Reflections on Faith - Heroes for a (your?) journey - October 2006

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October 30, 2006
This Week's Reflection:


Well, here we are at the end of October – and this month I’ve been concentrating on a few people that we might look at to help us – heroes for our journeys… I’d like to end with this month with this (Catholic) trivia question….

If I said that there was a woman – a holy woman who was married, then divorced… then married again … and that this woman is now being considered by the Church for sainthood… And if I said that this woman’s husband was a priest – does this simply blow your mind? Well – it’s true and I invite you to learn more about a Gospel-activated, spiritually charged lady named Catherine Doherty.

Quite some years ago – I was seeing a priest for spiritual guidance. I had been reading a book on the lives of the saints… there was, at that time, no fire, no excitement in the lives I found therein. So, I gave the book back to the priest and said it was boring. He later gave me a book on the life of CATHERINE DOHERTY. Now, this lady was fascinating and challenging. My interest was further piqued when I found that the one-and-only vacation – some 6 to 7 weeks that this priest took was to visit Madonna House – the home of an apostolate formed by this Catherine Doherty.

The story of Catherine Doherty is a love story – a love story of a woman passionately in love with God – and with a NO-BALONEY approach to living the Gospel. She was born in Russia in August of 1896. Although not Catholic, her parents were deeply Christian. The culture was deeply saturated with the Gospel, and hence, her family had a great love for the poor. They had servants but treated them as family. She and her parents left Russia – fleeing during the Revolution.

Because of space, I can’t share too much of her life – but Catherine always cared for and about others. She was a friend and confidante of another Gospel-activated woman, Dorothy Day. Catherine was often ridiculed and scorned – even by the Church from time to time.

Catherine’s 2nd marriage was to famous Chicago journalist Eddie Doherty. Together they formed Madonna House in Canada.

Later – Eddie became a priest – a story in itself! Madonna House is predominantly a lay apostolate with field houses in locations in many places of the world.

A lecturer, formator and holy woman, Catherine wrote some 30 books – the most famous is a spiritual classic called Poustinia – Russian for desert. If you are busy, busy, busy – if you are too busy to draw closer to the Lord – and yet you’d like to – I invite you to find a copy of Poustinia. It can help bring you peace of mind and soul. And it may draw you to want to know more of Catherine. And to know what the world would look like if the Gospel was a way of life.

We are all called to holiness. Catherine’s message to all is: Do little things for love of God. And every task is redeeming…. And each task can be supernatural when united with Jesus Christ.

October 23, 2006
This Week's Reflection:


In our busy, busy lives – it’s hard to remember – perhaps even hard to fathom: we are called to holiness. All faiths and traditions have their gurus, sages and spiritual masters. The Catholic Church teaches us that we are called to become saints. That’s why we need heroes and heroines. Some Christian brothers and sisters would say all we need is Jesus – let’s save that till another time. For this week, here are a few thoughts about a favorite saint – dear Padre Pio.

Padre Pio of Pietrelcina ( Italy) died in 1968 – so he is relatively recent in Church history. And in one of the largest ceremonies of its kind – Pope John Paul II canonized (elevated him) as Saint Padre Pio on June 16 th 2002. Some 300,000 people endured scorching heat to hear the Pope praise Pio for prayer and charity. Perhaps more helpful for us is St. Pio’s witness to accepting, enduring and glorifying God by the power of personal suffering. Pio endured great suffering with love – just as Jesus did in his crucifixion. On September 20 th 1918 – Padre Pio had a vision of Jesus. When it ended – Pio found the stigmata (the marks of Christ’s wounds) in his hands, feet and side.

Again – because of space, I can’t cover much – but you might guess that the good Padre became the object of curiosity and question. Church officials and doctors and the public came to see him. Pio continued his priestly duties – saying Mass each morning at 5 a. m. He heard confessions until noon, and then blessed the sick that came to see him; Pio had great love and concern for the sick. The number of confessions grew and grew. In a short time, he spent upwards of 10 hours daily in the confessional. People had to ‘take a number’ so that the growing penitents could be ordered and handled. Thousands and thousand of letters poured in – people seeking help, answers and prayers. Many American servicemen went to see him during the war. I’ve listened to the testimony of one – and it was very powerful. Pio died September 23 rd, 1968.

Last week – I briefly mentioned the word ‘yoke.’ Taken of course from Scripture – Jesus telling us that in his love – in our closeness to him – that we can accept any yoke because it is custom made just for us.

In the ceremony that raised Padre Pio to the rank of sainthood – the Holy Father mentioned this very area: “The Gospel image of 'yoke' evokes the many trials that the humble Capuchin (priest) endured. Today we contemplate in him how sweet is the 'yoke' of Christ and indeed how light the burdens are whenever someone carries these with faithful love. The life and mission of Padre Pio testify that difficulties and sorrows, if accepted with love, transform themselves into a privileged journey of holiness, which opens the person toward a greater good, known only to the Lord.”

