Go Make Disciples

The Institute on Religious Life cordially invites you to attend its annual regional conference this coming Saturday at the Franciscan Prayer Center in Independence, Missouri. This year’s theme is “Go Make Disciples: The Consecrated Life and the New Evangelization.”

Pope John Paul II devoted the last twenty years of his pontificate calling for a “new evangelization,” a call now taken up by his successor, Pope Benedict XVI, who has even made the “new evangelization” the subject of the next worldwide Synod of Bishops. 

Yet do we really understand what this “new evangelization” is all about?

The glossary to the Catechism of the Catholic Church defines “evangelization” as “the proclamation of Christ and His Gospel by word and the testimony of life, in fulfillment of Christ’s demand.” In short, it involves putting people in touch with the person of Jesus Christ.

The new evangelization must not degenerate into mere activism, be it social or political. Rather, it must be rooted in our desire to allow Christ to transform us. Therefore, it requires learning once again to direct our gaze upon the face of Christ, the one Savior of the world.

This year’s regional meeting will offer reflections on Christ’s command to “Go Make Disciples,” with special emphasis on how it relates to the consecrated life. Everyone is welcome to attend this day of spiritual
renewal, reflection, and affirmation of the consecrated life. I will be there and look forward to seeing many of you!

The Heart of a Father

In the Church, we have the beautiful feasts of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary, with the heart symbolizing the immense love of Our Lord and His Blessed Mother for each one of us.

Catholic men might also consider meditating on the heart of St. Joseph, the third member of the Holy Family. His heart is an apt symbol of the love he contributed to the mystery of the redemptive Incarnation that was unfolding under his watch.

And now that same masculine vigilance and love, once focused on his beloved wife and the Christ child, is bestowed on each one of us, as he is universally invoked as the patron of the Catholic Church.

At the outset of St. Luke’s Gospel, we learn that part of St. John the Baptist’s role in preparing the people for the imminent coming of the Messiah was to turn the hearts of fathers to their children so as to make ready for the Lord a people that was truly prepared for Him (Lk. 1:17; cf. Mal. 4:5-6). In St. Joseph, we find a father whose heart is already exquisitely calibrated.

His heart was always in the right place, and God was able to accomplish great things through this eminently just and faithful man.

St. Joseph’s fatherly heart jumps off the page throughout the biblical accounts of Christ’s childhood. Let’s take a brief look at just one such familiar episode: the Finding of Jesus in the Temple (Lk. 2:41-52).  Continue reading The Heart of a Father

Wanting What God Wants

“Which one of you would hand his son a stone when he asked for a loaf of bread, or a snake when he asked for a fish? If you then, who are wicked, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give good things to those who ask him.”

This excerpt from today’s Gospel beautifully depicts Our Heavenly Father’s love for us and His desire to give us every good gift.

As a human father, I generally try to give my children bread and fish, and not a stone or snake. In other words, I try to give them good gifts.

At the same time, I don’t give them something just because they ask for it. Perhaps instead of “bread” and “fish” they want to fill up on candy and soda before dinner. Of course I have to say no to that. Similarly, I may have to say no to entertainment choices that are more harmful than uplifting.

Through this common experience, it’s clear to me that in giving good gifts, a father (as opposed to a “sugar daddy”) must exercise wisdom and discretion.

We have a Father in heaven who wants to bestow on us gifts that are infinitely beyond our limited imaginations. Yet what seems “good” to us right now may in fact be harmful to us. Thankfully our Father’s beneficence to us is above all a matter of divine wisdom, not passing human fancies.

During this season of Lent, as we strive to grow in our own personal vocation in Christ, may we seek to purify our desires, so that we may want only what is truly good for us.

Family Vocation Ministries

This past weekend I took the time to explore the website of Family Vocation Ministries, one of the “top ten” vocation websites according the U.S. Bishops’ For Your Vocation website. The website offers outstanding resources and events to help families foster vocations to the priesthood and consecrated life.

Family Vocations Ministries fulfills its mission by:

  • Living the Gospel of Christ in love and truth according to the Magisterium of the Catholic Church.
  • Sponsoring and praying for Family Vocation Days at the parish level.
  • Praying daily for an increase of vocations to the priesthood and the consecrated life.
  • Praying daily for the perseverance and fidelity of bishops, priests, seminarians and consecrated religious.
  • Praying daily for the Bishop of the diocese and the local pastor.
  • Fostering, promoting and praying for holiness in family life.

The family vocation days jumped off the page to me as a wonderful idea. I’d love to hear from someone who has participated in one of these events to learn more.

The sites offers a wealth of resources and links, and it exudes a spirit of prayer and fidelity to the Magisterium. Check it out!

Scouting, Vocation Story

I came across a couple interesting vocation-related articles on the Internet this past weekend.

First, I stumbled upon this article in the Rhode Island Catholic entitled “Scouts: A vehicle of faith, vocations.” The context for the article was a scouting awards ceremony, where  Bishop Thomas J. Tobin of the Diocese of Providence encouraged hundreds of young scouts to be open to a call to the priesthood:

“You need the Church and the Church also needs you,” the bishop shared. “We need your joy, your conviction, we need you to help rebuild the Church. Pray seriously to give your lives to the Church. We need so many young people to come forth. Listen and respond with generous hearts.”

One of the diocese’s seminarians, Curtis Miller, explained that his experience in scouting, especially the values and leadership skills that he learned, played a significant role in the discovery of his vocation.

