Eucharist "Know you're not alone... Because God's going to make your place His Home."

Jesus said to his disciples:
“Whoever loves me will keep my word,
and my Father will love him,
and we will come to him and make our dwelling with him.
Whoever does not love me does not keep my words;
yet the word you hear is not mine
but that of the Father who sent me.

“I have told you this while I am with you.
The Advocate, the Holy Spirit,
whom the Father will send in my name,
will teach you everything
and remind you of all that I told you.
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you.
Not as the world gives do I give it to you.
Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid.

Hold on, to me as we go
As we roll down this unfamiliar road
And although this wave is stringing us along
Just know you're not alone
Cause I'm going to make this place your home

Settle down, it'll all be clear
Don't pay no mind to the demons
They fill you with fear
The trouble it might drag you down
If you get lost, you can always be found

Just know you're not alone
Cause I'm going to make this place your home

Settle down, it'll all be clear
Don't pay no mind to the demons
They fill you with fear
The trouble it might drag you down
If you get lost, you can always be found

Just know you're not alone
Cause I'm going to make this place your home. 


We all have times when we feel like we are doing this life along.  Have you ever felt that at work?  Or with your family?  Or with your problems?  With your children? With school?  With yourself?  With your sin?


In the Gospel Jesus assures us "my Father will love him,
and we will come to him and make our dwelling with him."

To make a "dwelling" means to take up permanent residence.  

When you receive the Eucharist, The Father, The Son, and The Holy Spirit dwell in your heart.  God lives in you.  

So first of all, "Hold on to me as we go, as we roll down this unfamiliar road."  Just hold on to Him.  It may be unfamiliar you might not know exactly what you are doing in life, but just hold on to Him.  God's going to make your place His home.  That means that everywhere you go He is with you, in you, Home wherever you go.  Know you're not alone.  

Secondly, "Settle down, it'll all be clear
Don't pay no mind to the demons
They fill you with fear."  

Jesus assures us: Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you.
Not as the world gives do I give it to you.
Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid.

So settle down, do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid, it will all be clear.  God will reveal Himself and His plan to you.  And don't pay ANY attention to "the demons" that fill you with fear.  Those voices, anxieties, worries, are not of God.  God's voice, if you are leading a good and holy life, will always bring you to peace, calm, joy, serenity... that is the "Peace I leave with you."

Finally, The trouble it might drag you down
If you get lost, you can always be found.  

Your troubles may get you down and from time to time you may lose your way or get caught up in sin.  "If you get lost, you can always be found."  

If you find yourself getting anxious, worried, afraid... If you have fallen away from your faith or turned from Him or have run away.  YOU CAN ALWAYS BE FOUND.  Come back to Him... Let Him live in you.  Hold on to Him.

You don't have to do it alone anymore.  

"Just know you're not alone... He's going to make your place His home."  

Friday, May 3, 2013