October 16, 2006
This Week's Reflection:


It is quite dangerous for this sinner to talk about people that might be saints (if they have not been proclaimed by the Church). But last week and this week – I’ve picked two people who may be examples of saints in the making. Last week, a lady of strength and inner beauty: Renee Bondi. This week: Art Berg. Now unfortunately, Art passed away in 2002 from a reaction to medicine – but while he was living – he led many people to newfound relationship with God and a new inner strength and acceptance of God’s grace and healing.

In 1983 at the age of 21, Art Berg broke his neck in a serious automobile accident. The accident left him a paraplegic – unable to use his limbs. In this short reflection I can’t cover much of Art’s story – but I want to tell you one ‘nugget.’ Some years ago, I heard Art speak in Las Vegas. Here is something from his early stay in the hospital just after his accident. A doctor put this into Art’s medical records: Art was noted to be in a good mood… a diagnosis the doctor called ‘Excessive Happiness.” Art said he never knew there was such a disorder. The doctor felt that excessive happiness kept Art in denial of his (real) condition. And horror of horrors, Art’s condition was exacerbated by ‘a loving family.’

Here is what Art said to us: “Excessive happiness? I didn't know you could be too happy? Because of my "unique medical condition" (one I am gratefully still suffering with today), I think I am qualified to share my own perspective on what causes such a grave malady.”

-Happiness is a choice; a choice we make every day.

-Happiness is not a condition of our circumstances or external influences; it is a state of mind and heart.

-Happiness comes most often when we focus on solving other people's pain and problems as opposed to thinking only of our own.

-Happiness isn't what we have or who we are. It's feeling valuable and worthy regardless of our station in life.

- Happiness is within everyone's reach.

-Happiness isn't what we have or who we are. It's feeling valuable and worthy regardless of our station in life.

Now I know that none of these words and thoughts speaks about God… about saints…. About carrying our cross… or do they?

Jesus promised us a ‘yoke’ that is a perfect fit… a yoke that will allow us to serve Him in happiness and peace. So for this week – may I ask you to reflect on how you doing with your yoke? Are there any steps you could do to start the journey towards becoming a ‘saint in the making?’

October 9, 2006
This Week 's Reflection:


Blessings of the new week. I started October with some brief words about holy people – we call them saints. Now, because I try to be practical, I thought it might be an idea NOT to start with a saint – but to start with someone that you might come to believe is a saint in the making. Her name is Renee Bondi. At age 29, Renée Bondi was engaged to be married, had a beautiful singing voice, a thriving career as a music teacher, and a loving family. But then one night a bizarre accident shattered her spine and left her quadriplegic. Renée lost not only all use of her hands and legs, but also her singing voice -- she could barely speak above a whisper. Unwilling to accept that her life was over, Renée searched her heart and sought the Lord for direction. Although there were dark days, Renée persevered. Against all odds and all physician prognoses, Renée's voice was ‘miraculously’ restored with a crystal clear, angelic sound. Renée has now harnessed her talents to inspire and give hope to others.

An incredibly gifted Christian singer before her accident, Renée has augmented her gifts to include a dynamic speaking ability that grabs her audiences. Whether performing a powerful concert or sharing her profound and victorious story that includes paralysis and a life confined to a wheelchair, those who hear Renée are uplifted and mesmerized by her angelic voice, music and messages. Most importantly, all who hear Renée are encouraged to pursue a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. I have heard Renee tell her story – it’s one that speaks of an uncommon faith in Jesus – a woman that sings of her faith in those words from the popular hymn: “Yahweh, I know you are there – ever standing at my side.” Renee’s story is found on CD (cassette and video) – it’s called Back on My Feet Again. I invite you to look for her story – and perhaps she’ll help you become convinced that you too can become a saint in the making. No matter where you are now. No matter what problems you face. No matter what your past life has been… sinful or wasted. Today – you can start the journey to become holy. Perhaps just like Renee Bondi.

October 2, 2006
This Week 's Reflection:


In the church where the Denver Archbishop (Charles Chaput) assigned me, many ‘locals’ know of my love for saints and holy people. These are those who, while living, achieved a high degree of closeness with the Lord, i.e. holiness, and because of this, the Church calls them to our attention. Whatever your faith, I hope you agree that we are all called to be holy. The saints and ‘blessed’ ones are honored in the Catholic Church – not to glorify them as we glorify God – but to recognize the ‘good work’ that God’s grace accomplished in these people. Since all Christians are members of Christ’s family, we can turn to the saints in Heaven – for they ‘behold the face of God.’ In addition to prayer for their intercession, we can pray that we may gain ‘some’ of what they had in life.

For the next two weeks, I will focus on two ‘civilians’ who overcame identical – life altering broken spines to emerge as modern-day heroes. And the last two weeks of October, I will highlight a recognized saint and a woman with the title Servant of God.

So thanks for taking the October 2006 ‘heroic’ journey with me. What the world needs now… is Love Sweet Love… but not the syrupy ‘Coca Cola’ type love with people holding hands on the top of a mountain and singing… What we need is real, vibrant love of God and neighbor…. and the strength to live it out! Join me next week and see a (perhaps) ‘saint’ in the making – a beautiful quadriplegic woman named Renee Bondi.

© 2006-2008 Deacon Tom Online