The other article is an interview from Catholic Online with Fr. David Carter, assistant vocation director for the Diocese of Knoxville, who tells the interesting story of his own journey to the priesthood. I don’t know about you, but I’m a sucker for personal testimonies and vocation stories!

Religious Life Has Its Advantages

St. Alphonsus Liguori

Or so says St. Alphonsus Liguori (1696-1787), the founder of the Redemptorists and renowned Doctor of the Church. I heartily encourage our readers to check out his essay entitled, “The Advantages of the Religious State.” This essay is really nothing other than a profound meditation on these words of St. Bernard of Clairvaux (1090-1153), another Doctor of the Church, concerning consecrated life:

“Is not that a holy state in which a man lives more purely, falls more rarely, rises more speedily, walks more cautiously, is bedewed with the waters of grace more frequently, rests more securely, dies more confidently, is cleansed more quickly, and rewarded more abundantly?”

These words may seem controversial–and decidedly undemocratic–to contemporary ears, as they unabashedly extol the excellence of a life completely consecrated to God. May many have ears to hear.

As we’ve now begun the Lenten journey, and have recalled our own mortality (“Remember man that you are dust . . .”), those contemplating their state of life do well to consider St. Alphonsus’ wise admonition:

“Some are deterred from entering religion by the apprehension that their abandonment of the world might be afterwards to them a source of regret. But in making choice of a state of life I would advise such persons to reflect not on the pleasures of this life, but on the hour of death, which will determine their happiness or misery for all eternity.”

For the entirety of St. Alphonsus’ essay, click here.

Another Point of View

This evening at 6:30 p.m. eastern time, EWTN will premiere its much-anticipated new program called “The Catholic View for Women.”

The hosts for the new program will be Teresa Tomeo, Janet Morana, and Astrid Bennett Gutierrez.

Catholic News Agency reports that the show will address issues relevant to women from a Catholic perspective. The initial shows will focus on key issues such as vocations, spirituality, feminism, and the Church’s teaching on contraception, among others.

For EWTN’s programming schedule for this week, click here.

Nuns, Monks, Friars Linkfest

Elizabeth Scalia

Benedictine Oblate Elizabeth Scalia, the managing editor of the Catholic portal at Patheos, had a wonderful post a couple weeks ago at her blog (“The Anchoress”) entitled “Nuns, Monks, Friars Linkfest!” The post contained a wealth of interesting news items and reports on several flourishing religious communities.

I have rarely encountered a blog post with so many links (I counted nearly 50, I guess that’s why it’s a linkfest!). The links are fantastic–very informative. I was especially happy to see that there were three links pertaining to the awesome, coffee-making Carmelite monks in Wyoming.

Food for Discernment This Lent

I was just browsing through www.vocation.com, one of the finest vocation sites that I’ve visited lately, and discovered a “Discernment Library,” with vocation-related meditations that are sorted by Gospel passage, liturgical year, and theme.

One way to more deeply enter the Church’s liturgy this Lenten season would be to take the time to use the weekly meditations on the Gospel, which contain thought-provoking (and prayer-provoking!) reflection questions at the end.

Here is a short excerpt from the meditation for the First Sunday of Lent:

“There are two dimensions to life: our life here that depends completely on ‘bread’ and our life in eternity, for which we need another food, ‘the Father’s will.’ So bread alone will not suffice, at times it will have to be set aside for the food that gives eternal life. We have to learn to set our hearts on eternal life, so as to use every moment of this life to take another step toward it and not away from it, often giving up material goods for spiritual goods, like when we fast and do penance in Lent. If we continually look at Christ we will never be afraid to leave anything behind to follow after him.”

But first things first. Have you gotten your ashes yet?

Apostleship of Prayer

I always keep on my desk a leaflet from the Apostleship of Prayer, containing the Pope’s intentions for each month. It just dawned on me that this would be a most helpful thing to post at the beginning of each month.

It’s good to recall that all vocations come through the Church. They’re not about “doing our own thing.” Uniting ours prayers with those of the Holy Father and the universal Church is an excellent way to open ourselves to God’s personal call in our lives.

Before giving the Pope’s intentions for March (I’m almost a week late, so another few minutes won’t hurt anybody), I’d like to recommend two privileged times for remembering the Pope’s intentions:

First, there’s the Morning Offering, which is a great way to commit our day to the Lord:

O Jesus, through the Immaculate Heart of Mary, I offer You my prayers, works, joys, and sufferings of this day, in union with the holy sacrifice of the Mass throughout the world. I offer them for all the intentions of Your Sacred Heart: the salvation of souls, reparation for sin, and the reunion of all Christians. I offer them for the intentions of our bishops and for all the intentions recommended by our Holy Father this month. Amen.

Second, there’s the family Rosary. At the beginning or end of the Rosary, to gain the indulgence for praying the Rosary–and again to manifest the unity of our prayer with that of the universal Church–it’s customary to pray an Our Father, Hail Mary, and Glory Be for the Pope’s intentions.

But what are the Pope’s intentions this month? Here they are:

Latin American Nations.  That the nations of Latin America may walk in fidelity to the Gospel and progress in justice and peace.

Persecuted Christians.  That the Holy Spirit may give light and strength to those in many regions of the world who are persecuted and discriminated against because of the Gospel.

I will post his intentions for subsequent months at the beginning of each month. In the meantime, check out the website of the Apostleship of Prayer for more information on this pious practice.

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